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Criminology beyond crime

Introduction

Large-scale human, social or global harms are areas that critical criminologists have been examining for some years. In the increasingly globalised world of the twenty-first century, such endeavours have become central to the critical enterprise. To this end, notions of a ‘supranational criminology’ (Smeulers and Haveman, 2008) have been developed. This area of critical criminology is concerned with the study of international crimes, harms, and violations that have an impact on a mass or global scale – for example, war crimes, torture, genocide, crimes against humanity, and human rights violations. In this OpenLearn course, the notion of ‘social harm’ is introduced as an alternative to the legal definition of ‘crime’. This casting off of the constraints of a strictly legal definition of crime removes some of the geographical and historical contingency that has hitherto limited the concept of crime. Further, the notion of ‘social harm’ allows for a broadening of the criminological gaze to include considerations of human activities that cause serious damage to human and social life but which may fall outside the narrow confines of ‘criminal justice’. As an example, developments in Green Criminology are considered.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of postgraduate study in Criminology.

Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • describe what the social harm perspective has contributed to critical criminology

  • provide a brief overview of supranational criminology and what is included within it

  • provide examples of the difficulties associated with researching global harms and global perpetrators

  • identify the central features and contributions of a Green Criminology.

Within and beyond criminology

In 1983, the Australian criminologist Richard Harding asked ‘what do criminology and criminologists do to decrease the chances of the extinction of mankind and the destruction of the planet?’ (1983, p. 82). Harding, writing during the Cold War and the height of nuclear proliferation, asserted that criminology must move beyond local issues and become a global enterprise that engages with issues of international significance. He challenged criminological thinkers to not only wrestle with pending global issues that threatened the extinction of the planet, but also to begin thinking about the ways new technologies and global insecurities posed potential environmental, social and economic injustices on an international scale.

Harding’s question requires criminologists to think outside nation-state and strict legalistic boundaries and to pursue what has been referred to as a ‘supranational criminology’ (Smeulers and Haveman, 2008). This course examines some of the ways that critical criminology has been applied to new areas of criminology and continues to fundamentally challenge what criminology is about. We start with the concept of ‘social harm’ (Muncie et al., 2010; Tombs and Whyte, 2010). The concept of social harm can be used to open up the possibilities of new narratives in such areas as Green Criminology and eco crime, human rights, and human security. It creates new considerations of how to govern global social relations and alternative ways of conceiving justice. Within this framework, it is possible to consider a wider variety of social and criminological concerns, which are difficult to contain within the existing structures of nation states or within legalistic approaches to criminology, and continue to vex existing state and interstate strategies of control.

From crime to social harm

The concept of ‘crime’ is most frequently conceived as a legal construction (Lacey, 2002). Among the difficulties with such a construction is its historical, geographic, and state-defined contingence. That is, what is defined as a ‘crime’ can differ according to time, place, and political decision making. Furthermore, as global social relations become more fluid, the concept of crime holds certain limitations in contemplating the range of human activities, events, and forces that may result in human suffering or environmental or global harm.

Paddy Hillyard and Steve Tombs (2007) have been influential in pushing the boundaries of how critical criminologists think about and define the concept of ‘crime’. They were among the first within criminology to engage in a thorough examination of the notion of ‘social harm’ and have suggested that it might form a broader more inclusive picture of the causes of human suffering and environmental global harm than traditional studies of ‘crime’ and ‘criminals’. What their argument offers to criminology – and social life more generally – is a more inclusive and imaginative picture of the range of harms that individuals, communities or whole societies may be subjected to. These encompass consideration of the activities of not just individuals, but also of local and national states and corporations, political regimes and ideologies, and social institutions (including criminal justice systems).

Hillyard and Tombs have critiqued aspects of ‘mainstream’ criminological enquiry for failing to ‘be self-reflective regarding the dominant, state-defined notion of “crime”’ (p. 11), and for continuing to operate under the assumption that it is possible to explain why certain people commit ‘crime’ despite the fact that ‘crime’ is a socially constructed concept. They argue that a social harm approach can, by contrast, form a basis for a more accurate picture of the range of harms and causes of human suffering that can affect people during their lifecycle (p. 18). That is not to say that the concept of ‘social harm’ is without analytic problems in its definition. It is, admittedly, broad and may include anything from physical to financial, social, or cultural damage. In this sense, ‘harm’ is no more definable than ‘crime’. However, as Hillyard and Tombs argue, unlike ‘crime’, the concept of harm can be constituted primarily by its operationalisation, rather than a strictly defined legal system. That is, ‘harm’ can primarily be defined as such by those who have experienced or witnessed it. The concept of harm, therefore, may be more responsive to considering the range of causes of human suffering than the concept of ‘crime’.

Social harm

Importantly, the concept of harm has made it possible to extend the criminological gaze beyond national borders to include illegal and harmful acts involving powerful elites, such as governments and political leaders. The problem of state crime and culpability is an area that has attracted much consideration from critical criminologists for many years. In 1970, Julia and Herman Schwendinger, influenced by US foreign policy failures and the Vietnam War, argued that state institutions that tolerated, perpetuated or failed to prevent human rights abuses such as racism, sexism, or poverty were not only negligent in their civic duty but co-conspirators in crimes against humanity. From these analyses discourses emerged that began to link criminology to the preservation of human and social life and to the enactment of human rights.

Key features of social harm

  • Encompasses social, economic, psychological and environmental injury or damage inflicted on society either intentionally or unintentionally
  • A concept that enables criminology to move beyond legal definitions of ‘crime’ to include immoral, wrongful and injurious acts that are not necessarily illegal
  • Originates theoretically from Edwin Sutherland’s 1945 work ‘Is “White Collar Crime” Crime?’
  • Key theorists who have worked from a social harm perspective:
    • Paddy Hillyard
    • Christina Pantazis
    • Simon Pemberton
    • Larry Tifft
    • Steve Tombs.
Source: adapted from McLaughlin, E. and Muncie, J. (eds) (2001)

Supranational criminology

The concept of harm has added much to the branch of the discipline often referred to as supranational criminology. The pertinence of this branch of criminology has become more striking with the onset of globalisation. The growth of world-wide communication systems and the rapid rise of instant information sharing has created, according to Marshall McLuhan (1962; 1964), a ‘global village’ which is, in part, characterised by heightened awareness of the breadth of human responsibility and the potential consequences of human activity. At the same time, this global village – and the increasing connectedness of ideas and trade through multilateral agreements and communication technologies – has provided new international contexts for criminality that criminology cannot ignore. The trafficking of human beings and human body parts; the smuggling of wildlife, drugs, weapons and antiquities; the laundering of money and the theft of biodiveristy; and the contamination of air, soil and water from pollution are some examples of the ways global trade networks provide contexts for new and emerging forms of criminality. While international criminal organisations are involved and profit from such actions, it is democratically elected governments that often facilitate, contribute, justify or ‘turn a blind eye’ to behaviours that result in widespread social injustice.

One of the founders of supranational criminology, Annette Smeulers summarises it as follows:

Supranational criminology is thus an interdisciplinary research area with close links to criminology, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, political science and law, amongst them. This extremely broad research program can be split into several core issues and central questions, which all signify a specific research area. The six main research areas are:

  1. Define and conceptualize international crimes
  2. Measure and map international crimes
  3. Estimate social costs of international crimes
  4. Investigate the causes of international crimes
  5. Define and analyze ways of dealing with international crimes
  6. Develop preventive strategies in order to prevent international crimes.
(Smeulers, 2006, p. 3)

Key features of supranational criminology

  • Supranational criminology was officially launched on 2 September 2005 at the European Society of Criminology conference in Krakow
  • Examines international crimes and gross human rights violations
  • Emphasises the need of an interdisciplinary approach to examining international crimes
  • International crimes differ from ordinary crimes in the sense that they are committed systematically and often on a very large scale
  • May include political crimes, ideological crimes and crimes of obedience (following orders)
  • Key theorists who are concerned with supranational criminology:
    • Gregg Barak
    • Caitrien Biljeveld
    • Penny Green
    • Roeloff Haveman
    • Alette Smeulers
    • Rene van Swaanigen.

