Organized Crime: Uncertainties and Dilemmas
Stanley Einstein and Menachem Amir (eds.)
Chicago: Office of International Criminal Justice, 1999
550 p.

Subject, Method, Database:
A compilation of review articles on various aspects of international organized crime.

An anthology comprises 18 previously unpublished papers on international organized crime. G.O.W. Mueller discusses the concept of "transnational crime" as applied by the United Nations, Phil Williams explores the influence of globalization on crime, other authors investigate organized crime in Eastern Europe, South Africa, China, Japan, Italy, Israel, Austria, the U.S. and Columbia, or certain areas of crime (prostitution, art and antiques theft, money laundering and state crime). David Nelken provides a concluding chapter on the globalization of crime and criminal justice.

The volume compiled by Stanley Einstein and Menachem Amir is remarkable for the wide range of issues addressed and the unusual list of authors which not only comprises some of the big names in the field but also some graduate students from the Ridgway Center for International Security Studies in Pittsburgh.
As is the case with most anthologies, the quality of the papers is mixed. Still, a lot of valuable information is provided. What lends itself to criticism is the fixation most authors demonstrate about ethnically defined criminal organizations as the supposed structural backbone of international organized crime.
Phil Williams sets the tone in his introductory article by maintaining that globalization has fundamentally improved the basic conditions for criminal networks, especially those rooted in ethnic minority communities and in countries that serve as safe havens for criminals, most notably Russia. Williams goes on to hypothesize "that criminal organizations might well move from corruption and co-option of political elites to more direct control of political power". In the end "the main fissures in international politics would be that between 'outlaw states' and law-abiding states" (p. 51).
With this line of reasoning, it seems, the danger lies in a simplistic transfer of concepts, particularly the Mafia paradigm and the Cold War concept of good countries and evil countries.
There is only one author who dares to adopt a different perspective. David Nelken argues that globalization not only creates criminal opportunities, but also undermines some of them. He also points out research findings indicating an increasing overlap between organized crime, corporate crime and ordinary business. Though Nelken assumes that there are differences in culture between criminals and businessmen, he nonetheless advocates a much broader frame of reference for analyzing the negative effects of globalization than that comprising simply the alleged threat posed by prototypical crime groups.
David Nelken addresses a crucial deficiency in the global debate on organized crime: Insofar as globalization means diminished state control, criminal organizations are not the only actors who profit. There is a whole variety of individual, collective or coporate actors pursuing personal gain on expense of the common good. It is probably this murky sphere of crime, corporate misconduct and negligence where the dilemmas and uncertainties of the debate on organized crime become most apparent.

Overall evaluation:
An informative collection of papers. Particularly the contributions by Phil Williams and David Nelken, when directly confronted, highlight the broad scope of the problem of international organized crime and the uncertainties and dilemmas characterizing the scientific debate on this issue.

© Klaus von Lampe, all rights reserved.