Building: Adam Smith Floor: 7 Room: 711
The question of the inter-linkages between politics and criminal organizations has been widely researched. Yet, most studies tend to hermetically oppose politics and criminal networks. Moreover, these studies are commonly bases on the assumed retreat, defeat, and/or absence of the state. Drawing on first-hand empirical data, this panel questions these predominant, yet artificially reductionist conceptualizations entailing normatively distorted representations of local realities.
Cases from Mexico, Europe, as well as Pakistan – all of which are based on close-proximity empirical research –, serve as a basis to critically examine questions of state and stateness. The latter are essential to illuminate the ways in which those occupying structures of legal authority behave within criminal environments, producing contingent configurations of great complexity. Political capabilities assumed by different criminal organizations are analyzed alongside those social networks that lie at the core of state-criminal-actor-interactions and the production of violence and resistance.
Specifically, this panel:
(i) examines the links between criminal organizations and political actors by introducing a much-needed distance to dichotomist and normatively biased approaches. We underline how criminal violence is employed by both state and criminal actors, be it in pursuit of common or antinomic objectives;
(ii) puts the concept of clientelism under scrutiny by extracting it from a purely “electoral” reading. To do so, we discuss different configurations of patron-client relationships and examine the effects particular criminal contexts exert on such interactions;
(iii) and questions the assumption that politics and criminal networks necessarily form a structurally homogeneous system characterized by a balance of power, influence, and an evident division of roles. Politics are not an exclusive tool in the hands of the state, quite the opposite. Criminal networks mobilize and use political and social capital to produce shared forms of order and sovereignty in which the state is far from absent.