Everything I ever knew about political economy I learned from… pirates?

This article argues that gangs, clans, mafias and insurgencies are, like states, forms of governance. This insight is applied to the case of Somali piracy and the article explores whether protectors of piracy were clearly distinct from pirates; and to what extent protectors coordinated their activities across the Somali coastland. It is shown that clan elders and Islamist militias facilitated piracy by protecting hijacked ships in their anchorages and resolving conflicts within and between pirate groups. Protection arrangements operated across clans, as illustrated by the free movement of hijacked ships along the coastline and the absence of re-hijacking after ransoms were paid. Piracy protection can be thought of as part of a continuum of protection arrangements that goes from mafias to legitimate states. The article concludes by highlighting the implications of the findings for the debate on state-building and organised crime.

A new article by Anja Shortland and Federico Varese. (I’m sorry it is gated and I do not see an ungated version online. If you see one, please link to it in the comments). Hat tip to @DavidSkarbek.

I also stumbled upon another article by Shortland brilliantly called “Can We Stop Talking about Somali Piracy Now? A Personal Review of Somali Piracy Studies

All of this reminds me of one of the best paper titles ever, also about pirates, by Peter Leeson: An-arrgh-chy. Later, he wrote a book called The Invisible Hook. I love it for that reason alone.

34 thoughts on “Everything I ever knew about political economy I learned from… pirates?

  1. I assume the first reference is Tilly: “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime”?