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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: July 2019

12 - How Is ‘Organized Crime’ Organized?

from Part 3 - Networks and Other Social Relationships


In this chapter, we explore the usefulness of applying the idea of partial organization as one way of mitigating the confusion surrounding the notion of organized crime. We examine three types of collectivities that are usually seen as examples of organized crime: outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCs), street gangs, and mafias. When we examine the occurrence of organizational elements, we find substantial differences among these three cases not only in the amount of their organization, but also in the ways in which they are organized. A few multinational outlaw motorcycle gangs have gradually been able to form strong formal organizations containing all organizational elements. For a mafia, the situation is quite the opposite. Because its embeddedness in kinship relationships provides cohesion and protection, it needs little organization. Through its strong kinship ties, a mafia has access to several functional equivalents to the organizational elements one can find in OMCs. In street gangs the appearance of organizational elements varies among the gangs, and they rarely have more than a few elements at any one time. One obstacle for the organization of street gangs is their local embeddedness and limited duration, which loosen the boundaries of the gang.