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Codes of the Underworld:
How Criminals Communicate
Diego Gambetta

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1 [in PDF format]


"Criminals are in constant fear of being duped, says Diego Gambetta, even as they are busy duping others. Yet hoodlums often seek a literal partner in crime. This, he notes, creates a need for both identification and verification of trust in what is generally an untrustworthy milieu. Lacking a miscreants' yellow page, the question becomes, well, how to find an honest crook? Such concerns pervade Codes of the Underworld, a new book by Gambetta, a professor of sociology at the University of Oxford."--Nina Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

"[T]he best applied book on signaling theory to date."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"In Codes of the Underworld, the Oxford sociologist Diego Gambetta uses colorful stories and a minimum of jargon in his quest to analyze how people advertise when their business happens to be illegal. . . . Gambettta sets out to illuminate the world inhabited by these face-tattooed, duel-scarred, razor-brandishing inmates. The result is a book that explains the hidden logic of their behavior in language intelligible to those of us who make it a point to seer clear of both well-armed dictators and well-decorated Mafiosi."--Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason

"[A]n absolutely fascinating look at the unique problems criminals face when trying to communicate with one another--how, for example, do you advertise for a partner in crime, or win trust in an inherently untrustworthy world?--and the ingenious ways they solve them. . . . Fans of crime fiction will love this."--Graham Lawton,'s CultureLab blog

"[I]lluminating."--The Age


"Codes of the Underworld persuasively answers new and provocative questions raised from Gambetta's extensive experience in the study of criminal behavior. He introduces and illuminates a vast field of strategic communication where trust cannot be taken for granted. There is nothing comparable in print, and the book's interpretations will carry well beyond the field of conventional crime."--Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel Prize-winning economist

"This innovative book shows Gambetta's nimble and subtle mind at its best. He combines striking analytical insights with rich ethnographic descriptions."--Jon Elster, Columbia University

"Codes of the Underworld looks at the fascinating array of signals that criminals use to recognize each other, validate their claims of toughness, and induce trust or fear. This comprehensive picture of underworld communication will make a serious impact on further studies of organized crime."--Marek Kaminski, University of California, Irvine

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File created: 4/21/2017

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