The Architecture of Illegal Markets: Towards an Economic Sociology of Illegality in the Economy

Jens Beckert, Matías Dewey (eds.)

17. August 2017

MPIfG Book


Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017
336 pages
ISBN 978-0-1987-9497-4 (hardback)

"This creative and inspiring book provides, as the editors note, "the start" of a much-needed conversation on illegal markets" (Michel Anteby, Administrative Science Quarterly)

» Publisher's page
Beckert, Jens, Matías Dewey (Hrsg.)
The Architecture of Illegal Markets: Towards an Economic Sociology of Illegality in the Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.


From illegal drugs, stolen artwork, and forged trademarks, to fraud in financial markets – the phenomenon of illegality in market exchanges is pervasive. Illegal markets have great economic significance, have relevant social and political consequences, and shape economic and political structures.
Despite the importance of illegality in the economy, the field of economic sociology unquestioningly accepts the premise that the institutional structures and exchanges taking place in markets are law-abiding in nature. This volume makes a contribution to changing this. Questions that stand at the centre of the chapters are: What are the interfaces between legal and illegal markets? How do demand and supply in illegal markets interact? What role do criminal organizations play in illegal markets? What is the relationship between illegality and governments? Is illegality a phenomenon central to capitalism?
Anchored in economic sociology, this book contributes to the analysis and understanding of market exchanges in conditions of illegality from a perspective that focuses on the social organization of markets. Offering both theoretical reflections and case studies, the chapters assembled in the volume address the consequences of the illegal production, distribution, and consumption of products for the architecture of markets. They also focuses on the underlying causes and the political and social concerns stemming from the infringement of the law.


1. Introduction: The Social Organization of Illegal Markets
Jens Beckert and Matías Dewey

Part I. Conceptualizing Illegal Markets
2. Illegal Markets: Boundaries and Interfaces between Legality and Illegality
Renate Mayntz
Part II. Secrecy and Illegal Markets
3. Secrecy and Frontiers in Illegal Organ Transplantation
Philippe Steiner
4. What Is Grey about the “Grey Market” in Antiquities?
Simon Mackenzie and Donna Yates
5. Governance in Online Stolen Data Markets
Meltem Odabaş, Thomas J. Holt, and Ronald L. Breiger
6. Futurity, Offshore, and the International Political Economy of Crime
Ronen Palan
Part III. The State in Informal Market Places
7. State-Sponsored Protection Rackets: Regulating the Market for Counterfeit Clothing in Argentina
Matías Dewey
8. Shoddy, Fake, or Harmful: Smuggled Goods and Entangled Illegalities in a Vietnamese Border Market
Kirsten W. Endres
Part IV. Shifting Definitions of Illegality
9. Making the Medical Marijuana Market
Cyrus Dioun
10. Contested Illegality: Processing the Trade Prohibition of Rhino Horn
Annette Hübschle
11. “We Are the Genuine People”: Legality and Legitimacy in the Sierra Leonean Diamond Market
Nina Engwicht
12. A Crooked Mirror: The Evolution of Illegal Alcohol Markets in Russia since the Late Socialist Period
Vadim Radaev
Part V. Illegal Practices in Legal Markets
13. The Supply of Doping Products and the Relevance of Market-Based Perspectives: Implications of Recent Research in Italy
Letizia Paoli and Victoria Greenfield
14. Illegal Prices: The Social Contestation of High Living Costs in Guadeloupe and Mauritania
Boris Samuel
15. The Price is Not Right: Financialization and Financial Crime
Robert Tillman


Jens Beckert

Jens Beckert is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne and Professor of Sociology at the University of Cologne

Matías Dewey

Matías Dewey is Senior Researcher in the project area on the sociology of illegal markets at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne


"[...] I strongly recommend The Architecture of Illegal Markets to all those interested in market transactions, legality, and the role of the state in the economy. This creative and inspiring book provides, as the editors note, 'the start' of a much-needed conversation on illegal markets [...]"
Michel Anteby, in: Administrative Science Quarterly, first published August 10, 2018.

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