Authored by: James Sheptycki. Transnational crime presents a new object for global governance with law. A key difficulty resides in the definitional ambit of the term. One perspective, legal positivism, suggests that transnational crime consists in those phenomena defined in law as such.
That is not the perspective adopted in this chapter.
Instead an interdisciplinary perspective is adopted which synthesizes different viewpoints including political, economic, sociological and legal ones. In this chapter, these definitional subtlties are largely elided. Both terms are essentially contestable. Therefore what is important is to understand them as components in the language game of global governance through law. According to Gallie, 2 W. The etymology of relevant terms is revealing of their contestability.
Van Duyne and M. Allum and S. Beare ed. See also E. Edwards and P. Frequently cited work by Alan Block and William Chambliss gives a sense of why and how the Mafia image came to dominate conceptions of organized crime in America. Why is this important? Smith, Jr. Federal institution-building in the United States was, according to Smith, problematic for two reasons.
They have been threatening on two counts. First, they have affected law enforcement beyond the confines of organized crime control; second they have had a significant impact on the corruption of justice in the United States. A well-known academic criminologist named Donald Cressey was one of its most influential members. Based on his experience with the Task Force, he was the first academic criminologist to attempt a systematic study of organized crime in his seminal book Theft of a Nation.
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He drew heavily on his family heritage in Campania, Italy and his youth in gritty mid-town Manhattan in the s and s. Understanding historical change in the terminology concerning the organization of crime gives a good sense of the contestability of the terms involved. There is more to this historical evolution than can be conveyed in this short essay. The conclusion from this is that observable facts are formulated discursively as social and political constructs. For some people organized criminality is self-evidently a real problem and any theoretical discussion about the meaning of terms is an unwelcome side-show.
Realists, whether they refer to themselves as such or not, aim to draw accurate pictures of the phenomena they problematize. Realists aim to produce coherent explanations of these phenomena and they also, although not always, aim to produce pragmatic policy recommendations about what is to be done.
Criminologists do not often emphasize their ontological assumptions because it is as if that were to state the obvious. When it hits you, transnational organized crime is as real as a falling rock. And yet, there are many debates, influences and approaches to the realistic understanding of what constitutes transnational crime or transnational organized crime and quite a bit of disagreement. Any survey of the literature on organized and transnational organized crime confronts a somewhat bewildering array of interests and concerns.
Observing this, there is at least some room for questioning the epistemological status of the terminology. Likewise, economists, political scientists, sociologists, social-policy experts and of course lawyers describe the reality of transnational crime differently. Let us look briefly at some examples of criminological realism concerning transnational organized crime.
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See J. Godson and P. Godson and Williams consider a number of models for describing the nature of the problem.
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Williams and Godson go on to outline three social models that depict the transnational organization of crime. First, cultural models concern patron—client relations, family and kinship ties. Second, ethnic models look at group loyalty based on shared language and other ethnic characteristics. Petrus van Duyne and Maarten van Dijck are less easily impressed by the knowledge base upon which these realist accounts rest. Bovenkerk and M. Most of the time, it is carried out by law enforcement agencies, which have an interest in its outcome. Particularly when these agencies are also tasked to fight organised crime, they have an understandable incentive to report what they think are serious threats.
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After all, they are doing a serious job. A couple of classic essays, one from a political science and one an economic point of view, give clues as to why this is the case. Evans, D. Rueschemeer, and T. Skocpol eds. The state is a central pivot in the conjunction of criminal opportunity 59 M.
Rothe and D. Bowling and J. While globalization opens up new vistas for criminology, the complexity of the transnational condition entails that a strictly criminological lens is insufficient to bring everything into adequate focus. Nelken and M. The deterioration in political and administrative service which results from the privileged access offered to their clients leads others to seek their own privileged routes, and so the cycle of corruption spirals.
In the same way, a cycle of mutual dependence between politicians and organized criminals can develop. Insofar as this language game is pursued within the discourse of law it is one that is constituted as a set of legal power tools. Objectification in terms of legal discourse turns these phenomena into particular kinds of objects subject to the disciplinary control of particular kinds of institution in particular ways.
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Barnett and R. Legalese is normally thought of as an obfuscating form of legal writing which, although precise, has the effect of preventing easy comprehension by laypersons. In this instance intellectual property law is given urgency and familiar ease in popular parlance by designating IPT as piracy. The IPT case is made more easily in a climate predisposed to skepticism when dramatic connotations are grafted onto the terminology.
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These examples show how the designation of forms of transnational crime in legal terms allows for a form of ruling with law. Orsenigo, G. Dosi and M. Mazucato and G.
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Sea piracy offers another example of how the designation of transnational crime in the terms of legal discourse is essentially contestable. Constable and S. The interdisciplinary study of transnational crime offers many more examples of the essential contestability of its terms. Sheptycki ed. Ambagtsheer, D. Zaitch and W.
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Ball, E. Aas and M. These issue areas in transnational criminology, as well as others, present occasions to test the claims to analytical neutrality of our terms which we ignore at great cost. Unfortunately all of the possible issue areas cannot be fully discussed in a short essay. Looking at the discourse concerning transnational crime and transnational organized crime from a critical and interdisciplinary perspective has shown why it is that the official language systematized in international legal instruments such as the Palermo Convention 87 The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 15 November , UNTS , in force 29 September Downes and P.
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