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Homicidal Ecologies
Illicit Economies and Complicit States in Latin America

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: December 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107178472

$ 89.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Why has violence spiked in Latin America's contemporary democracies? What explains its temporal and spatial variation? Analyzing the region's uneven homicide levels, this book maps out a theoretical agenda focusing on three intersecting factors: the changing geography of transnational illicit political economies; the varied capacity and complicity of state institutions tasked with providing law and order; and organizational competition to control illicit territorial enclaves. These three factors inform the emergence of 'homicidal ecologies' (subnational regions most susceptible to violence) in Latin America. After focusing on the contemporary causes of homicidal violence, the book analyzes the comparative historical origins of weak and complicit public security forces and the rare moments in which successful institutional reform takes place. Regional trends in Latin America are evaluated, followed by original case studies of Central America, which claims among the highest homicide rates in the world.

    • Provides an overview of homicide patterns in Latin America and three in-depth case studies from Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, to explain why these countries followed such divergent post-civil war trajectories
    • Explores the topic with a multimethod approach, including original newspaper database, interviews, GIS mapping
    • Explains the empirical variation in specific civil war cases and addresses if these patterns speak to broader dynamics in the region
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    • Winner, 2019 Best Book Award, Comparative Democratization, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘A brilliant example of how careful social science research can illuminate the most pressing problems of our times, Homicidal Ecologies shows why democracy and the end of civil war didn't bring peace to Latin America. Rather than resulting from economic inequality or weak democratic institutions, homicidal violence soared along the routes of the Continental drug trade where cartels compete and the state is too weak or corrupt to rein them in.' Andreas Wimmer, author of Nation Building: Why Some Countries Come Together While Other Fall Apart

    ‘Latin America has the highest homicide rates in the world. Homicidal Ecologies offer a comprehensive portrait of violence in the region, and a broader theory of illicit markets, state capacity, and their responses to structural conditions and organizational incentives. It will prove indispensable not only to Latin Americanists but to students of violence and political development more generally. This book's importance cannot be overstated. It is a must-read.' M. Victoria Murillo, Columbia University

    'Civil war and dictatorship have virtually vanished in Latin America. Yet in many parts of the region, violent death remains a part of daily life. Through awe-inspiring data collection and encyclopedic area expertise, Deborah J. Yashar provides a granular descriptive picture of Latin America’s homicidal ecologies. She convincingly demonstrates that homicide levels have skyrocketed in zones where state weakness and corruption spawn deadly competition to control the transit of illicit goods.' Dan Slater, University of Michigan

    'Homicidal Ecologies is a pathbreaking account of the tragic surge in violence in post-civil war Central America. Yashar breaks new theoretical ground in explaining how criminal violence is related to illicit economies, state capacities, and organizational competition over territorial enclaves and transportation routes. This book is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the deep societal roots of violence in Central America, and why some countries are more susceptible to it than others.' Kenneth Roberts, Cornell University, New York

    'In this eagerly anticipated book, Deborah J. Yashar takes up one of the most critical challenges facing Latin America today: how to understand the violence that has plagued the region after democratization. Showcasing Yashar's deep knowledge of Central America, Homicidal Ecologies explains this violence as the result of competition between organizations over the control of territory - an argument that is especially compelling because it draws on transnational, national, and subnational levels of analysis.' Kent Eaton, University of California, Santa Cruz

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107178472
    • length: 438 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 162 x 29 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • contains: 40 b/w illus. 23 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introduction:
    1. Violence in third wave democracies
    2. Engaging the theoretical debate and alternative arguments
    Part II. The Argument about Homicidal Ecologies:
    3. Illicit economies and territorial enclaves: the transnational context and domestic footprint
    4. State capacity and organizational competition: strategic calculations about territory and violence
    Part III. Divergent Trajectories in Central America: Three Post-Civil War Cases:
    5. High violence in post-Civil-War Guatemala
    6. High violence in post-Civil War El Salvador
    7. Circumscribing violence in post-Civil War Nicaragua
    Part IV. Looking Backwards and Forwards:
    8. Concluding with states.

  • Author

    Deborah J. Yashar, Princeton University, New Jersey
    Deborah J. Yashar is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, New Jersey; lead Editor of World Politics; co-chair of SSRC's Anxieties of Democracy project; an editor of the Cambridge Contentious Politics Series; and former President of the Politics and History section of American Political Science Association (APSA). She is the author of Demanding Democracy (1997), Contesting Citizenship in Latin America (Cambridge, 2005), among other publications; and is co-editor of three other books, including States in the Developing World with Miguel Centeno and Atul Kohli (Cambridge, 2016) and Parties, Movements, and Democracy in the Developing World with Nancy Bermeo (2017). She is the recipient of Fulbright, USIP, and other awards.


    • Winner, 2019 Best Book Award, Comparative Democratization, American Political Science Association

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