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Ex Malo Bonum: Ambiguity in Stories of Organized Crime
Deviant Behavior  (IF1.982),  Pub Date : 2021-12-29, DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2021.2019567
Fabio Indìo Massimo Poppi, Sveinung Sandberg


Research on crime tends to emphasize clear-cut stories, either in support of or rejecting crime. Stories, however, are often ambiguous, mainly when they concern complex and multi-faceted phenomena. Based on qualitative interviews with Italian students, we explore how organized crime is viewed and evaluated by non-offenders. We found six widespread stories that highlight the moral ambiguity of organized crime, including such ambiguities as: people are good and evil; family relations take priority; crime involves ample opportunities and big money; organized crime is complex and involves “smart” organizations and that there are gray zones between business and crime and the endemicity of organized crime. Finally, we show the bounds of this moral ambiguity by pointing out what participants could not accept from organized crime organizations. The study was done within a framework of narrative criminology. We put a particular emphasis on how crime is socially constructed by those not involved, how worldviews of criminal organizations are embedded in more widespread values and the importance of ambiguity in storytelling.