The Political Economy of Violence: Toward an Understanding of the Gender-Based Murders of Ciudad Juarez

85 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2005  

Deborah M. Weissman

University of North Carolina School of Law


This article provides an interpretive account of the political economy of violence localized in Cd. Juarez, Mexico. It examines the socioeconomic conditions attending decades during a period of rapid transformation to an export economy as the environment in which violence against women has assumed endemic proportions. The serial murders of women have been alternately problematized as deeds of criminal deviants, as a reactionary gendered responses to women replacing men in the wage labor force, and as the failure of the state to exercise local authority. This article argues for a more comprehensive analysis that includes the above theories without bracketing questions related to political economy. It urges the critical examination of the murders through the perspective of daily life in Cd. Juarez, circumstances profoundly transformed by global economic policies that favor the flow of capital and unfettered markets over the interests of the workers who are drawn to Cd. Juarez in search of a better life.

The impact of globalization has been considered in relation to the functions of the state and role of the rule of law. Attention has been given more to questions related to finance, trade and supranational regulatory schemes than to the impact of development strategies on the lives of the poor. This article seeks to expand this body of scholarship by examining how such transformations affect the capacity of state institutions, including judicial systems, to respond to the social consequences of globalization as it relates to lawlessness and the conditions in which societies disintegrate into violence. The murders in Cd. Juarez are set within the relationship of economic globalization and criminality as a way to consider prevention and intervention strategies focused primarily on enforceable international labor standards. It concludes by proposing to invigorate debates about economic globalization and development strategies to raise gender, poverty, and inequality to prominence, and thereby offer what may be considered as "utopian" proposals for policy and legal reform.

Suggested Citation

Weissman, Deborah M., The Political Economy of Violence: Toward an Understanding of the Gender-Based Murders of Ciudad Juarez. North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, Vol. 30, Summer 2005. Available at SSRN:

Deborah M. Weissman (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-962-5108 (Phone)
919-962-1277 (Fax)

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