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(Il)legal organizations and crime. Challenges for Contemporary Criminology

Bucharest, the capital of Romania, welcomes you to one of the most important academic events in the field of criminology. Certain historical characteristics of Romania, host country of this conference, could be linked to its general topic.


Geography positioned Romania for centuries between different civilisations. As such, the constant swing between cultures gave birth to the current day mix. One should take as an example the Romanian language, which is predominantly Latin, but with heavy Slavic influences. The Romanian cuisine has mainly Eastern influences, but throughout time borrowed Western habits. The list can go on. The Balkans are a region which continuously had to adapt to new realities.


Is this the state of contemporary criminology? Should criminology adapt to new realities and rethink its focal point?


After centuries of research in which different theories had as a main goal to explain individual behaviour, it is a new challenge to take into account the organizations' "behaviours". But is it possible to describe an (il)legal organization without looking into the peculiarities of the individuals comprising the said organization? It is a fact that lately more and more of the criminal legislation (domestic or international) provides for the accountability of organizations, as such. But should such a criminal law perspective be seen as having consequences in criminological theories?


One cannot ignore the fact that complex "white collar" crimes, for example, are almost inconceivable without the usage of one or more legal persons (companies). Even for crimes that harm the individual in his or her right to life or right to physical integrity and health, in most of the domestic laws, organizations may be punished.


What triggers the participation of organizations to the criminal life? Is the sole element the will of an individual? The will of more individuals? Or could the will of the organization be seen as a separate element and, implicitly, be reviewed while ignoring the individuals?


For its side, organized crime is a lot more debated and studied. Can organisational crime imitate organized crime? Can organizational criminology learn from the conclusions of the professionals studying organized crime?


Although putting together legal and illegal organizations in connection to the criminal phenomenon may seem odd, the doctrine has already shown that it is only an appearance, as the “same market forces and factors that apply to legitimate (corporate) business markets are also mirrored in crime markets” (Dean et. al., 2010). It is thus clear that both forms of crime require a certain extent of political, financial or social influence in order to be successfully perpetrated. And it is obvious that, generally, for both categories, money is the final goal.


There is however a main difference between them, as, if organized crime generally involves illegal activities and cross-border operations (especially human or drug trafficking), organizational crime deals with ‘clean hands’ (financial market crime, corruption, insider trading, tax dodging, environmental crimes etc.). There can also be organized crime at an organizational level.


The 21st conference of the ESC invites you to reflect on such issues and many more linked to the general topic of the conference. It is our hope that you will take part in discussions and all the ideas that will be disseminated and shared will contribute to the development of criminology in a contemporary context.

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