Green Criminology

One type of supranational criminology – and also an independent critical criminological perspective – is Green Criminology. This critical perspective is devoted to harms against the environment. The term ‘Green Criminology’ was first coined by Nigel South in the late 1980s. It has also been referred to as eco-critical criminology (Seis, 2003); conservation criminology (Herbig and Joubert, 2006) and eco-global criminology (White, 2009). The prefix ‘eco’ derives from the Greek word oikos meaning habitat or home and the Latin oeco meaning household relations. ‘Eco’ is used scientifically in the study of ecology to understand the complex networks of evolution and interaction involving species and their habitats. It is also used holistically to refer to both human and non-human species and to embrace social, political and cultural perspectives, experiences and existences of human and non-human interaction with changing environments. In the term ‘eco crime’, we see these meanings combined with those of ‘crime’, which originates from crimen (to accuse, injure, harm –Pavlich, 2000), to create a term which describes the injuries or harms to habitat (Walters, 2010a).

Key features of Green Criminology

  • Focuses on eco crimes – harms to humans, non-humans and the natural environment
  • Theoretical roots embedded within the traditions of radical criminological schools of thought such as feminism, Marxism and social constructionism
  • Interdisciplinary scholarship committed to the protection and conservation of environmental resources and the prevention of illegal and harmful acts that threaten or damage the natural environment
  • Is aligned with green activists, green politics and international bodies of regulation.
Source: adapted from Walters, R. (2010a)

Three theoretical tendencies

Listen to Parts 1 and 2 of the audio below, Green Criminology: an interview with Reece Walters.

Figure 1 Reece Walters
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Green Criminology: An interview with Reece Walters (part 1)

