Investigating the Legimitisation of Criminal Governance: Group Comparisons and Within-Individual Dynamics

Criminal groups such as mafias, gangs and other criminal organisations are a vast economic threat. Their harm is, however, not restricted to the economy. Criminal groups also exert political authority and governance in the territories where they operate, embedding themselves in the community’s social fabric. Despite substantial hardships, communities rarely oppose criminal groups or cooperate with legal authorities against them. A vital and urgent scientific challenge is to understand what underpins criminal groups’ power and influence.

Like other forms of governance, to be exerted effectively and over a prolonged period, criminal governance needs to be grounded in legitimacy. This project will pioneer a new multimethod approach addressing how the legitimization of criminal governance is fostered by ideologies, values and identities, and their interplay with structural features of society. The project will gather unique quantitative evidence in different geographical areas situated within three societies in the North and South of Europe (the UK and Italy) and East Asia (Japan). Extensive population surveys will investigate the interplay between individual-level factors and area-level characteristics. Experimental studies will be used to address what may limit (or accentuate) the legitimacy of criminal governance across countries. Finally, longitudinal studies will focus on adolescence, a crucial period for the formation of attitudes toward authorities. The longitudinal studies will investigate the developmental and intra-psychological dynamics leading to the formation of attitudes towards criminal and legal authorities.

The novel quantitative evidence will substantiate policy recommendations and educative interventions. By addressing, for the first time, the broad social, cultural and psychological conditions sustaining criminal groups’ authority, the project will be able to define the crucial and critical factors that may promote social change, empower communities and improve the collaboration between legal authorities and social groups in the fight against criminal actors.

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The project of the duration of five years has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council – Starting Grant(ERC-StG). The value of the award is €1,499,818.00.

The Principal Investigator

Learn more about Dr. Travaglino here.

Dr Giovanni A. Travaglino obtained his PhD at the School of Psychology, University of Kent. He is currently Senior Lecturer in Criminology & Psychology in the Department of Law & Criminology, Royal Holloway, University of London. He has held faculty positions at the University of Kent (UK) and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His interdisciplinary research interests focus on the nexus among culture, politics and crime. His work has been published in leading scientific journals, including the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and the European Review of Social Psychology. He founded and is editor of the scientific publication ‘Contention: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest’.