Organized Crime Essay

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Though the study of organized crime is primarily a sociological pursuit, the phenomenon is a subject of study in numerous other disciplines, including anthropology, economics, history, and political science. Despite, if not because of, this broad and varied inquiry into the topic, there is little consensus on what constitutes ”organized crime.”

Perhaps the broadest interpretation of organized crime is offered by sociologist Joseph Albini in his book, The American Mafia: Genesis of a Legend (1971). His analysis identifies four types of organized crime: political-social (e.g., Ku Klux Klan), mercenary (predatory/theft-oriented), in-group (gangs), and syndicated (offers goods and services, and infiltrates legitimate businesses). Most scholars have opted to focus on the latter.

Four characteristics are most frequently cited in the academic literature when defining syndicated organized crime: a continuing enterprise, using rational means, profiting through illegal activities, utilizing the corruption of officials. Some authors have argued that groups must also use or threaten violence, and be involved in multiple criminal enterprises, to merit inclusion in the organized crime discussion.


  • Hagan, F. (1983) The organized crime continuum: a further specification of a new conceptual model. Criminal Justice Review 8: 52—7.

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