Dr. Deborah Drake
I'm Dr. Deborah Drake and I'm here with Professor Reece Walters. We are both criminologists at The Open University and today I'm interviewing Reece about an innovative area of critical criminology, that of Green Criminology. So Reece, I'd like to start by asking you what is Green Criminology, and how did it come about?
Professor Reece Walters
It’s an evolving and very exciting area for me of criminology that has its founding principles pretty much identified by Piers Beirne and Nigel South who are two leading figures, who have identified and I quote ‘those harms against humanity, against the environment (including space), and against non-human animals committed by powerful organisations’. So harms committed by governments, trans-national corporations, military apparatuses and so on against ordinary people as well as by ordinary people. So it’s a broad definition that’s acknowledging, you know, both governmental understandings of individual responsibility but is also capable of focusing on primary intention on acts of the powerful and causing sort of widespread and long-lasting environmental damage.
Where did it come about in terms of its coining and so forth, I mean it was first coined as a phrase in print by the American criminologist Michael Lynch. In 1990 he, he used the term in a published article as a way of harnessing green environmentalism and green political theories to examine things like environmental destruction as an outcome of modern capitalism. But it was really Nigel South, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex, who began using the term many years before that in the late seventies and indeed throughout the 1980s when he was speaking at conferences and bringing the whole issue of environmentalism to the criminological landscape.
Dr. Deborah Drake
So why did criminology, and the likes of Nigel South, start to take an interest in environmental matters?
Professor Reece Walters
I think very much shaped by the context at the time. I mean in the early 1980’s, and indeed the late 1970s, saw a proliferation of nuclear weapons and this combined with the ongoing cold war provided discussion around the dangers of nuclear energy, nuclear war, the extinction of the planet. And the UN began to pass resolutions about nuclear weapons, about chemicals that we used to make weapons and energy, and criminologists began to take an interest in these sorts of issues. I mean, we saw in 1983 Professor Richard Harding from Australia published in the ANZ Journal of Criminology a piece about nuclearism and criminology. You know, he was asking very broad searching questions such as ‘What does criminology have to say about issues that threaten the extinction of our planet and what can criminologists do about it?’ Big questions. And as a result we saw a flurry of some published work notably about toxic chemicals, contamination of water, contamination of soil, food and the impacts on both human and non-human species. So issues about pollution and deforestation, habitat and species decline sort of followed on, as a sort of environmental consciousness became part of criminological concern.
Dr. Deborah Drake
Mmm. So were there any noticeable crimes or events that galvanised or inspired Green Criminological scholarship?
Professor Reece Walters
There are. I mean in addition to the debates about the dangers associated with nuclear technologies, there are probably three that stand out for me notably Love Canal, Bhopal and the Rainbow Warrior, that all occurred around 1978 to 1984. I mean the first involved the dumping of toxic waste. In 1978 – 80 in LoveCanal near Niagara Falls in the United States, it emerged that a chemical company named Hooker Chemicals had disposed of thousands of drums of toxic chemicals into a shallow canal and covered it with soil and grass. And they'd sold this land to the Niagara Falls Board of Education and as a result a school was built on the site; developers moved in; houses were built and an entire community was established over this toxic dump. And over the years there was evidence of birth defects, significant skin diseases, deformities and cancers emerged in the people you know living in this area. And at the time, the United States Environment Protection Agency found that there was some 88 different toxic chemicals in the backyards of people’s homes. And they concluded that, you know, that 80 per cent of all lethal chemicals in the US at that particular time around the early 1980s were being disposed of illegally and that raised not only a public scare but an area that was very important for – for political intervention.
Dr. Deborah Drake
And you said the second one involved Bhopal in India?
Professor Reece Walters
Yeah, the tragic disaster that occurred in Southern India in 1984 where a poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide pesticide factory instantly killed 2000 people when that factory exploded in the middle of the night. And then a further 200,000 was subsequently affected over the coming months and years. And in addition there were thousands of animals that were killed, soils and drinking water contaminated, and the entire community of 250,000 people were dislocated. It was a complete and utter disaster. And it revealed how – how this American company had gone abroad to make pesticides, using cheap labour and reduce costs, and in doing so ignoring a whole host of health and safety standards. And today, the chief executive officer Warren Anderson, remains unaccounted for for this action even though the Supreme Court of India have issued warrants for his arrest he’s never been brought to justice even though we know that he lives a long and healthy life in Long Island in New York.
The third one really is …er … something a little different I think in terms of an event that galvanised or inspired criminological scholarship in the area of Green Crim and that was the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand in 1984. This was a ship that was owned and operated by Greenpeace, and Greenpeace at that particular time had become something of a thorn in the side of the powerful nuclear nations and it gathered significant international exposure for their opposition to the ways in which nuclear resources were being used. And their vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, became the target of an espionage operation involving secret agents from France who bombed the vessel. And it demonstrated how eco-warriors, those who were opposed to powerful nations and companies that threaten the environment, they themselves had become targets. People, ordinary citizens, who protested were seen as a threat, which I think raised a lot of public awareness about issues these protestors were standing up for. If a secret service is travelling from France to New Zealand to blow up a protest ship, then why, and what's this whole environmental movement about? I mean, people began to take note and they got involved so you know they were three very, very big issues that galvanised public consciousness but also academics around a new area and criminology became involved.
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Green Criminology: An interview with Reece Walters (part 2)

