McDonaldization – it is a term, by which the cultural globalization and the rule of mass culture can be described. But what if we compare it with the worldwide spread of the crime – does the globalization have such an influence on the crime sphere as well? Is the illicit globalization such a threat to governments and national economies like the mass culture is for national traditions?
Perhaps these times, it could be considered as not being in the spotlight, but the problem of transnational organized crime is still relevant. According to Susan Strange’s words (1996: 121), transnational organized crime is “perhaps the major threat to the worlds system”. And it should not be treated as an obsolete matter – it has been developing since the past two decades and it is still an on-going problem of the global political economy.
Since the Cold War era, transnational crime poses not only internal threat, but also external. It can affect the sphere of public health, public safety, democratic institutions and economic stability across the globe. In another words, it is an enormous threat to traditional and human security terms. Especially, the developing countries with weak rule of law can be particularly susceptible to transnational crime penetration (whitehouse.gov, Acc.: 7 Dec).
But in what way can be the term transnational organized crime defined? According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (unodc.org, Acc.: 7 Dec), which is the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, there is no possibility to create a straightforward definition of this kind of crime, because of the fact, that then it could make it more difficult to allow for a broader applicability of the Organized Crime Convention to new types of crime that emerge constantly as global, regional and local conditions change over time. It is not static.
That is the reason why UNODC contains only a definition of ‘organized criminal group’ – it is: “a group of three or more persons that was not randomly formed, which have been existing for a period of time, acting in concert with the aim of committing at least one crime punishable by at least four years’ incarceration in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit”. The true defining characteristics of organized crime groups under the Convention are their profit-driven nature and the seriousness of the offences they commit (unodc.org, Acc.: 7 Dec).
This kind of criminal activity could be illustrated by the example of Japanese Yakuza, the Sicilian Mafia or even the MS-13 and M-18 gangs, which years of splendour could be dated to fall on early 1990s.
By bringing all the facts together, transnational organized crime activity covers a wide range of illegal activities, such as: drug trafficking, human smuggling, trafficking in persons and weapon trafficking, intellectual property theft, cybercrime or even corruption.
As it is explained above, it is now important to say what is its influence on ‘our world’. Thus, transnational organized crime poses a threat both to the political stability of weak states (direct) and to the stronger states (but it is indirect). The governance and the state institutions are also undermine, because of increase of corruption, but also subverting good governance. It is also noticeable, that links between transnational organized groups and terrorist poses a direct threat to all states, especially, where governmental control is weak (O’Brien, 2014, p. 291-292). The terrorist have an `open space` to make them feel like home. It means that they can, for example, easily supply illegal weapon to combatants or expand their activity on territorial zones outside the control of central government, which have arisen due to illegal cross border activity. Some profits of the transnational crime support terrorists. Therefore, it is hard not to notice that it has a devastating influence on human security.
But overall, what can be done about that? One could say that there is still the demand of greater international cooperation on this field or more harmonized legislation and increased sharing of intelligence should be introduced (Shelley, 2006).
However, international relations scholars have only minimally and sporadically engaged the transnational organized crime debate, because at first glance, it is traditionally viewed as the domain of criminology or criminal justice studies (Andreas, 2013: 597), but global political economy also has much in common with this. Economy and security are connected – it is in the responsibility of the state to protect its economic interests. If the state is in danger, then it is hard for economy to work correctly. Following realists thinking, issues of high politics are more important than these of low politics. High politics relate to the military security of the state (O’Brien, 2013: 282).
- Andreas, P. (2013) Illicit Globalization: Myths, Misconceptions, and Historical Lessons in Beare, M. Transnational Organized Crime. Ashgate. Pp: 597.
- O’Brien, R. & Williams, M. (2013) Global Political Economy. (4th Ed.). Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp: 282, 291-292.
- Strange, S. (1996) The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy. Cambridge University Press. Pp: 121.
- Shelley, L. (2006) The Globalization of Crime and Terrorism. [Online] Available from: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/publication/2008/06/20080608103639xjyrrep4.218692e-02.html#ixzz3p5mBXAo8, [Accessed 7 December 2015].
- The White House. Transnational Organized Crime: A Growing Threat to National and International Security. [Online] Available from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/nsc/transnational-crime/threat, [Accessed 7 December 2015].
- UNODC. Organized Crime. [Online] Available from: https://www.unodc.org/unodc/ar/organized-crime/index.html, [Accessed 7 December 2015].