The concept of social disorganization has been used widely by criminologists, sociologists and other theorists in explaining crime and delinquency within the society (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003).
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A substantial number of researchers use the social disorganization paradigm to explain the relationship between criminality and social conditions prevalent in neighborhoods, and also to explain why crime rates are high in neighborhoods that exhibit symptoms of decay and general social and familial deterioration (Lyman & Potter, 2007).
This paper explores the concept of social disorganization and specifically attempts to locate the concept within the context of organized crime.
Social disorganization can be conceptualized as the incapability of the community structure to attain the common values of its members and maintain effective social controls, or as the failure and degeneration of social institutions and organizations in the community (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003).
The concept is inherently associated with structural factors exhibited at the community or society level, including low economic status, ethnic heterogeneity, family disruption, poverty, and high population density.
Social disorganization relates to organized crime in that the effects of the concept give rise to opportunities for organized crime. Hence, it can be argued that social disorganization and organized crime are inherently intertwined owing to the fact the presence of known structural factors brought about by social disorganization provides an enabling environment for organized crime to blossom (Lyman & Potter, 2007).
Consequently, organized crime evolves in communities that show high incidences of decay and degeneration, hence providing the opportunities for criminals to organize themselves with the view to benefiting from such opportunities. For example, organized crime evolves in communities with failed policing institutions which provide an enabling environment for criminals to access a ready market for their illegal products without the fear of being arrested.
In contrast, it is less likely for organized crime to evolve and blossom in societies whose members are well acquainted and on excellent terms with each other by virtue of the fact that such societies are more likely to constructively influence vulnerable individuals through unofficial observation, supervision, and shaping of values.
Social disorganization perfectly meets the criteria for organized crime in terms of providing a fertile breeding ground for anarchy to excel, which in turn provides a perfect environment for organized criminal groups to conduct their operations in the full glare of community members and other institutions presumably charged with the responsibility of maintaining common values and social controls (Roman & Kane, 2009).
Following Mallory (2007) exposition, it can also be argued that social disorganization meets the criteria for organized crime by virtue of the fact that criminal activities are deeply rooted in social conditions or social disorganization as the latter is positively associated with the creation of favorable conditions to crime and delinquency.
Additionally, available criminology scholarship demonstrates that a major criterion for organized crime is the existence of weak social networks that to a large extent minimize the community’s capacity to control the behavior of individuals in public (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003).
It is a well known fact that weak social networks are a direct consequence of social disorganization, thus the demonstration of how social disorganization meets the criteria for organized crime.
The various relationships between the two concepts are clear. For example, social disorganization brings about structural hindrances (e.g., high mobility, ethnic heterogeneity, family disruption, poverty, high population density) that are known to hamper the development and initiation of systematic networks of community social control, including formal and informal ties.
This in turn advances the incapacity of the community to solve common problems and to a large extent provides the kind of disorganization and instability for organized crime to thrive. Under the relative deprivation ecological approach, it is clear that an increasing sense of frustration occasioned by the huge inequality gap between the rich and the poor may trigger disenchanted youth to enroll into organized criminal groups (Lyman & Potter, 2007).
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Consequently, the relationship is established demonstrating that social disorganization meets the criteria for organized crime through providing an enabling environment for youth disenchantment and subsequent radicalization.
Lastly, it can be argued that corrupt political institutions can only thrive under a disorganized society, which in turn provides an enabling environment and the required opportunities for the development of organized crime.
Drawing from this exposition, it is evident that the first two constructs (corrupt political institutions and social disorganization) operate in a host-prey relationship whereby the availability of social disorganization determines the feasibility of corrupt political institutions.
This in turn feeds the development of organized crime as criminal elements desire to operate in a disorganized and unstructured context where they can easily compromise the political machinery through corruption (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003).
Owing to the fact that a disorganized society serves as a fertile breeding ground for the entrenchment of corruption and other social ills as individuals attempt to maximize their personal gains without due consideration to the wellbeing of the society, it only follows that criminal elements move with speed to establish techniques and processes through which they can compromise the political machinery in a bid to limiting its capacity to effectively shield the society from the operations of the criminal elements (Lyman & Potter, 2007).
Consequently, organized crime develops and entrenches itself in such a disorganized society as criminal elements and politicians form mutually fulfilling relationships.
Kubrin, C.E., & Weitzer, R. (2003). New directions in social disorganization theory. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 40(4), 374-402.
Lyman, M.D., & Potter, G.W. (2007). Organized crime (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Mallory, S.L. (2007). Understanding organized crime. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.
Roman, C.G., & Kane, M. (2009). Community organizations and crime: An examination of the social-institutional processes of neighborhoods. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/227645.pdf