Master thesis

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Analyzing the influence of the FARC-EP on the economic development of Colombia resulted to be challenging, as separating the influence of the FARC-EP from other factors influencing the economic progress in the country is difficult to accomplish. As I continued my research, I learned that the drug-trafficking and coca production in Colombia, the FARC-EP and its influence on Colombian society and the economic development of the country are strongly interconnected and basically inseparable. As the FARC-EP is closely connected to and for a large part controlling the coca cultivation and drug trade in Colombia, and the influence of illicit drug activities on the licit Colombian economy is undeniable, I believe that the influence of the FARC-EP on the economic development of Colombia is apparent, yet impossible to determine specifically. Therefore, I chose to focus on the different elements influencing each other and mainly the Colombian economy, and their relationships to each other. The findings of my examination are presented in the analysis of this thesis.

The influence of the US on the situation in Colombia and the IR between the US and Colombia are undeniably linked to the issues mentioned above and are, therefore, important in order to answer the problem formulation. Through PC, the US is strongly involved with the goal of eradicating coca cultivation and drug-trafficking in Colombia, thereby aiming to improve the licit Colombian economy and its prospects for the future. The specific influence of the FARC-EP on the Colombian economic development cannot be derived from an examination of the influence of the US on the country. However, the examination of the IR between both countries adds to a full understanding of the relation between the influence of the FARC-EP and the economic development in Colombia. In spite of the lack of a clear connection between the influence of the US in combination with the influence of the FARC-EP on the economic development in Colombia, the US impact on Colombia cannot be ignored, as will become clear in the analysis (cf. Analysis).

In the process of gathering information illustrating the relation between the influence of the FARC-EP and the economic development of Colombia, I encountered a great amount of remarkable articles and topics that I believed to be of interest to the topic. In order to present all relevant information in a structured manner, I chose to make use of a number of headlines, so as to provide a well-structured analysis. Furthermore, I focused on presenting the analysis both in chronological order, as well as by problem area.


In the process of writing this thesis, I encountered several limitations. Although it would have been interesting to look at the overall situation with regards to the influence of internal conflicts on the economic development of Latin America, I believed it was best to focus on a specific situation, such as the one in Colombia. Furthermore, the topic is best combined with the focus on the IR between Colombia and the US, instead of a focus on the IR between Colombia and various global partners. Ultimately, I believe that I chose an interesting topic to focus on, which provided me with a great deal of useful insights into the current situation in Colombia with regards to its socio-economic development process.

However, the most important limitation encountered during the research for this thesis was how difficult it resulted to be to determine whether the influence of the FARC-EP is a factor that influences the economic development of Colombia, or whether it is a factor that causes internal conflict and only influences the Colombian economy in combination with other influencing factors. Although the complete separation of the various factors influencing the economic development in Colombia may not be achievable, I believe that within the limitations of my research I gathered the most complete overview of the situation possible with regards to the FARC-EP and economic progress in Colombia.

Furthermore, I encountered limitations with regards to the theories available for the topic that I chose, as I believe that no single theory is completely fitting for the research as it was intended. Within my range of possibilities, I believe that I used the combination of theories as it is most useful in the light of the research conducted for this thesis. Ultimately, in spite of the limitations I came across during the process of writing this thesis, I believe that I wrote this thesis to the maximum of my possibilities and capabilities at the time of writing and with the resources available.


In order to provide a well-rounded theoretical framework supporting the research conducted to write this thesis, two different angles to the topic need to be recognized. First, the focus on the economic development of Colombia and the socio-economic situation within the country, which can be explained through Marxist economic theory and neo-liberal ideology. Secondly, so as to explain the influence of internal conflict in Colombia, theories of war are included in the theoretical basis of this thesis, in order to ultimately explain the influence of internal conflict on the economic development of a country by combining both theoretical angles and applying them to the research conducted. Together, these theories provide a fitting theoretical framework for the examination of the relation between the influence of the FARC-EP and the economic development in Colombia, as both theories combined allow for the analysis of the developmental impact of an internal conflict such as the one in Colombia.

Although other theories provided some elements recognizable to describe the events in Colombia, ultimately, these other theories resulted to be less applicable to the research conducted in this thesis. The theories presented in this chapter provide a complete theoretical framework as they are combined. They supplement each other, so as to focus on every relevant aspect of the situation in Colombia which is researched through the questions described in the problem formulation. The theories used made it possible for me to fully grasp the topic chosen, whereas I believe that the use of a different set of theories would not have provided me with the same all-encompassing theoretical framework for this thesis.


