The New Elite in Post-Communist Eastern Europe

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Christopher Vanderpool et al. | Go to book overview
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4
Crime and the Formation of a New Elite

Victor Luneev

Generally, there is a direct relationship between crime levels in a society and the degree to which morality and legality is upheld by political elites. The higher the level of crime in society, the higher the level of criminality of elite groups and vice versa.

This relationship can vary, depending on the historical, national, religious, political, and other social-cultural traditions and preconditions of legal and illegal behavior of the country. In all cases, however, it remains direct and appreciable. The strongest interrelations are registered between the criminality of the ruling (managing) elite and criminological conditions in the country as a whole. For the general public, the ruling elite serve as a positive or negative example in relationship to crime. The behavior and criminality of the elite can directly and indirectly justify illegal behavior or indifference to crime.

The criminality of the elite is not fully explained with the well- known concept of "criminality of the white collars." Edwin Sutherland, the American criminologist who invented the concept, understood it as the crimes of business managers. 1 The managers of power, the power elite, are on a much higher social plane. If we use the Sutherland approach, the crime in a sphere of power can be seen as "crime of respectable white collars" or simply "respectable criminality," as it was named by another American criminologist, Edwin Shirr. 2 However, the crimes of the political and ruling elite have high degrees of unrespectability and have much more serious consequences for society.

The most dangerous and professional forms of criminal behavior are political terrorism (violence of power) and political corruption (venality of power). These are world problems. For a long time, the international community, on behalf of the UN, has been anxious to learn about

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