Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Deviant globalization and the ends of the illicit

I'm in Luzern next week giving a talk on the global illicit economy, and in relation to that may be posting more seriously on that topic on this blog over the coming months, since I am also actively working on a book on the same subject.

On this subject, via Andrew Sullivan, I present an amusing little blog snippet on the place of piracy in Somali life today:
“In Somalia, there are over 2,300 maritime pirates who include trained military men, security experts, professional translators and experienced brokers […]”

These organised, hi-tech gangs have managed to seize a Ukrainian vessel carrying tanks, arms, ammunition and military equipment and their ransom demands are high.

“These pirates have become rich and powerful and the owners of many commercial institutions,” he wrote.

“Pirate Jama Shino in the Somali town of Garowe, threw the most lavish wedding party for his second marriage and invited hundreds of people from the local authorities and among citizens,” Hussameddin wrote.

“The bride and the young women who attended the party, said: “Marrying a pirate is every Somali girl’s dream. He has power, money, immunity, the weapons to defend the tribe and funds to give to the militias in civil war.”
Obviously this anecdote has amusement value, but it also highlights the crucial point about deviant globalization, namely that the illicit economy, as it globalizes and professionalizes, becomes fundamentally inseparable from the licit economy, eventually erasing the line between the licit and the illicit, the normal and the deviant. The interpenetrations take place on multiple levels.
  • On an economic level, deviant globalizers use the proceeds from illicit activity to leverage their way into legitimate commercial activities: As the article points out, Somali pirates have become "the owners of many commercial institutions." (Story reminds me of how Eazy-E used the proceeds from his crack business to fund the Ruthless Records rap label. Deviant globalizers always keep it real.)
  • This interpenetration also operates on a political level, where mastery of the illicit economy gives these guys "power, money, immunity, the weapons to defend the tribe and funds to give to the militias in civil war."
  • And finally (in what follows naturally from the first two points), the interpenetration operates at a cultural level, such that as the illicit economy grows, participation in it is eventually no longer even perceived deviant, and instead becomes the subject of "every girl's dream."

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