Debts and Threats: Managing Inability to Repay Credits in Illicit Drug Distribution

Kim Møller & Sveinung Sandberg (2016): "Debts and Threats: Managing Inability to Repay Credits in Illicit Drug Distribution" in Justice Quarterly.


This study examines how creditors in illicit drug markets manage debtors’ inability to repay “fronted” drugs. Based on qualitative interviews with 40 incarcerated drug dealers in Norway, we explore four outcomes of unpaid drug debts. Two modes of governance dominated the credit reciprocation processes: Cooperative governance included strategies of accepting loss and refinancing debt and required mutual trust between creditor and debtor. Adversarial governance included extortion of debtors and revenge and was based on threats of violence. We found that creditors preferred refinancing debt or extorting debtors over accepting loss or using violence. We argue that the negotiated outcomes of drug debt have been neglected in research on drug markets, and explore how they require investment from the creditor, either in building trust or in deterring malfeasance through threats of violence. Using insights from economic sociology, the study highlights the importance of social control in illegal drug markets.

The article is available here.

Published Apr. 18, 2016 11:07 AM - Last modified Apr. 18, 2016 11:07 AM