Resisting Protection: Rackets, Resistance, and State-Building

The state occupies a central place in the study of a wide range of political, economic, and social outcomes. This project, the basis for my second book, brings into dialogue the expansive literature on the state and emerging research on criminal politics through a study of protection rackets. Building on the foundational notion that “rulers seek to maximize revenue, but not as they please,”[i] I develop a political economy framework to explain variation in forms of resistance to protection rackets. The framework shows that distinct configurations of economic and political resources influence the forms of resistance available to subordinates. I illustrate the framework’s analytical utility through a micro-level comparative analysis of cases of resistance in Latin America. Attention to how resource endowments shape patterns of resistance to institutional projects of extraction and domination provides a novel window into the bottom-up dynamics of state-building.


[i] Margaret Levi, Of Rule and Revenue (University of California Press, 1989), 10.


Tools for sale in an informal market in Medellin (Colombia) that exists under the control of a protection racket.