Using material from Item b and elsewhere, assess the view that the process of globalisation has led to changes in both the amount of crime and the types of crime committed



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Using material from Item B and elsewhere, assess the view that the process of globalisation has led to changes in both the amount of crime and the types of crime committed

Globalisation refers to the increasing interconnectedness of societies so that what happens in one locality is shaped by distant events in another and vice versa. For example, the availability of illegal drugs in any UK city and the amount of crime which occurs in order to sustain people’s drug habits depends on how effectively farmers in Columbia and Bolivia can grow illegal crops such as the coca plant and also how effectively global drugs trade gangs can traffic illegal drugs into UK towns and cities.

Globalisation is caused by the spread of new information and media technologies especially the internet and satellite tv, mass migration, mass tourism, cheap international air travel, cheaper transportation of goods across borders, containerisation and the increase in transnational organisations that produce and market their goods and brands in a global marketplace. The expansion of free trade (meaning that companies can manufacture and sell their goods in increasing numbers of countries without trade barriers) has led to the establishment of transnational corporations.

There is some debate in the sociology of crime and deviance as to the extent to which globalisation has led to changes in the amount of crime and the types of crime committed.

Some Marxists such as Taylor (1999) argue that globalisation has led to an increase in crime rates in some UK towns and cities because transnational corporations (huge companies that do business in several countries), such as Reebok, Dyson and Marks and Spencer increasingly switch production away from the West abroad. This is because of reduced trade restrictions between countries and some countries actively encouraging relocation. Companies can reduce overheads through paying workers lower wages than in the UK, thus enabling them to compete with other global businesses. Taylor argues that this has led to unemployment, poverty and expanding inequalities in the UK which encourages crime. He suggests that the media encourages materialistic goals and the resulting strain from a lack of legitimate opportunities may encourage the poor to commit crime in order to achieve material goals (draws upon Merton’s work). Furthermore he argues that workers in developed and developing countries are exposed to ever more risks and insecurities in their lives and they experience growing relative deprivation.

Young (2003) argues that in both the developed and developing world the global media encourages people to value money and bombards everyone with the notion/ideology that the consumer goods typically associated with affluent western lifestyles will bring people ultimate happiness. Young (2003) argues that many people have little chance of achieving this legitimately and so turn to crime. He argues that society has become bulimic, whereby people gorge themselves on media images of expensive lifestyles, but then are forced by economic circumstances to vomit out their raised expectations and this encourages crime. One example of a global crime that may help people to achieve these materialistic goals is the trafficking of illegal drugs around the world. This brings in high revenues for successful drug trade gangs. Similarly people trafficking for illegal migration and prostitution is big business which results in high economic reward for people trafficking gangs and those who control them. Globalisation helps increase crime in a technical sense. Trafficked prostitutes are criminals twice over (prostitutes and illegal immigrants). More substantially it makes crime harder to detect as illegals are less likely to cooperate.



Bauman (2000) argues that in late modern societies there is growing individualization. Any improvements to people’s living conditions and happiness depends on their own efforts. People can no longer rely on the safety nets provided by the welfare state to protect them from unemployment or poverty. Taylor suggests that people are left alone to weigh up the costs and benefits of their decisions, and to choose the course that gives them the best chances of gaining the highest rewards. These rewards are increasingly viewed in terms of the acquisition of material goods and wealth which is promoted by a westernised global media. Thus crimes such as drug dealing and trafficking, and enabling illegal migration through human trafficking give individuals the best chance of achieving material rewards and consumer goods which would otherwise be unobtainable, and gives individuals from poor nations the hope (nearly always unfulfilled) of achieving individual salvation through (illegal) migration to the West.

Marxists argue that globalisation has led to more crimes against workers as transnational companies farm out (outsource) work to factories abroad and then fail to regulate the health and safety of workers. This has led to tragedies such as the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in 2013 in Bangladesh where over 1,000 workers were killed manufacturing clothes for Primark and other global brands. Marxists such as Taylor argues that transnational companies are not sanctioned harshly enough for crimes against workers and their drive to make money endangers the lives of workers. Nelken (2012) argues that powerful individuals or corporations can employ powerful lawyers who redefine their crimes as mistakes or errors rather than deliberate attempts to break the law. The avoidance of the label of ‘criminal’ to corporate crimes encourages further crimes by reducing any risks associated with offending. Marxists also point out that transnational companies can also commit global crimes such as green crimes which are damaging to the global environment. An example is illegally dumping toxic or radioactive waste in developing countries.



Brown et al (2014) argue the growth in new communication and media technologies such as the internet (which have contributed towards globalisation) have led to an increase in cybercrime. Cybercrime is crime committed with the help of communication and information technology. With more and more people using the internet for example, there is more opportunity for criminals to commit credit card fraud. Phishing is also a new crime enabled by the internet whereby individuals are duped into revealing personal banking details by fraudsters’ contacting them pretending to be from a bank. Furthermore by way of the internet terrorist groups have been able to publicise their ideas and gain new recruits and also plan attacks. A recent example is ISIS using the internet to groom 3 teenagers from East London.

