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Join us for our panel at EUROCRIM 2023

Compliance-Industrial Complex, Global Crime Governance, and the Commodification of Regulation: Towards New Theoretical Perspectives

Fri, September 8, 6:00 to 7:15pm, Palazzo Congressi, Floor: first floor, Congressi 7

Session Submission Type: Pre-arranged Panel

Panel Abstract

This panel builds on recent work on the “compliance-industrial complex” (Kuldova, 2022), which raises a series of important questions for theoretical criminology. It will explore the implications of the convergence of the processes of 1) commodification of regulation, 2) the growth of markets for regulatory and policy intermediaries with profound influence on (global) crime governance, the 3) proliferation of anti-policies and anti-regulations for which these actors lobby and advocate and 4) techniques of (purportedly) combatting crime that increasingly rely on the financial and business sector, and are underpinned by the logic of investment and management, while 5) stimulating the privatization and pluralization of policing and intelligence far beyond state agencies. Furthermore, recognizing the importance of the moral framing of these initiatives which seek to eliminate the evil, while invoking the ideologies of “business for good” – stretching from anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, anti-fraud, anti-trafficking, to ESG, supply chain due diligence, human rights compliance, or impact investing – this panel, shall explore these developments precisely in relation to the moral narratives of this stage of neoliberal capitalism. The papers in this panel tackle a broad range of issues pertaining to the above, questioning in particular the relation between economy, regulation, and morality: from the intersection of global crime governance and philanthrocapitalism, the co-evolution of the compliance-industrial complex and right wing populism in the Czech Republic, the proliferation of sanction regimes following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and corporate reputation washing by luxury brands, to the ways in which we may rethink approaches to corruption in light of these insights. All speakers on this panel are part of the LUXCORE research project: Luxury, Corruption and Global Ethics: Towards a New Theory of the Moral Economy of Fraud, funded by the Research Council of Norway (project no. 313004), which also funds their participation at ESC.

Paper 1

Compliance-Industrial Complex, Global Crime Governance and Philanthrocapitalism: Towards New Theoretical Perspectives on the Regulation of Crime and Harm

Tereza Østbø Kuldova, Oslo Metropolitan University

& Cris Shore, Goldsmiths, University of London

Fri, September 8, 6:00 to 7:15pm, Palazzo Congressi, Floor: first floor, Congressi 7


The “compliance-industrial complex” (Kuldova 2022) – the power complex at the intersection of the regulatory state and corporate capital, fuelled by the growth of the market for intermediaries, experts, and technologies translating regulations into services, products, and new types of assets – is increasingly shaping the ideological contours, modes and material practices of contemporary crime, risk, and harm governance. The power of these intermediaries to craft, shape, advocate, lobby for particular regulations and then in turn translate these regulations into commercial products, from software to consultancy services, has largely been neglected by criminologists. These intermediaries are, however, key to both the processes and any understanding of privatization, marketization, financialization and now even assetization of crime fighting, harm reduction and the manufacturing of quantifiable “social good”, “impact” and “outcomes”, as evidenced for instance in SIB (social impact bonds) and impact investing, or else to the enlisting of the private sector, private capital, and investment to tackle crime, harm, and a broad range of social problems. It is high time we develop new theoretical perspectives that account for this proliferation of technobureaucratic, seemingly apolitical, consensus-driven regulations and public-private partnerships that are transforming crime governance. As these social control architectures proliferate and as they actively seek to erase any residual distinctions between the private and the public and deny the fundamental antagonisms of interests and power by pushing solutions marketed as a “universal” (quantifiable) win-win, we must ask whether all can really win at the same time? Thinking through the intersections of surveillance capitalism (Zuboff 2019), regulatory capitalism (Braithwaite 2008; Levi-Faur 2017) and philanthrocapitalism (McGoey 2015; Giridharadas 2018) will enable us to tease out shared imperatives that underpin these developments and start rethinking contemporary modes of social control outside of the traditional narrow frameworks of the state and the criminal justice system.

Paper 2

Compliance-Industrial Complex and Right-Wing Populism as the Products of the Regulation of Serious Crime in Post-socialist Czechia

Petr Kupka, University of West Bohemia

Fri, September 8, 6:00 to 7:15pm, Palazzo Congressi, Floor: first floor, Congressi 7


