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Violence, politics and elite performance: The political sociology of La Violencia in Colombia



For years it was argued by North American scholars that violence and coups in Latin America were aberrations from a more desirable or more "natural" course of political change: the agreement to abide by election results. More recently, astute observers have demonstrated that coups and coercion are often not unusual or even disparaged, but rather an institutionalized way of doing political business. In various political systems, certain levels of violence may become considered appropriate, if not almost de rigueur, a regular feature of the political landscape (Horowitz, 1968:45-70; Anderson, 1967: Chap. 4; Payne, 1968; Fagen and Cornelius, 1969:383-419). Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far. We have become inclined to regard some degree of violence as too natural in Latin America without examining the different origins and catalysts of violence in different political contexts. In some countries certain levels of violence associated with political activity may be endemic, the periodicity and ranges of violence rather predictable. In others, high levels of violence may represent rather unusual political business. To distinguish between violence as the customary partner of political acitivity and violence as an egregious "outside agitator" is to raise an issue often obscured by cross-national studies of violence. Certainly cross-national studies have revealed a good deal about the socioeconomic and demographic factors associated with different levels and varieties of violence (Feierabend and Feierabend, 1966; Bye, 1968; Tanter, 1967). What those studies have rarely investigated, however, is the process by which violence is linked to political activity. This essay explores that process by examining a case study: the phenomenon of la violencia, a wave of unusually savage, widespread
... Only recently have scholars begun to relate the evolution of the violence to larger political and economic structures (Gilhodes, 1970;Schmidt, 1974b;Pollack, 1975;and especially Maullin, 1968). A most significant advance in this direction is Paul Oquist's Violence, Conflict, and Politics in Colombia. ...
In the study of agrarian politics in general and the history of rural Colombia in particular, four broad, interrelated perspectives are relevant to the understanding of rural politics: peasants and rebellion, the interaction of local and national politics, patron-client relations, and regionalism. Principal issues and trends within each of these areas are explored here, and an effort is made to generate specific questions for historical investigation. The present state of research on rural history and politics in Colombia is also surveyed, and observations are advanced on how new research orientations originating in these perspectives may contribute to our understanding of social and political developments in Colombia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
... Ce qui ne veut pas dire que la violence contre le pouvoir ou la violence d'en haut ne se fasse pas : (Grossi, 1998 (Zwi et Ugalde, 1989). (Pollock, 1975). Cette période a coûté la vie à environ 300.000 personnes (des paysans pour la plupart), combattants ou victimes d'une guerre que nous pourrions nommer de "purification politique". ...
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The recent studies show how political violence became a significant factor of mortality and displacement in Colombia. Displaced persons have to cope with the psychological consequences of traumatic events and to adapt to a new environment most time in very poor conditions. Their social network can reduce the impact of violence and contribute to the survival of the families such as was documented in the not displaced families. With the goal to identify the characteristic between these situations, we compare the impact of violence in 50 young people and families not displaced - which would have in theory more social networks and less problems of mental health - compared to 48 displaced. The instruments are three questionnaires on the impact of violence and one on the social networks. In the displaced young people, the traumatic events seem to increase the level of PTSD and problems of mental health, especially at separated from their parents, but their altruistic behaviors are higher than those of the young poor. The number of people in the network which is more important in the case of displaced people was not a reductor factor of the impact of violence, while the emotional support which is more frequent in the poor families - another function of the network, is in relation to less problems of mental health. It seems that it is the quality of social support more than the density of social network which is a reductor factor of violence. Les études récentes montrent comment la violence politique est devenue un facteur important de mortalité et déplacement en Colombie. Les déplacées, en plus d'avoir à faire face aux conséquences psychologiques de ces évènements traumatiques doivent s’adapter à un nouvel environnement le plus souvent très pauvre, leur réseau social peut modérer l’impact de la violence et aider à la survie des familles tel qu’a été documenté chez les familles pauvres non déplacés. Afin d’identifier les caractéristiques de ces deux situation, nous avons comparé l’impact de la violence chez 50 jeunes et familles non déplacées - qui auraient en principe plus réseaux sociaux et moins problèmes de santé mentale – par rapport à 48 déplacées. Les outils utilisés sont trois questionnaires sur l’impact de la violence et un sur les réseaux sociaux. Chez les jeunes déplacés, les événements traumatiques semblent augmenter le niveau de PTSD et les problèmes de santé mentale, surtout chez les séparés de leurs parents, tandis que leurs comportements altruistes sont plus élevés que ceux des jeunes pauvres. Le nombre de personnes dans le réseau plus important chez les familles déplacées ne sert pas à modérer l’impact de la violence chez les déplacées, par contre le soutien affectif plus fréquent chez les familles pauvres - autre fonction du réseau, est en relation avec moins problèmes de santé mentale, et il semble donc que ce soit la qualité du réseau et son soutien affectif plus que sa densité qui agisse comme facteur modérateur.
