He is prepared to admit uncomfortable truths. He makes clear that mobs, mafias and global rackets are often performing useful and occasionally vital social functions that no other institution --- governments, legal systems, the police, the economy itself --- is capable of providing.

It is usually assumed that organized crime is a network of unqualified evil: murderous, recklessly greedy, the enemy of all human values and all hopes for better lives. Glenny's book is a warning against such a simple view. No, big gangsters are not nice people, they get what they want through the threat of ultimate use of violence and blackmail. And it's obvious that their operations can wreck the lives of millions through addiction or --- as in the Balkans or Columbia --- through the equipping and financing of local wars.

But are the mobs and mafias really Public Enemy Number One? It would be shrewder to call them Government Enemy Number One: they are formations that deprive a state of revenue, of the monopoly of violence and law enforcement, and sometimes of international respect. The public, by contrast, may find them less dreadful --- often, in fact, less dreadful than the governments that are supposed to be serving and protecting their citizens.

--- Neal Ascherson
Review of
McMafia: Crime Without Frontiers
Misha Glenny
(Bodley Head)
Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH