Organized Crime

The course will centre on the analysis of Organized Crime in the world today. The selection of readings focuses on the characteristics and distinguishing features of various conceptions of criminal organizations, and the relationship between criminalized commodities and the global economy.

The first part of the course will critically analyze the various definitions, models and historical and contemporary perspectives on organized crime in our increasingly globalized society. Issues will include the relationship between organized crime and social and political movements of resistance and rebellion, and the evolution of criminalized commodities. Special attention will be then dedicated to some of the most important contemporary criminal groups and organizations, focusing particularly on the cases of Colombia (the drug cartels of Medellin and Cali), Mexico (the drug war started in 2006), Italy (Mafia, Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta), Russia, China (including the special case of Hong Kong) and the Japanese Yakuza.

In conclusion, the last three classes will examine human trafficking and the evolving relations between organized crime and states/political forces. The international trafficking of workers – not only women in sex trades, but also ‘illegal’ migrants – has burgeoned with the global economy. At the same time, while states have sometimes had success in curtailing specific criminal groups (eg, the Sicilian Mafia), states have also used criminal organizations in secret wars, assisted criminals in wholesale plunder of public resources, and failed spectacularly in numerous so-called ‘wars’ on crime. The political economy of organized crime bears not only on the security of citizens, but on the potential for democratic social life.


York University

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