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date: 09 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the main shifts in meanings, territorial scope, and scientific and political legitimacy of the concept organized crime. It reconstructs the historical trajectory of the concept, starting in the United States where it was used almost exclusively until the 1970s and then following its rapid spread in Europe since the late 1980s. One of the main arguments of the essay is that the understanding of organized crime has shifted back and forth between two rival notions: (1) a set of stable organizations illegal per se or whose members systematically engage in crime, and (2) a set of serious criminal activities mostly carried out for monetary gain. The article also considers the growing emphasis placed on the transnational nature of organized crime from the early 1990s onwards and finally discusses the future of the concept of organized crime, drawing from its incipient decline in Europe and the recent interest in the topic in Asia and Oceania.

Keywords: organized crime, criminal organizations, illegal enterprise, illegal markets, public and scientific debate, United States, Europe, Australia and Asia

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