However it is difficult to argue definitively that globalisation has led to an increase in the amount of crime, since it is difficult to gauge how much crime on a domestic or local level there is, in any given time period, let alone the extent of global crime. Given the secretive and complex nature of global crime it is a difficult area for sociologists to study. Furthermore investigating global crimes such as cybercrime requires specialist skills and thus the sociologist may be reliant on secondary sources which bring their own problems in terms of validity and reliability etc. It is also the case that research on global crime may be dangerous as it involves powerful and dangerous individuals. All of the above makes it very hard for sociologists to understand and track global crime.

Furthermore not all sociologists agree on how to define global crime. First, there is the question of whether something made possible by globablisation is a crime at all. For example, 2010 saw the emergence of the website, Wikileaks, which released hundreds of thousands of confidential US cables from American embassies around the world on a range of sensitive political issues. Disclosing secret information is not a new crime, but the way, extent and speed with which it could be done is a result of the internet and new telecommunications. The US government views Julian Assange who founded the site as a criminal, whereas others see him as a crusader for democracy in an era in which US power and globalisation makes transparency about the actions of governments vital.

It could also be argued that research into global crime is much less important than research into more routine localised crimes which have more of a direct impact on people’s everyday lives, such as murder, theft, drugs, mugging and so on. The focus on global crime could be viewed as simply being a distraction from the crimes that really need addressing.

However it is clear that the local and the global are interconnected since local criminals rely on global criminals to continue their activities. For example, drug dealers need global criminal gangs to traffic drugs so they can sell them and pimps and sex clubs rely on human traffickers to provide them with women and men who they can exploit. On the other side the international drugs trade and human traffickers require local networks of drug dealers, pimps etc to organize supply on a local level. Hobbs and Dunninghan (1998) introduced the term ‘glocal’ to describe this interconnectivity between the local and the global with transnational crime really rooted in glocalities – local contexts with global links.

The effective communication between local criminals and global criminal gangs and networks has an effect on crime rates in local areas, e.g. successful transportation of drugs from abroad leads to an increase in drug related offences in local areas which effects all those living in particular localities.

Alongside the debate over whether globalisation has led to an increase in crime, there is some disagreement over whether globalisation has led to changes in the types of crime committed or whether ultimately it has simply given people more opportunity to carry out pre existing crimes in new ways which may bring them greater rewards.

Castells (2010) and Karofi and Mwanza (2006) argue that globalisation has led to new opportunities for crime and new types of crime emerging. Chapman and Steel (2011) argue that new cybercrimes have developed out of the growth of the internet, including financial scams, credit card fraud, identity theft and phishing, and politically motivated crime such as hacking and terrorist websites.

Other crimes that have become more prominent due to globalization include an increase in the international drugs trade, including the buying and selling of illegal drugs, human trafficking and money laundering.

The increase in the international drugs trade may be due to the fact that it is now easier to move illegal drugs, particularly to countries in the European Union as there are fewer controls and checks in the European Union when it comes to freight containers. It is also the case that an increased volume of freight makes it difficult to police carefully the goods in all the containers. Lash and Urry (1987) support the argument above when they argue that globalisation has been accompanied by less regulation and fewer state controls over business and finance.

Human trafficking, the illegal movement and smuggling of people by criminal gangs, for example women and children for prostitution or illegal migrants who are so desperate for a better life that they pay criminal gangs to be transported into the UK may also be aided by the fewer controls regulating freight containers. A recent illustration of human trafficking was in 2014 when 35 people from the Indian subcontinent were found in a sealed shipping container at Tilbury docks in Essex suffering from dehydration and exhaustion. One of the 35 had died in transit.

The increase in the use of the internet may have facilitated money laundering which is concerned with making money obtained illegally look like it came from legal sources. Modern communication technology like the internet has made it easy for criminals to move money around into different accounts around the world almost instantaneously making it almost impossible for law enforcement agents to track where the money is coming from.

However the impact of these crimes on society as a whole compared to the impact of more everyday crimes could be argued to be negligible. However having said this, postmodernists such as Ulrich Beck argue that global crime has created a new set of insecurities and anxieties – global risk consciousness. People become more fearful of things like having their computers hit by viruses, having their identities stolen, of threats from illegal immigrants, terrorists, drug dealers and environmental crime. The causes of this risks are often located globally and it is difficult often to identify who is responsible. The media play on these fears with sensationalised and overblown stories regarding for example terrorists, growing social disorder allegedly posed by ‘scroungers’ such as migrant workers and illegal immigrants. These may fuel hate crimes, where people are attacked or abused because of their ethnicity or religion or other features that mark them out as different. Thus in this sense although everyday crimes are much more prominent sociologists such as Beck would argue that global crimes have a real consequence on the way people think and live their lives.



Some sociologists suggest that globalisation has provided greater opportunity for people to commit pre-existing crimes in new ways and this is more significant than globalisation leading to new types of crimes. For example, global drug trade gangs can now use containers to traffic drugs, paying off staff at border controls to maximise the chance of their containers not being checked. Furthermore with the increased volume of freight it is impossible for all freight containers to be checked giving criminal gangs more opportunity to traffic drugs successfully into the UK.

In conclusion it is clear that while new crimes have been made possible by globalisation the more significant feature of globalisation is that it has helped criminal gangs to commit pre-existing crime more effectively and has facilitated its growth and volume.


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