Criminal Organizing : Studies in the sociology of organized crime

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Sociology, Stockholm University

Abstract: What organized crime is and how it can be prevented are two of the key questions in both organized crime research and criminal policy. However, despite many attempts, organized crime research, the criminal justice system and criminal policy have failed to provide a shared and recognized conceptual definition of organized crime, which has opened the door to political interpretations. Organized crime is presented as an objective reality—mostly based on anecdotal empirical evidence and generic descriptions—and has been understood, as being intrinsically different from social organization, and this has been a justification for treating organized crime conceptually separately.In this dissertation, the concept of organized crime is deconstructed and analyzed. Based on five studies and an introductory chapter, I argue that organized crime is an overarching concept based on an abstraction of different underlying concepts, such as gang, mafia, and network, which are in turn semi-overarching and overlapping abstractions of different crime phenomena, such as syndicates, street-gangs, and drug networks. This combination of a generic concept based on underlying concepts, which are themselves subject to similar conceptual difficulties, has given rise to a conceptual confusion surrounding the term and the concept of organized crime. The consequences of this conceptual confusion are not only an issue of semantics, but have implications for our understanding of the nature of criminal collaboration as well as both legal and policy consequences. By combining different observers, methods and empirical materials relating to dimensions of criminal collaboration, I illustrate the strong analogies that exist between forms of criminal collaboration and the theory of social organization.I argue in this dissertation that criminal organizing is not intrinsically different from social organizing. In fact, the dissertation illustrates the existence of strong analogies between patterns of criminal organizing and the elements of social organizations. But depending on time and context, some actions and forms of organizing are defined as criminal, and are then, intentionally or unintentionally, presumed to be intrinsically different from social organizing. Since the basis of my argument is that criminal organizing is not intrinsically different from social organizing, I advocate that the study of organized crime needs to return to the basic principles of social organization in order to understand the emergence of, and the underlying mechanism that gives rise to, the forms of criminal collaboration that we seek to explain. To this end, a new general analytical framework, “criminal organizing”, that brings the different forms of criminal organizations and their dimensions together under a single analytical tool, is proposed as an example of how organizational sociology can advance organized crime research and clarify the chaotic concept of organized crime. 

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