One of the central starting points for those who research crimes of the powerful is the importance of first examining and then questioning dominant ideologies. ‘Dominant ideologies’ can be defined as ‘shared ideas or beliefs which serve to justify the interests of dominant groups’ (Giddens, 1997, p. 583). Some examples of ‘types’ of ideologies might include socialist, patriarchal, liberal, racist, or capitalist ideologies. The related concept of ‘ideological hegemony’, first put forward by Antonio Gramsci (1971), is of central importance too. ‘Ideological hegemony ‘conveys the notion that a particular ideology (that is, a system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality) can be reflected throughout a society, permeating institutions, cultural ideas and social relationships so that it is more difficult, though never impossible, for alternative ideologies to achieve similar levels of influence.
In part, much of the critical criminological endeavour has attempted to identify the hegemonic tenets of society and to question the sets of values, attitudes and underlying moral assumptions on which they are based. Examining and reporting on the crimes of the powerful is a key way in which critical researchers can present alternative ideological positions to those that dominate. Critical criminologists Steve Tombs and Dave Whyte argue that ‘those who research the crimes of the powerful have to understand accurately the networks of power that operate in a given society’ (2003, p. 224). Such networks of power flow from political, economic, industrial, institutional and even familial structures and social divisions.