Are postcolonies haunted more by criminal violence than are other nation-states? In this paper, Jean and John Comaroff argue that the question is misplaced: the predicament of postcolonies arises from their place in a world order dominated by new modes of governance, new sorts of empire, new species of wealth; an order that criminalises poverty and race, and entraps the ‘south’ in relations of corruption. But there is another side to all this. Postcolonies may display endemic disorder, but they also often fetishise the law, its ways and means. In probing the coincidence of disorder and legality, this essay suggests that postcolonies foreshadow a global future under construction.