They are all capaciously built - two of them have pronounced breasts - and they swagger with power and arrogance. Around their necks they sport chains of bling, so massive they would shame even the most extravagant rapper. It speaks of a sort of ruthless consumption, an appetite for stuff that knows no moral, aesthetic or sensible bounds. Whether in Bulgaria, Bombay or Brazil, or any of the other numerous locations Glenny visits, there is a sense, not necessarily deserved, that criminality has gained an historic upper hand over the rule of law.

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Shelves: cultural-studies , modern-european , crime , business , east-asian , north-american , public-policy , espionage , economics , south-asian I was initially wary of this account of contemporary organised crime. I need not have been so concerned. And, yes, he still trots out liberal-imperial cliches in the short epilogue.

However, the vast bulk of the book rises above the given ideology. It provides an I was initially wary of this account of contemporary organised crime. It provides an excellent account, travelling from the Balkans through every theatre of criminal enterprise and ending up in China, not merely as a narrative of crime, the supplier of illegitimate needs and desires in a globalised world, but as an account of how the state system is beginning to crumble under the pressures of these trades.

There are sub-texts here that are immensely valuable for students of international affairs — above all, that imperial exploitation has left a culture of resentment in which non-Western criminality can not only thrive but develop an alternative moral compass that cannot easily be dismissed. This will pass but the thieving of the British Empire in Africa, India and from China in the Opium Wars may be forgotten at home but it is not forgotten where the thievery actually took place.

Victorian Britain was once a drugs dealer using violence in ways little different from the cartels of Medellin. The bottom line is that once trading barriers were eliminated by globalization and massive demands unleashed — including demands for drugs, risk-taking and sexual pleasure as well as jobs and cheaper versions of expensive consumer goods — no police or security force was resourced or skilled enough to counter the operation of the laws of supply and demand on a global scale.

The perfect idiocy of the West was not merely to drop all trade barriers without adequate planning for the consequences — including mass migration — but to think that destroying rival state structures such as the Soviet Union would not bring the organizational muscle of a degraded security apparatus into alignment with criminal gangs whose main motivation would be purely economic.

The starting point for all criminality, across the world, is for state structures to try to ban rather than manage some human requirement mind-altering substances, pleasures, status-driven wants or simply the need to cross a border to earn a living. There is a difference between law as protector of persons and property from other persons and law as code of conduct to meet pre-set cultural or religious standards.

While those standards subsist, everything is secretive but it is still happening. Once those standards cease to hold for great tracts of the population, a market opens up where state terror is no longer sufficient to counter the demands of desire or need. Economic interests then emerge to exploit these needs and desires and these interests are not always the bad guys. Sometimes, they resort to violence simply because they cannot rely on the state to regulate their markets, while those markets are often the only way economic forward for depressed populations.

Warlord gangsters with a monopoly have an interest in keeping prices high and restricting supply. Break the monopoly and everyone is driving down price and increasing supply. By what right do states dictate our pleasures, certainly not by divine right?


McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld

Pinterest A drug-smuggling scene in McMafia. Godman is portrayed as an immensely sympathetic character, as indeed is every member of his criminal family. Is Glenny braced for disapproval? He sighs. But that is, in my experience, a minority. I want to show people the way the world works, and for them to make up their minds about what is moral and immoral.


The organised global pillage



Misha Glenny


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