This article focuses on the role of multinational corporations in the Colombian conflict, particularly how they contributed to the escalation of land conflicts and to the violent transformation of the rural economy into one based on rentier capital. It also explores how these companies helped in fomenting and financing the war system, an element that could partly explain the protracted persistence of the Colombian conflict.
A war system is a pattern of violent interaction among different actors sustained over a period of time. War systems are thus embedded in every civil war. War systems’ emergence, consolidation, and duration depend partly on the evolution of the correlation of forces among the warring actors and on the political economies that each of the belligerent forces constructs during the course of the conflict. If the political, economic, and military assets that any actor obtains during the conflict exceed what it had before the conflict, this is considered a positive political economy. Positive political economies could translate into incentives to continue the war until the particular actor prevails. War systems are not rational constructs, nor are they perpetuated by one actor’s behavior. War systems are as much products of unwanted consequences of actors’ behavior or of actors’ attempts to outsmart their opponents as they are products of structural constraints, such as a balance of power or limited resources at actors’ disposal (government or its armed opponents), or international conditions that inhibit a rebel group from pursuing a winning strategy. Agency and structure are integral parts of the war system model. Agency is defined in terms of how an organization, such as a rebel group, the military, or segments of classes (landowners, cattle ranchers, or owners of banks) articulate their political interests.
War systems, then, are dynamic. They influence their units (and act as an independent variable), and their stability depends on the outcome of units’ behaviors and changes in their regional and international environment.
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Richani, Nazih. Multinational Corporations, Rentier Capitalism, and the War System in Colombia
Latin American Politics & Society - Volume 47, Number 3, Fall 2005, pp. 113-144