John Hagan, and Detelina Radoeva1
The Czech Republic is at the leading edge of rapid changes that are transforming the former socialist societies of East and Central Europe. Although considerable attention is being paid to the economic and political reformation of this and other East and Central European nations, less is known about broader processes of social change in these societies. For example, while increasing concern is expressed about rising levels of crime in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in East and Central Europe, relatively few attempts have been made to understand or explain the crime problems that are a part of the remarkable transitional events occurring in these settings. 2
This paper examines some of the emerging crime problems of the Czech Republic through the lens of social capital theory. Social capital theory emphasizes the extent to which individuals and groups can expect support and assistance from others, for example, in periods of social change. 3 Much of the meaning of the concept of social capital is captured by the notion of trust. A basic premise of this theory is that excessively high as well as low levels of social capital can lead to crime. 4
Extraordinarily high levels of social capital, which frequently are characterized by unmonitored trust, can result in political corruption and white collar and corporate crime, or what is sometimes more generally called upperworld crime. Extremely low levels of social capital, which frequently involve a disconnection from and distrust of society, often are associated with crime in less advantaged settings.