David Skarbek Book Panel: The Social Order of the Underworld

Feb 19, 2015
George Mason University, Fairfax Campus HUB Ballroom

When most people think of prison gangs, they think of chaos and violence. But do prison gangs actually form to create order among outlaws, producing alternative governance institutions to facilitate illegal activity?

Please join the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University for a panel discussion featuring David Skarbek and his new book, The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System (Oxford University Press, 2014). In this book, Skarbek uses economics to show that prison gangs are sophisticated organizations (often with elaborate written constitutions) that regulate the prison black market, adjudicate conflicts, and strategically balance the competing demands of inmates, gang members, and correctional officers.

We will be pleased to hear from author David Skarbek, as well as panel chair Peter Boettke and commenters Peter Reuter and Bert Useem.

For any further questions, please contact Bethany Stalter at bstalter@mercatus.gmu.edu or (703) 993-4889.

David Skarbek is Lecturer in Political Economy in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London and an Associate Member of the Extra-legal Governance Institute at the University of Oxford. His research examines how people define and enforce property rights in the absence of strong, effective governments. His work has analyzed prison, crime, and gangs in the United States and around the world.

Peter Boettke is University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University, the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, and the director of the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in Austrian economics, economic history, institutional analysis, public choice, and social change.

Peter Reuter is Professor in the School of Public Policy and in the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland. He is also Senior Economist at RAND and (2014-15) Visiting Scholar at the Center for Global Development. He founded and directed RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center from 1989-1993. His books include (with Robert MacCoun) Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Places, Times and Vices (Cambridge University Press, 2001 and (with Letizia Paoli and Victoria Greenfield) The World Heroin Market: Can Supply be Cut? (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Bert Useem is Head of the Department of Sociology at Purdue University. He has published two books on prison riots – one on their causes and another on strategies for their resolution. A more recent book examines the prison buildup – its causes, impact on order behind bars, and the effect on the crime rate.  Recent articles, in the American Journal of Sociology and American Sociological Review, with Jack Goldstone, develop the idea that theories of revolution can be used to explain prison riots.