ON THE TAKE: From Petty Crooks to Presidents by William J. Chambliss

ON THE TAKE: From Petty Crooks to Presidents

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Crime, says William J. Chambliss, is ""a cornerstone on which the political and economic relations of democratic-capitalist societies are constructed."" Using Seattle, Washington, as a microcosm, lawyer/sociologist Chambliss compiles a case study of the city's crime network, roaming the streets of skid row, playing poker in amusement parlors, watching bagmen collect ""payoffs for the people downtown,"" and, he says, learning early that ""you can get anything you want in Seattle if you've got the bread."" Even he is surprised at the pervasiveness of the network--""a coalition of businessmen, politicians, law enforcers, and racketeers""--and he later learns that during his research he himself was almost set up for blackmail. Chambliss' insight into Seattle is detailed and documented, but he is weaker on the national level, discussing Nixon Administration efforts to ""increase their share of criminal enterprises""--Bebe Rebozo taking over some of Meyer Lansky's Florida holdings, the Teamsters Union switching to Nixon's law firm in return for ""executive clemency"" for Jimmy Hoffa. The scenario is fascinating, but past journalistic efforts to link Nixon and Co. with organized crime have been unsuccessful, and Chambliss' exposition is not well enough documented to be a breakthrough. He puts all his findings into an ideological context, concluding that those in the crime network are merely trying to maximize profits and protect investments, according to ""both the logic and the value of America's political economy."" That too remains to be proven, and given its limitations--which include a dry tone--this book should be of most use to other specialists seeking a guide for urban case studies.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press