Dr. Deborah Drake
What theories and perspectives underpin Green Criminology?
Professor Reece Walters
I think it’s important to identify that there is no one Green Criminological theory. Indeed, Green Criminology is very much an evolving discipline; an evolving narrative if you like, and it has its … theoretical roots embedded within the traditions of critical criminological perspectives. I mean if you look at Green Criminologists around the world, if you look at who’s writing in academia in the area of Green Criminology, who is at the forefront of this movement, you know Nigel South or Diane Heckenberg, Jacqueline Schneider, Piers Beirne, Michael Lynch, Rob White, they are all individuals who have come from critical criminological traditions, whether they be feminism, Marxism, social constructionism and so on, you know. They are not mainstream positivist criminologists. And with them, they bring their own critical perspectives and theories to Green Criminology
Dr. Deborah Drake
So I understand that there are those critical traditions in Green Criminology that you’ve just mentioned but are there some key themes that bind all of that together?
Professor Reece Walters
There are. I mean, part of the excitement of this evolving area is that it’s nourished by all those diverse critical perspectives but there are some binding themes as you say, and they really do fall around the issue of justice, notably environmental justice, ecological justice and what’s been referred to as species justice. I mean, I’ll just give you a sense of what they're about. I mean environmental justice is a human centred or anthropocentric discourse with two distinct dimensions. And this is where Green Criminology is drawing on traditions in philosophy and deep ecology and environmental studies as well as those critical narratives within its own terrain. Environmental justice, for example, assesses the equity if you like of access and use of environmental resources across social and cultural divides. So, for example, who has access to the benefits and profits of natural resources and why? What factors prevent all people from equally sharing in the environment? The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that all member states and their subjects have a right to a safe environment. Well, in environmental justice, actions that prevent, jeopardise or compromise this right are actions that violate environmental justice. That’s the first part of environmental justice. The second part is that it explores how people – notably the marginalised, the poor and the powerless – are affected by natural disasters or by corporate activity and state actions that damage the environment. So, if we’re looking through the lens of environmental justice we’re looking at how things like toxic dumping, chemical spills, industrial pollution, nuclear testing, illegal fishing and wildlife poaching, contamination of drinking water and so on. They all have adverse side effects but they do not all victimise people equally. It is often indigenous people, ethnic minorities, the poor, and often women, who are the most affected by these types of corporate and state activities. So that’s environmental justice.
Dr. Deborah Drake
Okay. So how would that be different, then, from ecological justice?
Professor Reece Walters
Well ecological justice focuses on the relationship or the interaction between humans and the natural environment. It’s not so human-centred. When humans develop the environment for material needs – whether that be housing or agriculture or business or consumption – this approach, notably ecological justice, insists that such actions be assessed within the context of damage or harm to other living things. And this position is often referred to as an ecocentric understanding of human and nature interaction. Now some may criticise this position because it lacks acknowledgement that the reality of harm, development, progresses and so on will always be defined and responded to by humans. But what ecological justice argues is that environmentally centred perspectives which uphold the importance of all living creatures – as well as inanimate and non-living objects such as rocks, soils, water and air – provides us with a useful insight for guiding future economic and developmental decisions.
Dr. Deborah Drake
And finally, then, what is species justice?
Professor Reece Walters
Species justice is a non-human or biocentric discourse that emphasises the importance of non-human rights. And it asserts that human beings are not the only creatures with rights nor are human beings indeed superior. In other words, there is no hierarchy of existence under species justice with human beings being at the pinnacle. All living things share an existence, share an equal status and share a position of importance. And the like of Piers Beirne and Nigel South have argued that to prohibit or disregard non-human creatures as not of equal standing within the natural environment denies the value and the worth of those particular species. Conversely, you know it may be argued that existence or survival (and indeed evolution itself) is dependent upon one species consuming another and that’s obviously an argument. But, you know, as people like Rob White have pointed out, from this perspective, we’re aided in a critique of how rights are constructed and it allows us to question the basis from which rights are created and protected, you know. If rights are about ensuring health and wellbeing while minimising pain and suffering, then humans are not the only species to experience such emotions. So, these three perspectives combine ... assist Green Criminologists in understanding why certain things come to be called criminal and others not. And, indeed, in doing so, open up debate over whether certain harms should be criminalised and importantly Green Criminology is not only a response to official and scientific evidence about environmental damage and species decline, but also it’s an engagement with emerging social movements and public opinions of resistance.
