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York University

Department of Sociology

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Organized Crime

Winter 2014

Course Director: Dr. Marcello Musto

Class Time: Thursday 7:00-10:00

Class Location: VH 3017

Office Location: 637 Atkinson College Office Hours: Thursday 6:00-7:00

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 416 – 736 2100 Ext. 22565

Course Syllabus

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.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Class Participation




Final paper


Class Participation:

This course is taught in weekly seminars lasting 2 hours and 50 minutes. Attendance and informed participation at all class meetings is not only strongly recommended, but required. Students are expected to attend class regularly, complete the assignment readings on time and participate actively in class discussion. Participation will be marked for attendance and quality of participation.


Each class will begin with a student presentation (not exceeding 30 minutes) on the assigned readings. Presenters should provide a 2 page summary (by photocopy) of her/his presentation for other students.

A good presentation is very important to stimulate discussion. Therefore, please avoid just reading from a paper, and try to present ideas and raise questions for the engagement of others. Presentations should:

- reconstruct the argument of the author(s), and provide an overview of the assigned readings;

- identify the key questions for discussion, and the controversies implied by the material;

- critically analyze the texts (for example: what are the limitations of the position expressed in the readings?);

- Identify anything you found unclear or hard to understand;

- conclude with three discussion questions for the group to consider.

Final Paper:

Students are free to propose their own final paper topic in this course, but it has to be related to the authors and/or the writings contained within the course syllabus. The Final Paper should:

- be approximately 5000 words, including footnotes but not bibliography (roughly 20 pages double spaced 12 pt. times new Roman font);

- be clearly structured (divided into at least 3/4 sections), and written with rigorous evidence (particularly references to published works);

- be argued with documentation from critical sources (1-2 books and/or articles per page is a good rule of thumb). These sources may include some of the assigned readings, but must also evidence discovered though original research.

Final papers will be due 11 April by email. Late assignment will be penalized.

Warning: the paper must be entirely your own work. Be sure to meet all requirements of academic integrity (ie, no plagiarism).

Access to Readings:

The titles Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime, Jones and Bartlett (2007) andEric Wilson (Ed.), Government of the Shadows, Pluto Press (2009)have been ordered atYork Bookstore. Many of the required readings are available on-line. In addition Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime; Ioan Grillo, El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, Bloomsbury Press (2011); and Peter B.E. Hill, The Japanese Mafia: Yakuza, Law, and the State, Oxford University Press (2003) are on reserve at Scott library.


Mid-term class participation marks will be available by email or by appointment the week of 10 February.

Schedule of Classes and Readings

Jan 9 Introduction and Overview

Jan 16 Definitions and Models of Organized Crime

Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime, Jones and Bartlett 2007 (chapters 1, 2 and 3).

Jan 23 Organized Crime in the Globalized World



(Introduction, Conclusions and chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 10).

Jan 30 Drug Cartels in C olombia

Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime (chapter 4).

Francisco Thoumi, “From Drug Lords to Warlords: Illegal Drugs and the 'Unintended' Consequences of Drug Policies in Colombia”, in Eric Wilson (Ed.), Government of the Shadows, Pluto Press (2009).

Francisco Thoumi. 2011. “Killing Time in Medellin”, Open Democracy.

Feb 6 Mexico's Drug War

Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime (chapter 5).

Peter Dale Scott, “Drugs, Parapolitics, and Mexico: The DFS, the Drug Traffic, and the United States”, in Eric Wilson (Ed.), Government of the Shadows.

Ioan Grillo, El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, Bloomsbury Press (2011) (chapters 7, 13, 14, and Afterwords).

Feb 13 Cosa Nostra and the Italian Experience

Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime (chapter 7).

Henner Hess, “The Sicilian Mafia: Para-state and Adventure Capitalism”, in Eric Wilson (Ed.), Government of the Shadows,

Federico Varese, “Mafia Movements: A framework for Understanding the Mobility of Mafia Groups”, Global Crime, Vol. 12 (2011), Issue 3.

Feb 27 The Russian Mafia

Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime (chapter 6).

Joseph Albini, "Russian Organized Crime: Its History, Structure and Function", in Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 11 (4) (1995).

Alexander Shvarts. 2003. “The Russian Mafia: Expulsion of Law”, Contemporary Justice Review, Vol. 6(4) pp 363-382.

“Russian Mafia Abroad”, Moscow Times.

Mar 6 Organized Crime in China (and Hong Kong): Then and Today

Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime (chapter 9).

Lo, T. Wing. "Beyond social capital: Triad organized crime in Hong Kong and China." British Journal of Criminology 50.5 (2010): 851-872.

Wang, Peng. "The Increasing Threat of Chinese Organised Crime: national, regional and international perspectives", The RUSI Journal Vol. 158, No.4, (2013): 6-18.

Roderic Broadhurst, Crime Trends in Hong Kong

Natalie Wong, “Dragons smell blood again”

Mar 13 Japanese Crime and the Yakuza

Stephen Mallory, Understanding organized crime, Jones and Bartlett 2007 (chapters 8).

Peter B.E. Hill, The Japanese Mafia: Yakuza, Law, and the State, Oxford University Press (2003) (chapters 3 and 7).

Mar 20 Organized Crime and Human trafficking

Global report on Trafficking in Persons, UNODC 2009.

('Global Overview' at pp. 22-76 and a 'region profile' by choice)

Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2012.

(especially chapters 1 and 3).

Mar 27 Organized Crime, Forced Labour and Slavery

Kevin Bales, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy

(chapters TBA).

The Global Slavery Index 2013.

(Sections I, II and II plus 5 countries each student in 'Responses')

Apr 3 Politics and Organized Crime

A text of your choice from among the following chapters of Eric Wilson (Ed.), Government of the Shadows:

Eric Wilson “Deconstructing the Shadows”.

Mark Findlay “Governing Through Globalised Crime”.

Guilhem Fabre “Prospering from Crime: Money Laundering and Financial Crises” Howard Dick “The Shadow Economy: Markets, Crime and the State” Vincenzo Ruggiero “Transnational Crime and Global Illicit Economies” William Reno “Redefining Statehood in the Global Periphery”.