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  • Author: Matias Dewey
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: State concerns about crime and security issues have strongly affected conceptions of economic action outside the law, a traditional field of research in sociology. This increasing encroachment by policy-related concerns on the intellectual framework of the discipline has led, on one hand, to an almost exclusive focus on criminal organizations in the analyses of illegal economic activity. On the other hand, it has led to the downplaying of the importance of classic topics of sociological reflection, such as the embeddedness of action, the moral dimension of illegal products, or the relationship between social change and the spread of illegal exchanges. This short paper problematizes economic action outside the law by taking legal definitions and their effects seriously. It begins with the problem of naturalizing state definitions. This is followed by a discussion of the illegality of illegal markets, which illustrates sociological contributions. Finally, three dimensions of the study of illegal markets are suggested. Overall, the paper lays out a research program for this field of sociological inquiry.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Markets, Sociology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Renate Mayntz
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: In sociology generally, the infringement of legal norms is not treated as a special kind of norm violation, the sociology of law being an obvious exception. The study of illegal markets therefore faces the challenge of distinguishing illegality from legality, and relating both to legitimacy. There is no conceptual ambiguity about the distinction between legal and illegal if legality is formally defined. In practice, (formal) legality and (social) legitimacy can diverge: there is both legitimate illegal action and illegitimate legal action. Illegal markets are a special kind of illegal social system, constituted by market transactions. Illegal markets are empirically related to organized crime, mafia and even terrorist organizations, and they interact both with legal markets and the forces of state order. Where legal and illegal action systems are not separated by clear social boundaries, they are connected by what has come to be called “interfaces”: actors moving between a legal and an illegal world, actions that are illegal but perceived as legitimate or the other way around, and a gray zone of actions that are neither clearly legal nor illegal, and neither clearly legitimate nor illegitimate. Interfaces facilitate interaction between legal and illegal action systems, but they are also sources of tension and can lead to institutional change.
  • Topic: Crime, Markets, Sociology, Law
  • Political Geography: Global Focus