The 'Invinsible Hand of the Market': Illegal Drug Trade in Germany, Italy, and Russia

Letizia Paoli, Max-Planck-Institute

Drug trafficking and dealing are often assumed to be carried out by large-scale criminal organizations, which then presented as a scapegoat by law enforcement officials, drug treatment providers and drug users alike. Relying on fieldwork in Italy, Germany and Russia, the paper aims to demonstrate that this assumption has no empirical backing. By analyzing interviews with drug users and distributors, law enforcement officials and drug treatment providers and a wide sample of criminal cases in Italy, Germany and Russia, the author shows that in all the three countries the 'invisible hand of the market' is at work: In Milan as in Frankfurt, in Moscow as in Vladivostok, the great majority of drug deals, even those involving large quantities of drugs, are carried out by numerous, relatively small, and often ephemeral enterprises.

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Updated 05/20/2006