European Science Days

ESD Organization


Summer School 2005
Call for Applications 2005
Executive Workshops 2005

Lecturers and Students

Summer School 2005






European Science Days 2005

Economics, Extra-legal Protection and Organised Crime

Scientific Organiser: Diego Gambetta, Oxford

The academic programme of the summer school will focus specifically on the core competence of organised crime: the provision of protection either in illegal markets, in which state protection is not available, or in markets in which the state is unable to provide this commodity efficiently 

This conceptualisation – which has been successfully applied to the analysis of the Sicilian mafia and of organised crime in other jurisdictions – places the economic study of organised crime within a nascent field of economics, namely the study of informal modes of governance, which will provide the wider focus of the school This field, which dispenses with the assumption common in economics that all protection services are provided by the state legal system, explores economic systems in which the basic state infrastructure to protect property rights, enforce contracts and resolve disputes is lacking.

The aim of the school is to expose the students both to theoretical models and empirical analyses of organised crime activity in different markets, countries and historical periods, comparing it with other forms of extra-legal enforcement. Topics covered include:

Types of protection arrangements
Protected markets and transactions
Optimality of protection arrangements
Protection vs. extortion
Stability and instability in protection markets
The evolution of both formal and informal protection agencies
Self-enforcing vs. other-enforcing arrangements
Protection and corruption
Organised crime, unions and labour markets
The relationship between state, politics and organised crime
The relationship between paramilitary groups and organised crime
Case studies of various historical periods and of contemporary Italy, Japan, Russia, Latin America, and the United States

The students’ attention will be drawn also to methodologically difficult issues concerning data gathering and fieldwork, as well as potentially interesting research questions in undeveloped areas – among others the endogeneity of institutions and the dynamics of transition between alternative governance structures.


The scientific organiser of the course is Diego Gambetta, Official Fellow at Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. Gambetta is best known for his work on trust and on the Sicilian Mafia but he has broad research interests (most recently suicide missions, signalling within criminal milieu). Gambetta’s analytical style eschews disciplinary boundaries making him ideally placed to manage this project and place this complex phenomenon within its social, political and economic context.

Other faculty include:

Ernesto Dal Bó is assistant professor of Economics at the Haas Business School at the University of California at Berkeley.  Dal Bó’s role will be to develop the students’ understanding of the area between politics, corruption and protection with particular reference to South America.

Avinash Dixit is professor of Economics at Princeton University. His book, “Lawlessness and Economics: Alternative Models of Governance” (Princeton UP, 2004) – will be a staple reading of the school.

Avner Greif is professor of Economics at Stanford University. Through his work on self-enforcement in pre-modern Europe he will put the programme of the school in historical perspective.

James B. Jacobs is Professor of Law and Director, Center For Research in Crime & Justice at New York University School of Law. Jacobs, whose new book "Organized Crime and Organized Labor" is due out in autumn 2005, will cover organised crime involvement in legitimate businesses and labour markets, and strategies of organised crime control, including criminal and civil remedies. 

Peter Hill  has just finished a three year British Academy postdoctoral fellowship in the department of Sociology at the University of Oxford. Hill is a specialist on Japanese Organised Crime.

Mauricio Rubio is assistant professor of Economics at the Universidad Externado de Colombia. His work on paramilitaries in Colombia provides another model of extra-legal protection.

Stergios Skaperdas is professor of Economics at the University of California at Irvine. He will explore models of extortion and protection, and the effects of competition between organized crime groups.

Federico Varese is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Oxford. His work on post-Soviet organised crime demonstrates transition economies can generate the ‘ideal’ aetiological conditions for the emergence of private protection agents.