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The Globalisation of Crime: Understanding Transnational Relationships in Context

by Mark Findlay

[Deputy Director of the Institute for Criminology and Head of the Department of Law, University of Sydney]

Cambridge University Press, 1999

In a book on the globalization of crime, you might expect to read about drug traffickers and weapons dealers, financial frauds and war criminals, environmental destruction and theft of intellectual property. You might look for analysis of the international criminal court, war crimes tribunals, and transnational law enforcement. You might be interested in the effects of global inequality or global institutions on global crime. This book will not meet your expectations.

It starts with a fuzzy discussion of globalization, mixing some Sklair into a little Waters. Rather conventionally, Findlay stresses the unifying aspect of globalization--the way in which "predominant consumerist values" spread around the globe to form "one culture on the planet." Borrowing from Harvey and others, he thinks globalization collapses time and space. The impact of all this on crime is, well, not entirely clear. "Globalization creates new and favourable contexts for crime," but Findlay never specifically addresses them. He has nothing to say about global markets for weapons, drugs, or shady financial products. He does not spell out how the collapse of time and space makes the running of transnational syndicates or networks easier. He describes crime as one kind of market solvent, but only touches on its disintegrating effects in Russia and some Pacific islands.

Findlay offers few clear causal arguments--he actually disparages analysis of crime in terms of cause-and-effect--but he does suggest that globalization creates change in societies. In periods of "transition" chances of "marginalisation" increase, which may stimulate crime, for example in the form of corruption. Certain kinds of behavior also become subject to a new kind of global representation of "criminal" activity because Western priorities create categories of crime. For instance, as Findlay says with the kind of ideological flourish that makes argument unnecessary, "[e]ven today the agenda for the 'war on drugs' is as colonial and imperialist as any recent military excursion" (p. 103). Around the world, states engage in more and more similar crime control strategies, notably imprisonment. At least some kinds of crime are a form of resistance: "Many of the structures of choice for crime will be designed to counteract the consequences of further marginalisation, at least from within a group or sub-culture" (p. 124). (How structures of choice are "designed" Findlay does not explain.)

For a book ostensibly devoted to globalization, this one contains very few global claims. An exception is Findlay's point that "globalised moralities are having a greater influence [than unspecified "local" ones] over the representation, and claiming priority as the motive behind control' (p. 190). He leaves us guessing what these globalised moralities consist of, how he determined their greater influence, how moralities "claim" priority, and how he found out it was "the" motive behind crime control efforts of authorities worldwide. Near the end of the book Findlay deals with war crimes trials in less than a page. They confirm the "symbolic predominance of the globalised state" that claims legitimacy by conscripting "the localised language of crime and justice " (p. 219). With typical ideological posturing, he adds that "[t]he classical Westernised representations of justice are broadcast through the symbolic denunciation of the war criminal, the trial and punishment of whom conceals [sic] the complicity of world order in war crimes" (p. 219).

Findlay supports Braithwaite's idea that reintegrative shaming can be effective in controlling crime. He raises the interesting question whether this can work at the global level, where "bonds of obligation essential to the communitarian underpinning of . . . . re-integration are replaced . . . . by a web of more symbolic . . . responsibility" ( p. 199). Someone else will have to supply the answer.


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Copyright 2000 - Frank Lechner