Marxist economic theory is different from other economic theories, as “Marx’s approach to the study of the economy is unconventional” (Economic Theories). Where economic theory usually attempts to understand the entire economic system through an examination of the different parts of the system, Marx focuses on the entire socio-economic system instead, thereby analyzing the influence of different elements of society on the economy. Marxist economic theory is, therefore, strongly interconnected with the analysis of sociological and IR aspects. Marxist beliefs and vision on IR originate from before becoming recognized as a formal field of study. The “[…] integration [of Marxism] into the Western canon of IR approaches is belated, partial and problematic, and symptomatic of the politics of social science governed by the great twentieth-century contest between communism and capitalism” (Teschke, 2008: 163). It was only during the 1980s that Marxism became an increasingly recognizable area of study in the field of IR. Nowadays, Marxist IR theory is one of the most vital subfields to challenge the conventional IR theories.

As was mentioned above, Marx distinguishes himself from other economists from his time through the fact that he does not consider economic science to be separate from other sciences such as history, sociology and anthropology. This is illustrated by historical materialism, which is “[…] an attempt at unifying all social sciences, if not all sciences about humankind, into a single ‘science of society’” (International Viewpoint). This argument further explains the strong connection between Marxist economic theory and IR. Although Marx tried to explain the social economy and interconnect various disciplines of study, economics were always meant to be the center of his theory. He was “[c]onvinced of the inevitable collapse of capitalism […]” (Economic Theories) and believed that the contradictions between relations and forces of production would become clear through a class struggle, because he stated that “[…] the history of all societies is a history of class struggles” (ibid). Marx was convinced that capitalism would cause its own destruction and that communism was the only possible end to the process of the evolution from feudalism through capitalism and socialism. He wrote about the economic background of this process in his book Das Kapital, which was published first in 1867 (Econlib).

Historical context of Marx’s critique on capitalism

While European imperialism extended and the world production was industrialized during the 19th century, there were considerable changes in property control and ownership, as well as transfers of the population, both internally and towards the colonies. During this time, economic affairs were transforming significantly, causing various socio-economic changes as a result of the rise of capitalism. Early liberal thinkers such as Adam Smith (1723-1790) and David Ricardo (1772-1823) developed the “[…] liberal ‘political economy’” (Devetak, George & Weber, 2012: 63), which dealt with social change concerning both politics and economics and became the basis for (neo-classical) economics as an area of study. The political economists of this time insisted that capitalism should be used more efficiently, by advocating that land ownership and wealth should be invested throughout the entire society instead of just within the established aristocracy. Hereby, they wanted to combine capitalist industrial production with social progress. However, “[t]he optimism and pragmatism of these liberal political economists […] ran into some rather stark practical problems during the course of the nineteenth century” (ibid), due to the increasing urban poverty as a result of unorganized urbanization and rural displacement. According to Marx and Engels, the world market was established based on the modern industry, ultimately leading up to the existence of a bourgeoisie1. Technology flourished under the influence of capital development, which is explained by the fact that “[…] the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange” (Marx, Engels & Harvey: 35-36).

With the rise of modern modes of production, workers had no other choice than to accept the poor terms of employment offered to them. However, they chose to dispute the wages and working conditions by confronting the industrial capitalists. In theory, the political economists foresaw harmonious relations between labor and capital, while in reality capitalism turned out to be the source of oppression and social unrest. This is the point where Karl Marx (1818-1883) and his friend Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) started to develop their alternative theory. They disagreed with the liberal political economists in many ways, however, they “[…] agreed that industrial development was necessary and desirable […]” (Devetak, George & Weber: 64). They saw the liberal political economists as bourgeoisie and disagreed strongly with the political and social implications of the modernization process connected to capitalism. While they wanted to progress further and modernize the industry, they believed that capitalism2 was to benefit the welfare of the entire society. Marx and Engels stated that “[s]ociety as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other – bourgeoisie and proletariat” (Marx & Engels, 1848: 9). When Marx came to England in 1849, he believed that the contradictions within a capitalist class society such as the one existing in England would automatically lead to a revolution and, eventually, a more equitable society. Although he was convinced of the necessity of such a revolution, he also believed that bourgeois capitalism was arranging its own downfall. Marx states that at a certain point, the productive forces of the bourgeoisie will cause over-production, thereby impeding the development of capital. Instead of a rise of capitalism, therefore, these conditions will “[…] bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger[ing] the existence of bourgeois property” (ibid: 16). They bourgeois society can allow for further growth of wealth by either destructing part of the productive forces of their society, or by conquering new markets.