... "La Violencia": en 1948, tres años después del final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial en Europa, asesinan en Colombia al líder político liberal Jorge Eliécer Gaitan. Esto origina una gran insurrección y se considera el principio de la Guerra Civil llamada "la Violencia" que durará hasta 1966 (Pollock, 1975). En este período murieron aproximadamente 300.000 personas (campesinos la mayoría) víctimas de una guerra que podríamos llamar de "purificación política". ...
This paper assesses violent crime in Colombia by focusing on police arrest data from 1938 to 1967. Social and political conditions provide the cultural context from which the effects of modernization on crime are examined. Shelley's modermization perspective claims that violent crime increases when a country modernizes, but property crimes increase after relative wealth and prosperity are achieved. Regression results support Shelley's perspective for the crimes of robbery and theft, whereas her theory gamered weaker support for the crimes of homicide and assault. Theoretical implications for modernization theory in light of the findings are discussed.
although at times quite thin, there does appear to be a common thread of agreement running through most of the classic and contemporary literature on theories of revolution—this being the simple proposition that the majority of the participants engaging in such activity are dissatisfied, discontented, and often disaffected individuals. If we can think of “revolution” for the moment in its most general terms—to subsume under such a conceptual label both the simplest manifestation of civil disorder to the most grandiose occurrence of what might be called basic social change—then, it seems, we are in a position to illustrate the emergence of this basic proposition throughout the literature.
La violencia in Colombia, from 1946 to 1965, the largest armed conflict in the western hemisphere since the Mexican Revolution, was one of the world's most extensive and complex internal wars of this century. The study of the violencia strains at the limits of all the social sciences.
Social scientists are finding an increasingly useful and stimulating tool in the application of statistical techniques to their problems. As in the employment of any new tool, both the utility and the limitations of this one must be learned. It seems beyond reasonable doubt, however, that quantification of data in the social sciences will become a more widely used and rewarding procedure as time goes on. Prudence dictates that stress be laid on its limitations. The enthusiasm with which a new tool—toy, some would say—is adopted should not blind the user to dangers which may be implicit in its overuse. One cannot squeeze more juice from an orange than the orange contains, no matter how modern the squeezer. Care must be exercised, too, lest the bitter essence of the rind become mixed with the nourishing juice of the fruit itself. The present analysis is an attempt, in not too complex a fashion, to make use of such techniques to organize and validate data which might otherwise permit only the broadest sort of generalizations by way of conclusion, conclusions unsatisfactory roughly in proportion to their breadth. The senior author of this article has for more than a decade and a half been interested in the problem of objective measurement of certain aspects of political change in Latin America with particular respect to the sum total of phenomena falling under the rubric of “democracy.” On four occasions, 1945, 1950, 1955, and 1960, he conducted a survey among groups of specialists on Latin America to elicit evaluations which then, with the help of such statistical procedures as seemed useful, were summarized and analyzed.
One way of acquiring insight into the processes of political development in Latin America is to compare the countries of the area systematically in terms of the “degree of development” which each can be said to have attained. Ideally, such an enterprise can lead to the understanding of the past history of the “more developed” countries by reference to the present problems of the “less developed” while an understanding of the problems confronting the more developed countries can make possible a glimpse into the future of those now less developed. Isolation of the factors responsible for a state's being more or less developed can moreover prove instructive for the understanding of the relations between political and socioeconomic phenomena. Perhaps most important, such comparisons provide the means for holding constant effects attributable to characteristics shared by all, or nearly all, of the Latin American countries. Thus it can be argued with much plausibility that military intervention in politics, say, derives from elements in the Hispanic tradition. Yet it is clear that the frequency of military intervention varies from country to country, even where they share equally in that tradidition. Thus one is forced to go beyond the “Hispanic tradition” thesis with which the investigation might otherwise have come to rest. In the present article I will be concerned with the problem of the relation of political development to socioeconomic development in the Latin American context. For reasons that will become apparent below, I will not at this point attempt a rigorous analysis of the concept of political development, which has already been the subject of a large and rapidly growing literature.
Violence is a common phenomenon in developing polities which has received little attention. Clearly a Peronist riot in Buenos Aires, a land invasion in Lima, and a massacre in rural Colombia are all different. Yet we have no typology which relates types of violence to stages or patterns of economic or social development. We know little of the causes, incidence or functions of different forms of violence. This article is an effort to understand one type of violence which can occur in societies in transition. Violence in Colombia has traditionally accompanied transfers of power at the national level. This can account for its outbreak in 1946, when the Conservative Party replaced the Liberals. It cannot account for the intensity or duration of rural violence for two decades. This article focuses primarily on the violence from 1946 to 1953, and explains its intensification and duration as the defense of a traditional sacred order against secular modernizing tendencies undermining that order. We shall discuss violence since 1953 in the concluding section.