Although it has never been central to IR theories, transnational organized crime (TOC) is inherently an international phenomenon that has an impact on international security, world politics, international trade, and human rights. Yet, TOC unquestionably occupies a niche within the domain of IR and should be explained and understood both theoretically and empirically. Otherwise, scholars of IR may portray a distorted picture of the contemporary international system.

This article proposes an analytical framework for issues related to TOC. Rather than focusing on particular criminal groups, selected criminals, or criminal networks, this article aims to evaluate several approaches towards TOC from the prism of major IR theories. Some of these theories fail to explain the essential features of transnational crime, while others provide more com¬prehensive analyses of TOC. This analytical endeavour scrutinizes the literature on transnational organized crime within a broader research agenda that can elucidate the role of non-state actors, networks, and information communication technologies. Specifically, the article argues that there is a common identifiable pattern of the rise of criminal networks that have become fundamental non-state actors empowered by resources created by an increased degree of globalization.