Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic quotes a summary of a recent study in American Sociological Review. The study views murders as part of a larger system of social exchanges between gangs:
In a remarkable 2010 study published in the American Journal of Sociology, academic Andrew Papachristos took these findings to their logical conclusion and conceptualised each murder over a three-year period in Chicago as a social interaction between groups. Surprisingly, the pattern of homicides resembled an exchange of gifts. One gang ‘presents’ a murder to another, and that group must reciprocate the ‘gift’ or risk losing their social status in the criminal underworld. From this perspective, murder is perhaps the purest of social exchanges as the individual is left in no position to reciprocate on his own.
An interesting take that limits the role of individuals in the process.
Would this apply to other crimes as well?