Globalisation and Crime

We can name many positive effects of globalisation, such as ease of travel and imported products. But have you considered some negative aspects, such as criminals and criminal activities?

Globalisation and Crime Globalisation and Crime

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Table of contents
    • We will be looking at various effects of globalisation on crime.
    • In doing so, we will analyse the definition, examples, and extent of global crime and try to understand the Marxist theory on globalisation and crime.
    • Lastly, we will evaluate the extent to which crime is affected by globalisation.

    What is global crime?

    This section will take a look at the definition, types, and examples of global crime.

    Take a look at a digital news source on your phone or a website. Scroll through it, and based on your understanding, identify a few instances of crime. Do they always affect only a single individual in a particular place? How often do you see a crime in one part of the world affecting someone miles away in another country?

    What you are witnessing is an effect of global crime. Nowadays, the effects of crimes are rarely limited to a single person. Because of how connected everyone and everything is, a crime in one part of the world affects many others around the globe.

    Global crime is a crime committed in one part of the world, the effects of which may be felt in another part of the world or multiple places at once. This can also be called transnational crime, a crime that transcends borders in terms of its impact and operation.

    Some examples of global crime are:

    • Money laundering: the crime of obtaining money illegally and concealing its origin.

    • Smuggling of illegal immigrants: the crime of moving migrants across borders illegally in order to make a profit.

    • Green crimes: crimes against the environment.

    • Cyber-crimes: crimes carried out online using the Internet and computers.

    • International terrorism: the crime of using violence and criminal acts to propagate the ideas of a particular religion or belief.

    • Illegal drugs trade: the crime of manufacturing, distribution and sale of illegal substances.

    • Arms trafficking: illegal smuggling of arms and ammunition between borders.

    Today, global crime is everywhere. It is estimated that cybercrime will grow from $5 trillion in 2021 to $10.5 trillion in 2025 (Morgan, 2020). According to the United Nations 2021 Drug Report in 2018, around 5.4 percent of the world population had used a drug at least once in the previous year. This is projected to rise by 11 percent by 2030.

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that there are several trillions of dollars of funds stashed away in tax havens, all ultimately costing the taxpayer in lost tax revenue.

    These statistics clearly show the widespread extent of global crime. The problem is no longer simple or confined to one place, person, or situation; it has spread due to the benefits of globalisation.

    Globalisation and crime in sociology

    Now that we have understood what global crime is, we can move on to look at how globalisation and crime is studied in sociology.

    We will consider the impact of globalisation on crime using key terms and concepts.

    Impact of globalisation on crime

    What is the cause behind crime becoming widespread? What has allowed crime to grow to the extent that boundaries do not stop it from affecting someone in different countries? The answer can be found in globalisation and its impacts.

    Different types of globalisation include:

    • Economic globalisation, resulting from global trade

    • Cultural globalisation, resulting from increased intermixing of ideas and people

    • Technological globalisation, resulting from changes in transportation and communication

    Because of globalisation, we can wear clothes produced on the other end of the world or video call our friends across different time zones. The constant movement of goods, services and information across borders has led to our world shrinking – metaphorically, of course!

    Globalisation is the interconnectedness of the world through innovative technology and increased international trade.

    When all these goods, services and information move across borders, so does crime. Increased availability of transportation and the ability to be present in multiple places at once through the use of technology has allowed crimes to go global; they are no longer limited to a particular territory.

    Manuel Castells (1998) argues that there is now a global criminal economy worth over one trillion per annum!

    Better transportation facilities have allowed drug lords to smuggle weapons outside their countries easier and faster.

    Similarly, terrorists are no longer limited to particular countries. They use sophisticated technology from around the globe for illegal activities.

    Globalisation and Crime, Graphic of globe with interconnected dots, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Globalisation has brought the world closer by making communication, technology and information more accessible.

    Keeping this in mind, let us analyse the impacts of different types of globalisation on crime.

    The relationship between globalisation and crime

    We'll now look at the relationship between economic, cultural and technological globalisation and their specific impact on crime.

    Economic globalisation and global crime

    Economic globalisation refers to the increased movement of goods and services between countries and transnational corporations.

    Globalisation has led to a phenomenal increase in global trade and international transactions. Companies have branches in multiple nations and deal in multi-million dollar transactions. Consumers now have more access to goods and services from every part of the world. But is there a downside to this?

    In fact, this very economic globalisation has led to an increase in global crime. Economic globalisation can be said to affect crime in two major ways.

