Do Mafias Control the Criminal World? A Network Perspective

15 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2012

See all articles by Toine Spapens

Toine Spapens

Tilburg University, Law School; Police Academy of the Netherlands

Date Written: June 23, 2012


One of the major differences between mafia-type criminal organizations and other crime groups postulated in the 1960s by criminologists such as Cressey and Schelling is that mafias “control” parts of the criminal world. Since then, others have fiercely criticized this assumption and nowadays, the “disorganized” nature of organized crime in states with an effective criminal justice system, in which no specific crime group stands out, seems to be widely accepted. However, even when organized crime is disorganized, there are power differences between crime groups. This is particularly so when certain groups have an advantageous position in the criminal “macro network”, or because key members have specific skills (especially in organizing), good reputation and investment capital. The question addressed in this paper is whether such groups can use these assets to control parts of the underworld.

Keywords: Networks, organized crime, Mafia

Suggested Citation

Spapens, Toine, Do Mafias Control the Criminal World? A Network Perspective (June 23, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Toine Spapens (Contact Author)

Tilburg University, Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE

Police Academy of the Netherlands ( email )

7334 AC Apeldoorn

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