University of Connecticut

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Resisting Protection? Resistance to Protection Rackets

Monday, January 30, 2017
12:15pm – 1:30pm

Storrs Campus
Oak 438

POLS Colloquium Event

Monday January 30th

Eduardo Moncada, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Barnard College—Columbia University

Title: Resisting Protection? Variations in Forms of Resistance to Protection Rackets

Abstract: Do the victims of protection rackets resist? Existing research on protection rackets emphasizes two key dimensions: supply and demand. Criminal organizations supply the use and threat of violence as part of offering business firms protection, while the latter demand these commodities in contexts of state absence or weakness. Securing the cooperation of firms is central to the sustainability of the protection racket. Yet, relatively little research theorizes if and how the victims of protection rackets might resist. I find that not only does resistance to protection rackets occur, but that it can also assume sharply contrasting forms. To explain this variation I construct a political economy framework focused on the economic and political resources that victims mobilize to mount resistance. I illustrate the framework’s analytic utility by using it to explain striking empirical variation in cases of resistance in Medellin (Colombia), Ciudad Juarez (Mexico), San Miguel (El Salvador), and Michoacán (Mexico). While some victims publicly contested domination under protection rackets, others engaged in comparatively subtler practices to negotiate the terms of their domination without bringing about the racket’s demise. Some victims resisted by coordinating with the state through formal institutional channels; others established private armed groups to weaken and eliminate rackets. And still others coordinated with the state but through informal channels that advanced extra-judicial violence. The empirical analysis demonstrates that a focus on resource endowments can help us to make sense of such puzzling variation in forms of resistance and advance our knowledge of criminal politics in the developing world.


Prof. Tom Hayes (

Political Science (primary), College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UConn Master Calendar

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