The most important features of Marxist economic theory are described in the book An Introduction to International Relations and are recognized as follows: “[…] first, an acknowledgement of the negative consequences of industrialized capitalism without completely dismissing its latent potential for an emancipated, post-capitalist society” (Devetak, George & Weber: 65). Secondly, a critical assessment of capitalism due to its generation of disparate social relations, ultimately leading to exploitation, domination and oppression of the proletariat. Third, the awareness that “[…] the domination of the great majority by a small wealthy minority which owns and controls the means of production creates the sources of class conflict” (ibid). Fourth, the critique on liberalism as the ideology of capitalism, stating that liberalism legitimizes exploitation and domination. Finally, the introduction of a method named ‘historical materialism’, which also explores “[…] potential sources of progressive social change” (ibid). As a result of the capitalist accumulation in Colombia, i.e. through the industrialization of agricultural production, the proletariat continued to grow as the lower middle class was unable to compete with large capitalists. The proletariat’s struggle with the capitalist bourgeoisie emerged quickly and continued to grow stronger. According to Marx and Engels, “[o]f all classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie […], the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class” (Marx & Engels: 23). Although Marx and Engels conclude that the fall of the bourgeoisie “[…] and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable” (ibid: 25), the economic progress in Colombia continues, as well as the struggle of the FARC-EP for progressive change.

Historical materialism

Although Marx posed great critique on both capitalism and liberalism, he also had beliefs that were in common with those of the liberal political economists. Marx’s progressivist view on political economy was not liberal, and based on historical materialist theory which saw conflict as the foundation of history. Both Marx and the liberal political economists saw history “[…] as a progressive unfolding of better and more rational social arrangements in which people could look forward to more fulfilled, more ‘civilised’ lives than previous generations” (Devetak, George & Weber: 65). Marx and Engels, therefore, surely recognized the potential of capitalism - according to the will of the bourgeoisie - to generate progress for societies worldwide. However, when over-production as a result of the strong growth of capitalist accumulation occurs, the industry seems to destroy itself and even endanger the property of the bourgeoisie. In such a case, “[t]he productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property […]” (Marx & Engels: 16).

The socio-economic progress deriving from the spread of capitalism is not considered to be inevitable by Marx. Marx believed that in order to understand a society, the way in which production is organized is most essential and depends both on “[…] the forces of production […]” (Marx, Engels & Gasper, 2005: 24) and “[…] the social relations of production […]” (ibid). Both factors are interrelated and of influence to the production system of a society. He emphasizes that in order to establish progressive change for all classes, struggle is necessary, as the people in power will not easily give up on this power. Therefore, “[t]he key to historical, political and economic change depends upon organised struggles for change at those historical moments when the defenders of the status quo are at their most vulnerable – at moments of great class antagonism and crisis” (Devetak, George & Weber: 66). Ultimately, independent from the amount of inequality and suppression within a society, radical transformations will not arise automatically. Progressive change will only take place through struggles guided by strong political leadership. Most importantly, it can be stated that:

“[a]ccording to Marx, capitalism is exploitative, alienating, undemocratic, irrational, environmentally destructive, and prone to war. But it also creates the possibility of an alternative. Capitalism creates a huge urban working class, which Marx believes has enormous potential power if it can overcome its divisions to organize and struggle for its interests collectively. […] If […] [the workers] are able to use their collective strength to bring the system to a halt by general strikes and mass demonstrations, they can carry out a popular revolution that unseats the capitalists from power and creates a new social order, based on democratic workers’ control of the economy and society” (Marx, Engels & Gasper: 25).

In order to understand the theory of historical materialism, it must be explained what makes the theory materialist and what makes it historical. When Marx declared that the idealist philosophy3 of Hegel needed to be contrasted, he developed a method of analysis that was materialist in nature. This method was based on the system that individuals use to establish a life for themselves, which includes nourishment, habitation and clothing. Marx hereby puts primary value on the material element of a person’s social life, although he recognizes the significance of idealism. He states that “[h]ow individuals and societies intellectually conceive ‘modes of life’ is an activity integral to the human condition” (Devetak, George & Weber: 66), which leads to the fact that human beings are as they are, in a process that is changing historically. When the material conditions of a person change, history takes action and progresses. Ultimately, “[…] states, markets and all other human institutions must be understood as historical products, not abstract unchanging entities” (ibid).

