Telling the Difference: Guerrillas and Paramilitaries in the Colombian War

Abstract

The effort to build a political economy of war without politics is finding its limits. The question now is what comes next. How to put politics back in? This article compares systematically two non-state armed groups that participate in the Colombian conflict, the main guerrilla (FARC) and the paramilitary. It shows that despite their similar financial bases, they appear to exhibit systematic differences— regarding both their social composition and their internal/external behavior—and claims that the key to understanding them is the set of organizational devices that each group crafts in its process of survival and growth. All this suggests that a main tenet of the early political economy of war, that all non-state armed groups can be understood as being strategically identical, is flawed. It also poses a classificatory challenge

Citation

Politics and Society (2008) 36 (1) 3-34 [doi:10.1177/0032329207312181]

Telling the Difference: Guerrillas and Paramilitaries in the Colombian War

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