August, 2015

Criminal Rituals

  • David Skarbek

    Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Brown University
  • Peng Wang

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Why do criminals use rituals? Past work argues that criminal rituals provide a sense of continuity or certainty in an inherently uncertain environment. We argue instead that rituals play an important organisational role. Criminal rituals facilitate internal governance and promote group activity through three mechanisms: creating common knowledge, mitigating the costs of asymmetric information, and shaping identity among group members. Using internal documents and written constitutions, we apply this framework to understand the internal governance mechanisms used by the late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century Chinese-based Green Gang.

Find the article at Taylor & Francis Online