Conditions for Guilt-Free Consumption in a Transnational Criminal Market

Mackenzie, S. (2014), ‘Conditions for Guilt-Free Consumption in a Transnational Criminal Market’, European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research DOI 10.1007/s10610-013-9229-z

It has been widely opined in discussions around a number of transnational criminal markets that where a global economic supply and demand relationship exists, demand reduction by way of consumer education and ‘awareness-raising’ may be an effective intervention in reducing illicit trade. It seems an obvious and sensible suggestion on the face of it, but just how amenable are consumers to being educated away from purchasing illicitly obtained and trafficked goods, and what are the barriers that stand in the way of that process of demand reduction through awareness-raising? This paper approaches these questions by asking what are the conditions for guilt-free consumption in the international trade in illicit cultural objects. The paper identifies seven such conditions, and concludes that in this global market we are witnessing the playing out of a common social story in which a powerful group of market capitalists and end-consumers employs a range of sociologically developed linguistic and performative strategies to obfuscate or legitimise their exploitation of a group of less powerful victims. If that is the context for the so-called debate about illicit antiquities, crime-reduction strategies involving consumer education seem considerably more difficult to achieve than has been widely recognised in policy discussions on transnational crime.

Paper available online via:

This paper forms part of a Special Issue on Trafficking in Cultural Objects.