Hidden Power

The Strategic Logic of Organised Crime

September 2016 9781849046350 448pp


Hidden Power reveals criminal mafias determining political outcomes to suit their own agendas, and tells how they do it — by influencing elections, changing constitutions, fomenting terrorism, waging war, negotiating peace deals and working behind the scenes in pivotal historical moments such as the Second World War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Drawing on unpublished government documents and mafia memoirs, James Cockayne reveals a century of forgotten political-criminal collaboration in New York, Sicily and the Caribbean and explains how such links persist globally, from the drug wars in Mexico, to smuggling routes in West Africa, to political instability in Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia.

Forcing us to rethink our distinctions between politics, conflict and crime, Hidden Power reveals a world in which states and mafias compete — and collaborate — for power.


‘In this landmark study, James Cockayne provides a rich and thoroughly researched history of the interaction between mafias and the state, while providing a framework for considering the strategic calculations of all criminal organisations.’ — Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, King’s College London

‘Remarkable, a landmark in organised crime research. Cockayne, uniquely both an analyst and practitioner, is the first person to bridge the divide between the study of what we have traditionally called “the mafia” and a new generation of organised crime in the developing world. This will be the standard reference for all those debating the policy options for illicit trafficking and the role of criminal organisations in the age of globalisation.’ — Mark Shaw, Director, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime

‘We’ve known for some time that globalization blurs boundaries and conventional categories like public/private and national/international. This extraordinary book adds a new factor into the mix: the transnational strategies criminal organizations deploy to shape governmental power in order to maximize criminal rents. The compelling narrative takes us on a geographic tour that includes Sicily, New York, Cuba and conflicts in Mexico and the Sahel. Even more impressive is the analytical tour Cockayne provides—a tour de force illuminating a blind spot in our understanding of global instability.’ — John G. Ruggie, Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, Harvard University

‘We need to rethink our understanding of international politics, as states compete with powerful private actors, and the distinction between public and private agendas gets increasingly blurred.  James Cockayne’s exploration of the influence of criminal networks makes an important contribution to our understanding of a world in which the power of money  and crime redefines the politics of power.’ — Jean-Marie Guéhenno, CEO International Crisis Group

Hidden Power is a well-sourced, thoughtful tome filled with useful insights. It offers nuance and originality while addressing a topic too often overrun with derivative fear-mongering.’ — InSight Crime


James Cockayne is an Australian strategist, writer and international lawyer who works at the UN. His research and practice focus on armed groups, organised crime, counter-terrorism and the protection of human rights.

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