Marxists see these institutions as an expression of the entire society. However, history is not the only factor influencing the progression of society, as history can only be made under specific circumstances not directly chosen by the people. Therefore, the history of a current society is basically the history of past class struggles. According to Marx, the driving force of history is the continuous struggle, “[…] shaping social relations and all the civil and political institutions that grow out of them, not least states, markets and the states-system – the political and economic manifestations of changing modes of production” (ibid). Instead of expecting peaceful social progress deriving from capitalism, as the liberal political economists expected, Marx believed the class struggles to increase as a result of the spread of capitalism. “By placing class conflict and struggles between capital and labour at the centre of its analysis, and by redescribing politics (the state and states-system) as a product emanating from the social relations of global capitalism, Marx’s theory of historical materialism offers a radically different understanding of the evolution of the international system” (ibid: 67). Marxists argue that “[…] the international system has been constructed by the upper classes and the wealthiest nations in order to protect and defend their interests” (Bukisa). It is commonly believed by Marxists that the international system serves the business interests of capitalist states and corporations. Marxist ideology represents the origins of the struggle of the FARC-EP, and, therefore, provides a strong basis for a further understanding of the arguments discussed in the analysis.


Neo-liberalism first appeared as a type of political economy, introduced as a critique on Keynesianism4 (Gamble, 2001: 128). It is difficult to determine a single definition of neo-liberalism, but it is believed that the ideology was founded on classical liberalism as it was promoted by Adam Smith. This makes neo-liberalism both “[…] the ideology behind the most recent stage in the development of capitalist society […]” (Thorsen, 2007: 8) as well as a resurgence of the economic theories of Adam Smith. Neo-liberalism ideology is related strongly to monetarism5 and is believed to dominate current economic policies in Colombia, by decreasing the number of state regulations on the economy and by putting more emphasis on stable economic policies instead of ‘Keynesian’ objectives such as eliminating unemployment. The Colombian government strongly supports export and similarly aims to create a positive business environment as part of its neo-liberal economic policies. Furthermore, neo-liberalism believes, just as is generally assumed in classical liberalism, in “[…] the possibility of a ‘self-regulating market’ […]” (ibid). Optimal economic efficiency can be achieved through the market mechanism, with as little governmental intervention as possible.

Neo-liberal ideas were not expected to be turned into actual policies rapidly, but were established “[…] as the leading ideas both in the national politics of particular states, and perhaps more crucially in the international agencies of the global order” (Gamble: 128) soon after they originated. Neo-liberal ideology became influential across the world since the 1980s, when integration into the world market was strongly encouraged, combined with privatization, deregulation, and liberated competition and markets. Globalization is promoted as a means to liberalize markets, furthermore, neo-liberal ideology believes in the benefits of globalization on the development of people worldwide (Mittelman, 2005: 65). The significance of neo-liberalism became part of contemporary capitalism. Neo-liberal ideology provided a means by which capital could be restructured, independent from the Keynesian economic ideology. Economic policies should be based on sound monetary practices, instead of focused on economic growth and full employment. Neo-liberalism offers a clear-cut direction for the development of economic policies, namely the focus on “[…] recreating the widest possible conditions for markets to flourish, which means removing as many restrictions on competition as possible, and empowering market agents by reducing the burdens of taxation” (Gamble: 132). These are the conditions that the Colombian government has been focusing on since the introduction of neo-liberal policies in the 1990s. Ultimately, it remains difficult to clearly establish the definition of neo-liberalism, although the above described theory presents part of a useful framework for further reference in this thesis, especially in combination with the other theories discussed in this chapter.

IR theory and internal conflict

IR theory is often regarded as a useful tool in explaining internal conflict, although civil war and domestic violence differ distinctively from interstate wars and, therefore, theories providing insights to these wars are not completely fitting to the situation in case of intrastate wars (Lake, 2003: 81). The focus of this thesis is on the impact of Colombia’s internal conflict on its economic development, for which there is no single fitting theory available. Therefore, the Theory of War as described below presents a relevant framework for further use in the research. Fully fitting theories to the particular form of violence occurring in a situation of internal conflicts are not yet available, and, consequently, both the commonalities and differences between intrastate and interstate war are examined by means of a general theory based on political violence. Consequently, by means of including both theories of war as well as economic theories, a broad and most relevant theoretical framework is available for a full analysis of the subject which allows for an understanding of the specific situation in Colombia.

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