Neoliberalism and The rising of The Gangs

According to Dag Einar Thorsen’s paper about “The Neoliberal Challenge” and the “The History of Street Gangs in the United States” published in the National Gang Center Bulletin by James C. Howell and John P. Moore, the street gangs had emerged from the need of protection from conflicts around immigration movements into stablished societies.

On a decade where civil wars and poverty was inducing immigration movements into stronger economies where was a belief of better life and more work opportunities, local communities felt attacked in a social way. Their community was being invaded by strangers with different costumes and behaviours. The fear from the unknown let them to take a defensive position and because they couldn’t ensure their own safety, the community start to act as one.

As they were getting formed, this community groups needed to find something that could identify themselves from the rest of the local population, and from the “strangers” that had arrived.


The Almighty Latin King Nation: In one name, this group express their power (The Almighty), their origin (Latin) and their greatness (King Nation). According to “Hispanic gangs: a brief history” published in La Voz Latina Online, this group has as their goal to “help each other overcome the problems of racism and prejudice that newly arriving Puerto Rican immigrants were experiencing”. The leader was known as “Inca”, enhancing the power of the group since Inca were the greatest empire from pre-Columbian America.


Mara Salvatrucha MS-13: This group was created by refuges from the civil war in El Salvador in 1980’s. Formed by youth and young adults who were victimized by groups from the communities where they took refuge. Mara stands for “La Mara” who was a violent street gang in El Salvador. Salvatrucha it’s a term used to denote members os the Farabundo Marti Nacional Liberation Front. The 13 is an homage to the californian prison gang “Mexican Mafia”. In one name they have gather tree strong street groups.

Sureños: The name simply discribes the origin of the group. Sureños is a “professing allegiance to a gang set in southern California”. The spanish word mean  Southerner. This group has borned after the prision war between Mexican Mafia (La EME) and the Nuestra Familia (NF) in California. The members from Mexican Mafia were from Southern California, and the members from the Nuestra Familia were from Northern California.

In short, the basis for the emergence of these community groups was the need of survival inside the host society. This society that felt being attacked by foreign people who’re looking for better living conditions has created their own groups to defend themselves and their stabelished society.

The neoliberalism as a factor for this behaviour might be valid. As mentioned before, Dag Einar Thorsen on his paper quotes a definition about what neoliberalism is.

Neoliberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. The state has to guarantee, for example, the quality and integrity of money. It must also set up those military, defence, police and legal structures and functions required to secure private property rights and to guarantee, by force if need be, the proper functioning of markets. Furthermore, if markets do not exist (in areas such as land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution) then they must be created, by state action if necessary. But beyond these tasks the state should not venture. State interventions in markets (once created) must be kept to a bare minimum because, according to the theory, the state cannot possibly possess enough information to second-guess market signals (prices) and because powerful interest groups will inevitably distort and bias state interventions (particularly in democracies) for their own benefit. (Harvey 2005:2)

This definition reinforces the central role that the economic society had in the raising of these groups. The rising, not the creation. An ethic issue might be the cause for the creation of these groups.


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