    By using sophisticated technology and resources, the rich can increase their wealth. However, for the poor, this has led to increased unemployment, insufficient funds to lead a good life, and pressure to earn money quickly. This has forced the poor to engage in criminal activities to keep up with the changes.

    There is an increase in financial crimes. Some examples of such crimes are:

    1. Tax evasion: big international corporations use countries with relaxed tax rules to evade taxes in their home countries.

    2. Money laundering: developments in technology and communication facilities have allowed corporations and individuals to move money anywhere in the world without others knowing.

    3. Illegal trade in counterfeit goods: increased demand has increased the trade in fake goods, causing losses equivalent to millions of dollars.

    Due to their transnational nature, these crimes have come to be known by the term 'organised crime'. Let us try and understand how globalisation has impacted and introduced organised crime.

    Economic globalisation has also resulted in an increase in organised crime.

    Organised crime is defined as planned and coordinated criminal behaviour conducted by people working together on a continuing basis.

    These activities may include trafficking people, drugs, illicit goods and weapons, armed robbery, counterfeiting, and money laundering.

    The motivation of people involved in organised crime is often, but not always, financial gain. Due to its nature, organised crime has come not to be limited by national borders or interests - it has become transnational.

    Transnational organised crime is coordinated across national borders, involving groups or markets of individuals working in more than one country to plan and execute illegal business ventures. Simply put, this is organised crime across borders.

    The growth of global criminal organisations

    Dick Hobbs and Colin Dunningham (1998) used their ethnographic study to examine how organised crime has expanded on the back of globalisation in order to grow transnational organised crime. They suggested that although criminal organisations like the mafia are not dominant, most organised crime operates through a 'glocal' system (as a combination of the global and local system) – there is a global distribution network built from local connections.

    Local cannabis producers deliver their products to a supply chain, feeding a global network of users.

    Misha Glenny (2008) observed that there has been a growth in organised crime networks and global criminal organisations due to the following economic reasons introduced by globalisation:

    • the deregulation of global markets, and

    • the increase of capitalism.

    Glenny calls these crime networks “McMafia”. Increased consumerism and liberalised rules have led to the growth of these criminal organisations, which now condone and facilitate activities such as the consumption of drugs and human trafficking around the world.

    David Held (1999) defined globalisation as the:

    Widening, deepening and speeding up of the worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life, from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual".1

    Thus, economic globalisation is not the only aspect of globalisation; cultural and technological globalisation are two more aspects that deserve our attention.

    Cultural globalisation refers to the increase in communication between people and the intermixing of various cultures.

    Globalisation has had a significant impact on intermixing of cultures. There is increased sensitivity and understanding of different countries, languages, beliefs and religions. However, a major impact is ‘cultural clashes’, which are essentially disagreements between different cultures. A by-product of this is the rise of crimes by international terrorist groups and organisations.

    On the positive side, cultural globalisation has impacted the development of a globally recognised set of human rights enshrined in documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This has allowed countries to recognise and codify many rights of individuals that were initially unrecognised, allowing national and international organisations to hold violators of these rights accountable.

    Technological globalisation and global crime

    A massive reason for globalisation changing the way we live is its technological underpinning – including facilities such as seamless transportation and efficient communication. It has revolutionised how we perceive and experience crimes.

    Criminal activities are no longer limited to physical threats or violence. The connectivity and accessibility of the internet have given criminals a platform that connects them to millions simultaneously, a very dangerous tool in the hands of those who aim to misuse it.

    Effects of technological globalisation on crime

    Some of the effects of technological globalisation on crime include the rise of very 'modern' types of crimes. These include:

    Perpetrators now hide behind anonymous profiles and harass others on the Internet, often blackmailing others by using information that may be personal.

    • Phishing

    With all communication moving online, there are numerous instances of people sending fraudulent emails claiming to be from reputable companies to steal personal information from unwitting victims.

    Often times, we are willing to give a lot of our personal information on the internet to complete strangers. This information, in the wrong hands, can cause serious damage.

    • Dark web

    The dark web is an online space which is notorious for being the breeding ground for all sorts of unspeakable crimes, from human trafficking to child pornography.

    Globalisation and Crime, Photo of gold lock and gold credit cards on a keyboard, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Information theft and access to personal information have made people more vulnerable online.

    Marxist view on globalisation and crime

    The Marxist view of society argues that globalisation contributes to the increase in crime by increasing capitalism (Taylor, 1997). It argues that global capitalism has led to not just an increase in crime but also a shift in the extent and pattern of crime. Let us understand how.

    Global capitalism and crime

    Capitalism refers to an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state.

