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A Tribute to Donald R. Cressey (1919-1987)
Donald R. Cressey can be considered the founder of the modern study of organized crime. His book "Theft of the Nation: The Structure and Operations of Organized Crime in America", published in 1969, remains the most widely cited and perhaps also the most controversial scholarly book on organized crime.
Cressey taught sociology at the University of California in Santa Barbara. In 1966/7 he served as organized-crime consultant to the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. Based on research conducted in this capacity he wrote "Theft of the Nation", a treatise on Cosa Nostra, and later a smaller volume entitled "Criminal Organization" in which he extended his conceptualization of organized crime to include criminal groups other than Cosa Nostra.
In the long run, Cressey did not pursue the issue further, although he was quite aware of the impact of his work. He provoked a whole series of studies and countless essays on the structure of organized crime. In an interview, Cressey noted: "I think I got a lot of people going in organized-crime research. My book was, basically, the first scholarly work on it. I made the study of organized crime a respectable academic pursuit." He also stated that "Theft of the Nation" was the piece of work he liked best: "I don't like it for scholarly reasons. I like it because I'm in it. Almost all of my writing is in a sociological style, a style that makes you write as a disinterested third party who is presenting a report. But that organized-crime book-I got into it. It's me talking. I like that book for literary reasons." (quoted in Laub, 1983: 162).
A selection of writings on organized crime by Donald R. Cressey:
Methodological Problems in the Study of Organized Crime as a Social Problem, in: The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 374, 1967, pp. 101-112
Theft of the Nation: The Structure and Operations of Organized Crime in America, New York: Harper and Row, 1969
Bet Taking, Cosa Nostra, and Negotiated Social Order, in: Journal of Public Law Vol. 19(1), 1970, 13-22
Organized crime and inner-city youth, in: Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 16(2), 1970, 129-138
Criminal Organization: Its Elementary Forms, New York: Harper and Row, 1972
A selection of writings on Donald R. Cressey:
Albini, Joseph L., Donald Cressey's Contributions to the Study of Organized Crime: An Evaluation, in: Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 34(3), 1988, pp. 338-354
Rogovin, Charles H., and Frederick T. Martens, The Evil That Men Do, in: Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Vol. 8(1), 1992, pp. 62-79
An interview with Donald R. Cressey:
Laub, John H., Criminology in the Making: An Oral History, Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1983.