Systems of Violence

The Political Economy of War and Peace in Colombia

By Nazih F. Richani

Subjects: Latin American Studies
Series: SUNY series in Global Politics
Paperback : 9780791453469, 240 pages, March 2002
Hardcover : 9780791453452, 240 pages, March 2002

Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Institutional Failure: Genesis of the War System

3. The Military and the Comfortable Impasse

4. Guerrillas and the Impasse

5. Paramilitaries, Organized Crime, and the Dynamics of War

6. The Dominant Classes and the Prospects of Peace

7. Colombia's Civil War in Comparative Perspective

Appendix: Selection of the Interview Population




Examines the conditions that have led to protracted violence in Colombia.


This work examines the political, economic, and military factors that have contributed to thirty-seven years of protracted violent conflict in Colombia. Using four years of field research, and more than 200 interviews, Nazih Richani examines Colombia's "war system"—the systemic interlacing relationship among actors in conflict, their respective political economy, and also the overall political economy of the system they help in creating. Two key questions are raised: Why do some conflicts protract, and when they do protract, what types of socioeconomic and political configurations make peaceful resolutions difficult to obtain? Also addressed are the lessons of other protracted conflicts, such as those found in Lebanon, Angola, and Italy.

Nazih Richani is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Coordinator of the Latin American Studies Program at Kean University. He is the author of Dilemmas of Democracy and Political Parties in Sectarian Societies: The Case of the PSP in Lebanon.


"This book brings a new perspective to the understanding of the endless war in Colombia. The concept of the war system, understood in terms of a detailed examination of the flow of resources in the political economy, goes a long way to make the conflict and its dynamics understandable. This is a very significant contribution. " — Douglas A. Chalmers, coeditor of The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America: Rethinking Participation and Representation

"One of the central debates in the world today is discerning the factors that contribute to the protraction of armed conflicts. Richani has a provocative and consistent analysis of describing and explaining the origins and dynamics of the armed conflict in Colombia. This book is original in that there is no other author who has studied the chronic war in Colombia by focusing on the economy of the war system. " — Eduardo Pizarro, The Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies