Lush Life: Constructing Organized Crime in the UK: Books

Article excerpt

Lush Life: Constructing Organized Crime in the UK. By Dick Hobbs. Oxford University Press. 328pp, Pounds 65.00. ISBN 9780199668281. Published 10 January 2013

There are few aspects of the contemporary world that have been subject to such sustained mythologisation as organised crime. The glamorised gangster narratives of Hollywood and Hong Kong and the cynical, misguided alien- conspiracy theories of politicians stand in contrast to a more plural, but in many ways banal, reality.

These renditions of organised crime are premised on the fallacy that it exists somewhere beyond civil society. This is the organised crime of sharp suits, made men, Bond villains and beautiful but mute women lounging by swimming pools. They offer fantasies for the post-Cold War world rooted somewhere in the certainties of the late 20th century.

Dick Hobbs' career in organised crime, if I can put it that way, offers a powerful counter-narrative that locates its subject in its socio-economic context and reads it through a sustained ethnographic engagement. Hobbs has been busting myths about organised crime since the 1980s, when his first book, Doing the Business: Entrepreneurship, the Working Class, and Detectives in the East End of London, appeared. His latest work continues that endeavour and offers a richly textured picture of the post-industrial illegal economy.

Lush Life is set in Dogtown, a series of overlapping neighbourhoods in East London, and its suburban hinterlands. Its empirical foundations are a series of interviews with a diverse cast of players from the area's grey and black economies. However, implicit throughout is an insider's understanding of how things work in these worlds that derives from Hobbs' growing up on these very streets and his long academic immersion in Dogtown's milieux.

The book is about the business of organised crime, of robbery, smuggling, counterfeiting and corruption, and of the roles of violence and rumour in ordering these activities. But equally it reveals an analytical scepticism of the ways in which the concept of organised crime has been constructed and deployed in political and policing circles. …