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Coercive entrepreneurs and state capacity : Colombian state weakness (1750-2004) Larose, Peter J. D.


Since 1982 Colombia has undertaken one of the most ambitious agendas of institutional reform in the Americas, yet these reforms have had little effect upon limiting the expansion of violence throughout the country. This research argues that these formal political reforms have been ineffective because the state has been unable to monopolize the use of force and promote the rule of law throughout the country. Using the state-formation model of Charles Tilly, it describes how the coercive capacity of the Colombian state has always been historically weak, due to the continuous manner in which entrepreneurs have privately financed coercive organizations that challenge the state's hegemony over the use of force. This expansion and diffusion of coercive means has resulted in the inability of any single organization to monopolize the legitimate means of coercion and establish the rule of law, which are the necessary preconditions for democratic reforms to be meaningfully implemented. Accordingly, the research examines the evolving relationship between the state security apparatus and other major coercive centres, including the political parties, private counter-insurgency groups, narcotics militias, and peasant-based guerrilla organizations. It demonstrates how all aspirants to state power are constrained by the same requirements of extracting capital from subject populations, developing coercive capabilities, and mobilizing citizens to fight for their cause. From such a vantage, the continued weakness of the Colombian state is placed within a historical and comparative context that helps illuminate why it has been unable to end its persistent internal conflict.

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