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Inequality and the Emergence of Vigilante Organizations: The Case of Mexican Autodefensas

Comparative Political Studies (Forthcoming)

32 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2016 Last revised: 30 Sep 2016

Brian J. Phillips

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)

Date Written: July 11, 2016

Abstract

What explains the emergence of vigilante organizations? Throughout the world, vigilantes emerge to illegally punish perceived criminals, often leading to serious consequences. However, the literature presents partial and conflicting explanations for this phenomenon. This article argues that local economic inequality creates a situation ripe for vigilante organizations. Inequality creates demand for vigilantism because poorer citizens feel relatively deprived of security compared to wealthier neighbors who have advantages regarding private and public security. Additionally, inequality suggests a patron-and-worker distribution of labor, and this is ideal for organizing a particular type of group, the patron-funded vigilante group. Empirical tests use original data on the 2013 wave of Mexican vigilante organizations, present in 13 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities. Municipal-level income inequality is robustly associated with organized vigilantism. Less support is found for competing explanations.

Keywords: vigilantism, inequality, income inequality, Mexico, vigilantes

JEL Classification: D63, D74, F52, N46

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Brian J., Inequality and the Emergence of Vigilante Organizations: The Case of Mexican Autodefensas (July 11, 2016). Comparative Political Studies (Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2808266

Brian Phillips (Contact Author)

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) ( email )

Carretera Mexico Toluca 3655
Col. Lomas de Santa Fe
Mexico City, Mexico 01210
Mexico

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