Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Talking Points Seminar: Narco-Capitalism - Violence, Accumulation, Aesthetics

03 October 2019, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm


The IAS is delighted to welcome Dr Andrés Saenz de Sicilia, IAS Visiting Research Fellow, for this talk. Respondents: Kate Roll (UCL IIPP) and Claire Lindsay (UCL SELCS)

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Forum
Ground floor, South Wing, UCL
United Kingdom

In what sense can we understand capitalism as violent? There is much discussion of structural and ‘slow’ violence in the modern world, yet a widespread consensus holds that capitalism replaces the direct aggression prevalent in previous epochs with an impersonal and abstract form of social power. On such a view, the persistence of violence in modern societies represents something aberrant, a residue of past incivility tied to a lack of political and economic progress. But are violence and capitalist development intrinsically opposed in this manner?

Interpreted symptomatically, the situation of contemporary Mexico suggests otherwise. Since 2006, collusion and conflicts between rival cartels, government forces and corporate interests have given rise to an entrenched dynamic of violence and impunity which has done little to harm the success of its national economy. Far from being an exotic and irrational deviation from the normal functioning of market societies, ultraviolent ‘narco-capitalism’ presents us with a perfectly viable configuration of capitalist accumulation - perhaps even a paradigmatic instance of accumulation in its neoliberal form.

This talk outlines a concept of narco-capitalism by tracing the central articulations between organised crime, state and capital in Mexico today. It goes on to analyse the geopolitical conditions and strategic function of ‘narco capital’ within the world economy. Finally, it explores the integration of violence into the accumulation process, not only as practice and commodity, but also as image, arguing that the political, economic and aesthetic dimensions of this violence cannot be separated.

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