Dr. Deborah Drake
So, how have you explored these alternative ways of thinking about justice in your research?
Professor Reece Walters
Well for me one of the liberating aspects of Green Criminology is the ability to be creative and to bring in areas not previously explored within the criminological gaze and to also be theoretically innovative. So I have, for example, explored issues to do with ecological justice, looking at deforestation as well as things like genetically modified food, drawing on actor–network theory that was developed by the likes of Bruno Latour and through the social studies of sciences and technology. Now this network approach in Green Criminology that I've used takes the criminological gaze beyond acts of just criminal inten,t to the global dimensions that contribute to environmental harm. So in this way, the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest for example is not simply the wilful action of a government to permit timber corporations to log ancient indigenous woodlands. I mean, it’s much more complex than that. The act of deforestation in the Amazon, for example, I would argue is a global phenomenon that involves the technologies of consumers and all inputs and outputs of rainforest logging. So in other words, the felling of the Amazon tree occurs because of a whole host of networks and participating factors from the lumberjack who controls the saw to the North American family that uses the chipwood to spread across their front garden, and everything in-between. All combine a web of interconnected activity that must be unpacked and understood when examining logging and environmental harm. It’s not a simple thing.
Dr. Deborah Drake
So, Green Criminology really connects with broader issues of power and harm then?
Professor Reece Walters
Oh absolutely. I mean, it’s about exploring harms of the powerful as well as engaging in local and social movements. I mean as such some suggest that Green Criminology moves away from a sole reliance on risk and statistics and measurement as presented by science and government and incorporates social and cultural meanings of harm as defined by ordinary citizens. I mean, in these ways Green Criminology itself can be considered, as I said before, very much an evolving knowledge that challenges mainstream disciplinary discourses. I mean, it questions the moral and ethical basis upon which contemporary laws permit for example the exploitation of nature. And it examines the conditions in which coexistence and interspecies cooperation can be achieved. So, it’s globalising the criminological lens and it’s viewing crime and harm beyond the local and national level to include international actions of illegality or harm. And this permits the involvement of movements and organisations, which are outside the state to contribute to emerging notions of what is justice within environmental context.
Dr. Deborah Drake
What do you think students can take away from learning about Green Criminology?
Professor Reece Walters
I think Green Criminology permits students to explore issues that are not even on the criminological radar and there's something very exciting about that. You know as an emerging discourse it’s not driven by police, politicians, courts or crime statistics but by the lived realities and experiences of peoples and communities.
Dr. Deborah Drake
So then what could be a starting point for Green Criminology, if not those other things?
Professor Reece Walters
Well, the starting point for Green Criminology is not necessarily therefore an offender who’s been prosecuted and convicted. You know, it is the identification of, for example, exploitation and injustice. I mean, an identification that often emerges from a lone voice, a voice that criticises government or a corporation. As a result, it requires turning over all stones and seeing all possibilities. You begin to ask a range of different sorts of questions. For example who and what is harmed? Who is doing the harm? Is it necessary? Is it just?
Dr. Deborah Drake
So you're saying it provides students with the freedom to examine issues of power and harm, and identifies the limitations of law as the sole index for social enquiry?
Professor Reece Walters
Absolutely. I totally agree with that. I mean, many of the issues that I examine, like air pollution, are perfectly legal. I mean, it’s legal to pollute the environment if you own and operate a factory, provided you obtain the necessary legal permits to do so. I examined the rules governing those permits, the ways permits are breached and the justice that follows. So, for me, Green Criminology allows you to seek out a topic and unravel its intricacies. A topic that may at first sight appear totally harmless but upon close inspection may involve corruption, the demise of culture, or for example the exploitation of labour.
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As the interview with Reece Walters on the audio recordings reveals, two key figures in the founding of Green Criminology, Piers Bierne and Nigel South (2007, p. xiii) argue that at its ‘most abstract level’ it includes the study and acknowledgement of ‘those harms against humanity, against the environment (including space) and against non-human animals committed by both powerful organisations (e.g. governments, transnational corporations, military apparatuses) and also by ordinary people’. However, the main focus to date – and that which has generated the greatest amount of Green Criminological scholarship – has been on acts of ‘the powerful’ in causing widespread and long-term environmental damage. As Rob White (2008) argues, it is important to note, that there is no one green criminological theory but rather a series of perspectives that draw on various philosophical, sociological, legal and scientific traditions. He identifies three ‘theoretical tendencies’ that form the basis of an eclectic theoretical enquiry into Green Criminology, namely environmental justice, ecological justice, and species justice.

