Organised crime: theoretical considerations

Organised crime has one and only one motive, namely profit. Proper conceptualization in academia has been severely hampered by a misunderstanding of this point. The purpose of organised crime is neither violence nor power. Violence may be used and a position of power may be reached, but solely as a means of obtaining or securing revenue streams. Nor is organised crime—in its majority—ethnic or territorial in nature. It consists of often ad hoc groups, as shown as early as 1974 in the pertinent analysis of organised crime by the then Secretary-General of Interpol, Jean Nepote.[1]

Functionally, the activities of these crime groups are the protection racket (i.e. extortion), fraud, and the satisfaction of denied demand, or coercive, predatory, and market crimes. Most organised criminals obtain part of their funding from extortion of business owners and others. Likewise, they have always been involved in various fraudulent schemes, a trend that seems to increase with the opportunities offered by the cyber environment. But the most important part of their revenue-generating activities is market crimes, i.e. the satisfaction of denied demand. In this respect, organised crime can be seen as the arbitrage of borders; geographical, certainly, but not solely.[2] This explains the curious fact that organised crime needs the state, because this creates borders both between itself and other states, and also inside itself, between licit and illicit drugs, licit and illicit gambling, citizens likely to receive organ donations and those not, individuals who are citizens and those who are not.[3]

  • [1] Jean Nepote, ‘Interpol et le crime organise’, (1974) 282 Revue Internationale de Police Criminelle(November), 230-6. For a so-called 4:3:2:1 configuration, see Frank G. Madsen, ‘Trafficking crimes’,in Barry A. K. Rider (ed.), Research Handbook on International Financial Crimes, Cheltenham,Gloucestershire, UK, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015.
  • [2] See—for the matter of definition—Ch. 2, sections 2.1.1 and 2.3.2, and Ch. 21 of this book.
  • [3] Alexander C. Diener and Joshua Hagen, Borders, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.
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