Academic journal article Social Justice

Global Anomie, Dysnomie, and Economic Crime: Hidden Consequences of Neoliberalism and Globalization in Russia and around the World

Academic journal article Social Justice

Global Anomie, Dysnomie, and Economic Crime: Hidden Consequences of Neoliberalism and Globalization in Russia and around the World

Article excerpt

Introduction

TRANSNATIONAL CRIME HAS RECENTLY ACQUIRED A PROMINENT PLACE IN PUBLIC debates. It is commonly presented as the most significant Crime problem at the turn of the millennium (Myers, 1995-1996; Shelley, 1995). Many have even suggested that it represents a serious domestic and international security threat (Paine and Cillufo, 1994; Williams, 1994). The argument is also made that a wave of transnational crime undermines neoliberal policies and the functioning of an increasing number of market economies around the globe (Handelman, 1995; Shelley, 1994). As a consequence, the proposed remedies are often quite drastic and involve undercover operations, privacy-piercing approaches, and the participation of intelligence services in the fight against global crime (Andreas, 1997; Naylor, 1999; Passas and Blum, 1998; Passas and Groskin, 1995).

Yet, little attention and virtually no systematic research has been devoted to understanding the causes, structure, extent, and effects of serious cross-border misconduct (Passas, 1998). The risks it poses may be grossly exaggerated (Naylor, 1995; Lee, 1999). The draconian measures being contemplated and implemented in different countries, therefore, are essentially an exercise in shooting in the dark. Chances are good that the target will be missed and substantial "collateral damage" may be caused by ill-conceived policies in this "war" on crime. This risk is particularly high in countries in transition toward a market democracy. It would be much wiser, thus, to carefully study the problem before taking ineffective and possibly damaging actions.

This article seeks to make a contribution by concentrating on the causes of transnational economic crime. The main argument is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, neoliberalism and globalization contribute to processes leading to global anomie, dysnomie, and, ultimately, economic misconduct. They do so by activating the criminogenic potential of economic, political, legal, and cultural asymmetries, as well as by creating new such asymmetries (Passas, 1999). These asymmetries cause crime by furnishing opportunities for misconduct, by generating motives for actors to take advantage of such opportunities, and by weakening social controls. More specifically, means-ends disjunctions are systematically created, as neoliberal policies foster new needs and desires that are all too often left unfulfilled. Promises of more freedom, prosperity, and happiness for a larger number of people have turned out to be chimerical. Economic and power inequalities have widened within and across countries in the last two decades . The number of poor has reached unprecedented levels, while welfare programs and safety nets are reduced or abolished. Enormous populations have become more vulnerable to exploitation, criminal victimization, and recruitment in illicit enterprises or rebel and fundamentalist groups. Normative standards and control mechanisms are weak or completely absent exactly when they are needed the most.

This article begins with some basic conceptual clarifications and outlines the theoretical framework so far applied to the analysis of U.S. organizational and individual deviance. Then, the main features of globalization and neoliberalism are presented, followed by a contrast of promises made by proponents of neoliberal policies and their actual consequences. Attention then shifts to specific criminogenic effects of these outcomes and the case of Russia, which illustrates the different stages in the processes leading up to serious misconduct and anomie. The chief policy implication of this analysis is that the recently unleashed forces of neoliberalism need to be reined in and held in check, while government policies ought to better shield the least privileged from the adverse effects of globalization.

Some Conceptual Clarifications

Although there is no universally accepted definition of transnational crime, many commentators seem to think of it as a globalized form of the stereotypical "organized crime. …

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