Environmental justice is a human-centred or anthropocentric discourse with two dimensions. First, it assesses the equity of access and use of environmental resources across social and cultural divides. Who has access to the benefits and profits of natural resources and why? Second, it asks what factors prevent all people from sharing equally in the environment? For example, toxic dumping, chemical spills, industrial pollution, nuclear testing, illegal fishing and wildlife poaching, and contamination of drinking water all have adverse side-effects that do not victimise all people equally. It is indigenous people, ethnic minorities, the poor, and often women, who are most affected by such injustices (Walters, 2010a).

Ecological justice, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship or interaction between humans and the natural environment, without prioritising humans (White, 2008). When humans develop the environment for material needs (housing, agriculture, business, consumption), ecological justice insists that such actions be assessed within the context of damage or harm to other living things. This position is often referred to as an ‘ecocentric’ understanding of human and nature interaction. Some may criticise this position because it lacks ‘reality,’ as political action will always be from a human perspective. That is, the reality of harm, existence, development, progress and so on will always be defined and responded to by humans. Yet ecological justice argues that an environmentally centred perspective that upholds the importance of living creatures as well as inanimate and non-living objects (such as soil, rock, water, air) provides useful insights for guiding future economic and developmental decisions (Walters, 2010).

Species justice is a non-human or biocentric discourse that emphasises the importance of non-human rights. It asserts that human beings are not the only creatures with rights, nor are humans superior beings. In other words, there is no hierarchy of existence with human beings at the pinnacle. All living things in existence share an equal status of importance. Beirne and South (2007) argue that to prohibit or disregard non-human creatures as not of equal standing within the natural environment denies the value and worth of those species. Conversely it may be argued that existence or survival (and indeed evolution itself) is dependent upon one species consuming another. As White (2008) identifies, an analysis from this perspective aids a critique of how rights are constructed. It allows us to question the bases from which rights are created and protected. If rights are about ensuring health and well-being while minimising pain and suffering, then humans are not the only species to experience such emotions.

Conclusion

The concept of social harm can be used to open up the possibilities of new narratives in critical criminology, such areas as Green Criminology and eco crime, human rights and human security. It creates the opportunity for new considerations of how to govern global social relations and alternative ways of conceiving justice. Within a social harm and supranational framework, a variety of social and criminological concerns can be thought about differently.

Review questions

  • Does criminology have boundaries? If so, how are they determined?
  • What has the social harm perspective contributed to critical criminological theory?
  • What can supranational criminology offer to the criminology discipline?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Green Criminology?

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References

Bierne, P. and South, N. (2007) (eds) Issues in Green Criminology: Confronting Harms Against Environments, Humanity and Other Animals, Cullompton, Willan.
Harding, R. (1983) ‘Nuclear energy and the destiny of mankind – some criminological perspectives’, The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 81–92.
Herbig, F.W.J. and Joubert, S.J. (2006) ‘Criminological semantics: conservation criminology – vision or vagary?’, Acta Criminologica, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 88–103.
Hillyard, P. and Tombs, S. (2007) ‘From crime to social harm’, Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 48, nos 1–2, pp. 9–25.
Lacey, N. (2002) ‘Legal constructions of crime’ in Maguire, M., Morgan, R. and Reiner, R. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, Oxford,Oxford University Press.
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Further reading

Hillyard, P. and Tombs, S. (2007) ‘From crime to social harm’, Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 48, no. 1–2, pp. 9–25
Lynch, M. and Stretesky, M. (2010) ‘Global warming, global crime: A green criminological perspective’, in White, R. (ed) Global Environmental Harm – Criminological Perspectives, Cullompton, Willan
Ruggiero, V. and South, N. (2010) ‘Green Criminology’, Special Edition of Critical Criminology – An International Journal, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 251-262.
Smeulers, A.L. and Haveman, R.H. (eds) (2008) Supranational Criminology: Towards a Criminology of International Crimes, Antwerp, Intersentia.
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