The St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929 symbolized what for many observers was a major characteristic of organized crime— the prevalence of conflict among rival organizations competing for market dominance. The view that criminal organizations sought monopolies—and were ready to use violence to obtain them—was reinforced in a famous and often quoted analysis by Thomas Schelling in the late 1960s (Schelling 1967). Among many criminologists this has become an article of faith and, in some instances, is even taken as one of the defining characteristics of organized crime. The conflict between the Medellín and Cali drug-trafficking cartels in the late 1980s and early 1990s reinforced this interpretation. So too did the violent conflicts among rival criminal groups in Russia in the early and middle 1990s, where organizational rivalry was accompanied by widespread contract killings. The continuity from the days of Capone and the internecine violence in Chicago to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Ekaterinburg in the 1990s was striking. Conflict and violence still appeared to be the order of the day.
Recently, however, an opposing school of thought has emerged. It contends that criminal organizations are increasingly cooperating with one another to support their common goals. In a widely cited study in 1994, Claire Sterling claimed to discern an emerging pax mafiosa in which “global conglomerates of crime” were increasingly cooperating with one another to carve up criminal markets (1994b). In a similar vein, Arnaud de Borchgrave argued that, on occasion, major criminal organizations were even holding summit meetings with one another (Raine and Ciluffo 1994; see also Williams 1994b). These themes have been developed by Jeffrey Robinson in his 1999 book The Merger, which cites numerous welldocumented examples of high-level cooperation among criminal organizations.