    Global capitalism is thus capitalism that transcends national borders. A global capitalist economy is characterised by unrestricted trade, investment flows, and multinational firms' international activities that are not restricted to a particular country but rather the entire global economy.

    Globalisation has made global capitalism possible, leading to the world economic and political system experiencing its most profound transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Today, we live in what David D. Hale called 'the Second Great Age of Global Capitalism'.

    According to Taylor, global capitalism is characterised by three factors which affect global crime:

    Multinational corporations switch their production to low-wage countries, which allows them to earn greater profits by reducing their production costs.

    Due to companies spending huge amounts on marketing and advertisement, people are willing to spend more on material goods and services that may not be a necessity. This has led to a rise in a materialistic culture.

    In to promote efficiency and keep costs low, big companies now hire physical labour only when required. The rest is taken up by using technology.

    All these factors have led to inequality between the rich and the poor, followed by insecurity by the poor. The lack of jobs, accompanied by the lure of leading a better lifestyle with expensive items, makes them turn to crime.

    Another way in which capitalism results in increased crime, according to Marxists, is the difference in demand and supply. Capitalism and marketing make people want to buy certain things more than others – either as a status symbol or to lead a better lifestyle.

    Since there is a limited supply, the ever-increasing demand creates inequity. People are thus willing to pay for illegal products, which forms the basis for large criminal organisations that smuggle these goods or produce counterfeit goods.

    Evaluating globalisation and crime

    There seems to be a connection between globalisation and crime. The interconnectedness of globalisation has brought about better travel, effective communication and more money in the economy. All this has been complemented by the emergence of various new global crimes.

    However, what is the extent of this connection? Since both globalisation and crime are broad terms that cover many things, it is difficult to evaluate the exact extent to which crime today is affected by the various aspects of globalisation.

    Some of the reasons for this difficulty are:

    • Global crimes are complex, and many of them still stay under wraps. It is thus problematic for sociologists to study the actual statistics relating to global crimes.

    • Globalisation is not a single watertight phenomenon. It is intermixed with many phenomena such as industrialisation, growth of international law, a shift towards capitalism and the rise of democracy. Where the effects of one end and the other begins is still unclear.

    Globalisation and Crime - Key Takeaways

    • Global crime refers to a crime that occurs in one part of the world but affects someone in another part of the world.
    • Some examples of global crimes are money laundering, smuggling of illegal immigrants, green crimes, cybercrimes and international terrorism.
    • Economic globalisation has increased the gap between the rich and the poor, allowing people to commit tax evasion, money laundering and illegal trade.
    • Cultural globalisation has led to cultural clashes, a by-product of which is the rise of international terrorism.
    • The Marxist view on globalisation states that globalisation contributes to crime by increasing capitalism.


    1. Held, D. McGrew, A. Goldblatt, D. Perraton, J. (1999) Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Stanford University Press.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Globalisation and Crime

    Will globalisation lead to an increase in crime?

    It is highly likely that globalisation will lead to an increase in crime. It is estimated that cybercrime will grow from $5 trillion in 2021 to $10.5 trillion in 2025 (Morgan, 2020). According to the United Nations 2021 Drug Report in 2018, around 5.4 per cent of the world population had used a drug at least once in the previous year. This is projected to rise by 11% by 2030. 

    What is the link between globalisation and crime?

    Globalisation has increased and changed the scope and extent of global crime.

    Why and how does globalisation affect crime and deviance?

    Globalisation has led to the interconnectedness of the world, along with technological advancement, which has, in turn, brought about many new aspects of crime previously unknown. Sophisticated financial crime and internet-based crimes are an example of this. Globalisation has increased and changed the scope and extent of global crime. However, the exact extent of the effect of globalisation on crime is unknown. 

    How does globalisation cause crime?

    Globalisation causes crime in multiple ways:

    1. Economic globalisation increases the gap between the rich and the poor, as well as increases the possibility of financial crimes.

    2. Cultural globalisation leads to cultural clashes and a rise in crimes like international terrorism.

    3. Technological globalisation makes it easier for people to steal information and engage in crimes such as cyber-bullying, phishing, etc.

    What is the Marxist view on globalisation and crime?

    The Marxist view on globalisation and crime is as follows:

    Globalisation affects crime since it increases capitalism. When capitalism depends on marketisation, footloose capitalism and technological innovation, the gap between the poor and the rich widens. Not being able to cope with their material needs with limited income, poor people often turn to crime. Further, due to an imbalance in demand and supply caused by globalisation, more people are willing to procure rare goods illegally, increasing organised crime and the sale of counterfeit goods.

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    Team Globalisation and Crime Teachers

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