Teaching Criminology: Part III

Organized Crime

Organized Crime: Part III of a Series especially written for graduate students in sociology by TRYoung, Director, the Red Feather Institute for Advanced Studies in Sociology.

A.  Definition: Organized Crime may be defined as the production and distribution of sacred supplies for profane use.

While organized criminal companies commit murder, assault, theft, arson, as well as hi-jacking, the central activity of organized crime is the business of selling drugs, sex, usury, gambling and pornography.

B.  Theory: One needs Marx, Weber, Durkheim and a lot of anthropology to understand the complexities of organized crime. Simplistic theories such as Sutherland, Merton, Hirschi, Lemert, Cohen and the usual theoretical suspects are not very helpful in that they tend to assume the political economy of organized crime; in that they tend to assume the sanctity of the goods and services delivered; in that they tend to assume the alienated sexuality and monochromatic versions of social life embedded in the protestant ethic.

C.  Durkheim is central to an understanding of organized crime. The very raison d'etre for organized crime is that the supplies they produce and distribute have been, for centuries and for millenia past, used in those dramas of the holy which call forth mechanical solidarity among men and women...mostly men.

D.  The Political Economy of Organized Crime. Organized crime groups depend upon the sanctity of several solidarity supplies for its monopoly and its profit margins. The Protestant State acts in direct opposition to the capitalist state in this regard. The logic of capitalism is to commodify all, as Marx put it, all that is holy...but in their protestant incarnation, legislators define the non-social use; the non-person use; the non-cultural use of sacred supplies as criminal.

Corporate liberals want to decriminalize all solidarity supplies and let a much freer market work to eliminate the worse negativities of organized crime monopolies. The case is that the state could tax; the state could regulate purity; the state could replace organized crime and extract surplus value with which to manage its fiscal problems.

Organized crime depends upon the Protestant ethic more than the Spirit of capitalism if Weber will forgive me.

E.  The Religiousity of Organized Crime. What bothers most of us about organized crime is that it shatters the process by which we sanctify each to the other...is that it profanes that which we have been socialized to view as sacrament to those dramas of the holy in which we invest so much as both persons and as societies.

A Durkheimian sociology of religion does not assume the facticity of supernatural world...but it does assume the facticity of the social process called, in pre-modern sensibilities, sanctification.

In brief, those of us who wish to reserve the possibility to sanctify peoples, places and processes take the view, erroneous, that profanation of the particular ways we create solidarity cum religiousity are essential to religion.

That is, in postmodern religious sensibility, not the case. It is entirely possible to 'be/being' religious without claiming corruptions about this that or the other supply used in social solidarity.

Nor does organic solidarity suffice to the purpose. Psychological states are essential to authentic religiousity pre-, post- or modern understandings alike. We need to believe, to trust, to hope, to love, to be compassionate and to be able to transcend our own private needs and worlds.

A postmodern social philosophy would be able to make those distinctions and define as crime and corruption all that degrades and debases; not just the privatized use of psychogens to escape a painful world.

F.  Finally, I want to focus on Weber and his great insights; and translate then to a theory of organized crime in more explicit ways than might he wish.

CONCLUSION: Organized crime now has a virtual monopoly over the production and distribution of psychogens which brighten and redeem the bitter imperfections of life for some of us. Many market liberals want to de-criminalize those sacred supplies and allow customers to buy whatever they demand; and look aside from the efforts of marketeers to use dramaturgy to expand desire and demand. Many social liberals agree but want to replace the monopolies of organized crime with the monopolies of the state...as a way to resolve the fiscal crisis of advanced monopoly capitalism

Most crim texts pass the economics, the theologies, the anthropolies of organized crime while they focus upon the micro-sociologies of group dynamics or a safely depoliticized symbolic interactional theory.

Most criminologists, especially those in Criminal Justice Programs join with their protestant brethen to push for more control and the infliction of more pain upon a world all ready stripped of too much joie d'vivre.

If we want to move toward a low-crime society, we must have social policy which reduces the great negativities of organized crime. Transferring monopolies in gambling, prostitution, drugs and violence to the state or to the market place is, in my opinion, a most narrow solution.

Far better, it seems to me, is to work toward a social justice which redeems the imperfections of social life by removing them...rather than profitting from the management and temporary escapes from those negativities. In a word, if we don't like the profanations of organized crime, then we have to think about the re-sanctifications of organized social life.

TR Young

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