Piracy—like civil war, terrorism, and other organized crime—is a problem of weak and fragile states. But while helpful in identifying the countries most affected by maritime piracy, focusing on the weakness of entire countries does little to further our understanding of why piracy clusters close to some coastal communities but not to others. Our book argues that local governance and infrastructural development help explain pirate location. Pirate operations require substantial upfront investments, aided by proximity to markets and infrastructure. For sophisticated attacks, a group leader or boss provides pirates with a boat, fuel, equipment, and money to bribe officials. We therefore expect that in weak or failed states, pirates will operate in coastal areas where local governance is weak enough to incentivize collusion among pirates and authorities, yet strong enough to ensure that infrastructure and markets are sufficiently developed to permit the organization of sustained piracy. We examine our arguments empirically in quantitative analyses of local governance patterns and piracy in Indonesia. Field research conducted in Indonesia’s Riau Islands helps us to further assess the plausibility of theoretical mechanisms. Interviews with former pirates, community members, and journalists highlight the importance of access to markets and infrastructure for pirate operations, and also provided us with numerous examples of tacit and active collusion by local governance providers and the community.
Ursula Daxecker is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research. Her work explores the determinants of election violence and organized crime. She is currently completing a book manuscript on maritime piracy (co-authored with Brandon Prins). She also recently completed a four-year research project collecting disaggregated data on electoral contention and violence funded by the Dutch Science Foundation and the EC’s Marie Curie actions. She is associate editor at European Journal of International Relations and International Interactions. Her work is published in British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Public Choice, Electoral Studies, among others.
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