From tackling illicit flows of small arms to combating nuclear smuggling, the shadow trade has become a central target of attempts to control the means of violence. This article argues that much of this practice and literature is framed in unhelpful terms that posit two distinct worlds, an upperworld and underworld, that separates illicit flow networks from the familiar world of state security policy. This implies that the possibilities for controlling the shadow trade are limited or require expansive and expensive controls. The article then examines the formation of illicit flow networks, drawing on examples including narcotics, small arms, nuclear materials, nuclear technology, major conventional arms, dual use technologies, and chemical weapons precursors; and finds that state and hybrid actors rather than extensive private networks are constitutive of illicit networks in many ways. It concludes by reclaiming hope for controlling the means of violence in this hybridity.
Article in leading international (US-based) peer reviewed journal
- Political Science and International Relations