This presentation seeks to reconstruct the evolution of the compliance-industrial complex in post-socialist Czechia. It also aims to illustrate how the unexpected by-product, the right-wing populist narrative of corrupt post-1989 history, has been created during this evolution. The emergence of the compliance culture can be traced back and finds its origins in the then novel ‘anti-organized crime discourse’ in Czechia after 1989, related to make the organization reform from Soviet to democratic policing while preserving some of its intelligence functions. The concept of corruption was also part of the discourse. The path towards the progressive evolution of the compliance culture continues with the progressive autonomization of the anti-corruption discourse in late 2000s and early 2010s. This autonomization process was related to international pressure, proliferation of corruption scandals in media, and the pluralization of anti-corruption elites and governance bodies, public and private, both nationally and internationally. Some of these elites soon hybridized with business players, while creating key infrastructure for developing the compliance industry and commodifying anti-corruption and regulatory compliance at large. Some of these elites, however, abused the anti-corruption discourse for political purposes including the strive for an illiberal political turn, inspired by Victor Orbán’s Hungary. This was enabled by the media construction of political corruption scandals offering an interpretation of Czech governance as a form of post-1989 criminal conspiracy. This was achieved, for example, by using metaphors of organized crime to denote key figures and their social ties, or by speculating about the existence of mysterious documents hiding the ‘truth’ about the criminal nature of Czech political decision-making.

Paper 3

Sanctions as Anti-Policies: The Paradigm of Moralizing Technocracy

Jardar Østbø, Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies

Fri, September 8, 6:00 to 7:15pm, Palazzo Congressi, Floor: first floor, Congressi 7


Western countries met the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 with an unprecedented level and complexity of economic sanctions, and as the war continues, the sanctions regime is expanded and intensified. As of early April 2023, there were more than 14,000 different sanctions against Russian individuals and entities, which was a more than 50% increase since June 2022. However, the extremely complex and technical nature of these sanctions is eclipsed by the utter simplicity of the moral narrative employed to back them up – they are supposed to punish the ‘bad guys’ and protect ‘our’ integrity. This paper argues that these sanctions are best seen as anti-policies (Walter 2008). Rather than seeing the anti-Russian sanctions as just an alternative to military intervention or a supplement to military support, I will see them as a powerful driver or booster of depoliticization, ‘moralization’, and technocratization, and begin to look at how traditional understandings of crime and punishment in international relations are challenged by increased hybridization.

Paper 4

The “Reputation Screen” of Luxury: Illicit Networks and Manufacturing Processes in Prato

Audrey Millet, University of Bologna

Fri, September 8, 6:00 to 7:15pm, Palazzo Congressi, Floor: first floor, Congressi 7


This paper analyses the manufacturing processes and the interweaving of illicit and licit networks in the production of luxury goods in Prato. Nestled at the foot of the Tuscan hills, the city of Prato has specialized in textiles since the 15th century. It rose from the ashes when the Chinese took over the production tools and know-how in the 1980s. Despite this rise, the city has acquired a bad reputation, especially for its products of poor quality. Nonetheless, the luxury industries settled in recent years in Prato and neighbouring cities of Sesto Fiorentino, Scandicci and others. Prada, Balenciaga, Fendi or Gucci capitalized on and proudly present their Made in Italy labels. However, this renewed love for the Italian lands is underpinned by the existence of tacit agreements involving organized crime actors, police, and business actors. The pervasive insistence in public discourse on the narratives of Chinese colonization and of the so called «yellow peril» hides the dealings between the luxury industry and factories illegally employing workers. Beneath the superficial cosmopolitanism of Prato, we find relations of exploitation, relations that take us to the Ivory Coast, Libya, Bangladesh, and Spain. Despite the rhetoric of human rights compliance, of supply chain due diligence, and of corporate social responsibility, it is revealed as a mere «reputation screen» of luxury brands that have come to take advantage of modern forms of slavery and the lower cost of manufacturing. The city not only looks like, but should be considered and analysed as a no-go zone in the service of neoliberalism.

Paper 5

Thinking Institutionally About Corruption

Thomas Raymen, Northumbria University

Fri, September 8, 6:00 to 7:15pm, Palazzo Congressi, Floor: first floor, Congressi 7


The dominant definition of corruption today is “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Otherwise, it has been discussed as the abuse of public office for private gain. These definitions have rightly been critiqued as heavily imbued with neoliberal ideology. Nevertheless, within these definitions we can still see the remnants and fragments of pre-modern moral conceptions, professions, social practices, and what it means to hold an office or stewardship. These are conceptions that must be fully reclaimed and built upon if we are to truly understand what ordinary people are concerned with and find repugnant about corruption. Or, what exactly it is that we sense is being corrupted. This paper encourages us to “think institutionally” (Heclo, 2008) about corruption. It will be argued that without “thinking institutionally”, efforts to tackle corruption will be futile and that such institutional thinking requires a fundamental reorientation of dominant conceptions of ethics, human personhood, politics, economy and culture. Therefore, while somewhat philosophical in nature, this paper is also a deeply practical one which considers what individual agents must do in order to effectively tackle corruption, and what barriers stand in the way.

Our participation is supported by The Research Council of Norway under project no. 313004, Luxury, Corruption and Global Ethics: Towards a Critical Cultural Theory of the Moral Economy of Fraud (LUXCORE)


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