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Crime, technology and society by Angus Bancroft
Is crime still seductive when it is rationalised? The return of the early modern gang to the crime labour process

Is crime still seductive when it is rationalised? The return of the early modern gang to the crime labour process

Is crime in competition with being law abiding? For rational choice theorists the answer is mostly yes. The decision to commit crime is a calculated judgement based on self interest. There is nothing particularly special about criminals or crime. In contrast both deviance theory and bio-psychological criminology say there is something distinct about both. Bio-psychological theories examine criminal motive in terms of personal development traits: how do criminals depart from the normal. No need to explain the costs of compliance. Deviance or cultural criminology also says crime could be attractive in itself, as a separate state of transgression. Katz (1988) identified the thrill of deviance in immediate acquisitive crimes like shoplifting and Goldsmith and Wall (2022) highlight the life stage attractions of some types of cyber scalliness.

I am attracted to this approach but slightly wary of the background assumption that thrills are what characterises these types of crime. Apparently thrill seeking crimes might provide emotional satisfaction in other ways. Some apparently thrill seeking crimes require working at and cooperation. We can understand more about behaviour such as trolling through the attractions of cooperation to attack a target. This is all good but sets us up for a hypothesis. As crime is becoming more rationalised, are these seductions lost. If the controller of your shoplifting gang is expecting you to turn round £1000 of shoplifted goods a day, the motivation and experience is likely to be very different from thrill driven shoplifting.

Given how organised and systematised shoplifting is now we can hypothesise that the attraction of transgression is less significant as a motive. Shoplifting becomes more like the piece work that was the labour process in early modern factories, organised in labour gangs that were often also kinship groups. We also should change our understanding of what gangs are. These gangs are more mobile and adaptable, and less focused on territory, than the classic modern and post-industrial gang that characterised criminal life in Glasgow, Los Angeles and other places.

Goldsmith A and Wall DS (2022) The seductions of cybercrime: Adolescence and the thrills of digital transgression. European Journal of Criminology 19(1). SAGE Publications: 98–117. DOI: 10.1177/1477370819887305.
Katz J (1988) Seductions Of Crime: Moral And Sensual Attractions In Doing Evil. New York: Basic Books.

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