The Political Economy of Narcotics

Julia Buxton


Presents a critique of global policies of prohibition and the 'war on drugs'. Using well-known drugs, this book explains the political economy of narcotics production and consumption. It is useful for students with helpful maps, tables, and chapter bibliographies.
This book explores the origins, history and organisation of the international system of narcotic drug control with a specific focus on heroin, cannabis and cocaine. It argues that the century-long quest to eliminate the production, trade in and use of narcotic drugs has been a profound failure. The statistics produced by the international and domestic narcotic drug control agencies point to a sustained expansion of the drug trade, despite the imposition of harsh criminal sanctions against those engaged, as producers, traffickers or consumers, in the narcotic drugs market.

The roots of this major international policy failure are traced back to the outdated ideology of prohibition, which is shown to be counterproductive, utopian and a fundamentally inadequate basis for narcotic drug policy in the twenty-first century. Prohibition, championed by many US policy makers, has left the international community poorly positioned to confront those changes to the drug trade and drug markets that have resulted from globalisation. Moreover, prohibition based approaches are causing more harm than good, as is demonstrated through reference to issues such as HIV/AIDS, the environment, conflict, development and social justice.

As the drug control system approaches its centenary, there are signs that the global consensus on narcotic drug prohibition is fracturing. Some European and South American states are pushing for a new approach based on regulation, decriminalisation and harm reduction. But those seeking to revise prohibition strategies faces entrenched resistance, primarily by the U.S. This important text argues that successive American governments have pursued a contradictory approach; acting decisively against the narcotic drug trade at home and abroad, while at the same time working with drug traffickers and producer states when it is in America's strategic interest. As a result, US policy approaches emerge as a decisive factor in accounting for the failure of prohibition.

Author Bio

Dr Julia Buxton is Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for International Cooperation and Security in the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Intoxicating Substances in Historical Perspective
  • 2. The Drift to Regulation and the Idea of Prohibition
  • 3. From Regulation to Control
  • 4. The Beginnings of International Drug Control
  • 5. The Post War International Drug Control Regime
  • 6. Trends in Drug Consumption
  • 7. Trends in Cultivation and Production
  • 8. Accounting for Failure: The Problem of Prohibition
  • 9. Accounting for Failure 2: Institutions and Policy
  • 10. The Political Impact of Drugs and Drug Control
  • 11. HIV/AIDS and Intravenous Drug Use
  • 12. International Drug Control and HIV/AIDS
  • 13. Cultivation and Drug Production: The Environmental Costs
  • 14. Anti-Drug Policies and the Environment: The Role of Chemical Fumigation
  • 15. The New Magic Bullet: Bio-Control Solutions
  • 16. A Note on Hemp


'Buxton does a good job of undermining the case for prohibition. Excellent sources and extensive bibliography [in the book] is a credit to her clear analysis. Her style may be a little cool, but this is authoritative, provocative and just the kind of thing Sunday newspapers should be carrying on the news feature pages..'
 Phil Chamberlain, Tribune
'The ambivalence and confusion surrounding drugs, what they are, what they do and why they are demanded and supplied needs open, democratic debate. Julia Buxton's The Political Economy of Narcotics sheds invaluable light, raising important issues for discussion which government and society ignore at our peril.'
 Mike Davis, CHARTIST

 'Buxton presents a lucid, compelling critical analysis of the US policies regarding illegal drugs...Buxton provides a logical, rational analysis of America's longest war and the failure of US policy to control the narcotic drug trade. This volume should be mandatory reading for US drug policy makers and will be valuable for academics and social scientists as well.'
 J.S. Robey, Choice
'Julia Buxton's compelling book provides an account of the history and impacts of international drugs control, and argues that current prohibition policies not only fail, but are counter-productive.'
 Neil Spicer, Druglink, May/June 2008


Publication Date: 15 May 2006
256 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781842774472
eBook ePub: 9781848137523
eBook PDF: 9781848131613
eBook Kindle: 9781780328508
Library Edition: 9781842774465

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