CSRC Working Paper 19

Violent Liberalism? State, conflict and political regime in Colombia, 1930-200: an analytical narrative on state-making
Working Paper No : 19 (Series 2)
Authors: Francisco Gutierrez Sanin, Tatiana Acevedo and Juan Manuel Viatela
Date : November 2007
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Colombia has suffered from one of the longest periods of internal political violence in the modern world. This analytical narrative explores the state's failure to ensure security within its borders whilst at the same time presiding over a competitive polity and a stable and uninterrupted moderate economic growth. How have these elements managed to coexist for so long? The narrative attempts to understand this characteristic 'Colombia puzzle' and provide insights into how macro-institutional stability has been able to exist alongside war, violence, and organised crime over such a long period of time. Despite strong elements of state failure - i.e. the state's inability to provide security and to acquire the monopolies that characterise canonical 'state-ness' (of legitimate violence, of taxes and of duties) - the country has grown and developed. Any explanation of the puzzle should therefore simultaneously account for failure and resilience. The authors claim that formal order and informal disorder are organically linked in a genuine coexistence. Colombia has had a bona fide republican-democratic experience in many fundamental senses, but this is organically connected with its enduring violence. The narrative explores the intimate historical relationship between state, regime and violence.