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Questioning crime: social harms and global issues
Questioning crime: social harms and global issues

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2.4 ‘Natural disasters’ and social harm

In this section you have seen how the zemiological (or social harm) approach can throw light on the harms that can result from the actions (or inactions) of powerful actors in the context of a structurally unequal society. While Hurricane Katrina was a destructive natural event, some social groups were shielded from its effects much more than others by virtue of their advantaged position in structures of inequality and because the most powerful actor responding to the hurricane, the state, acted in ways which compounded the problems faced by less powerful groups. The significance of such harms was also highlighted through the concept of structural violence. The example suggests that legalistic approaches to crime (and harm) risk neglecting or ignoring the ways in which social harms are shaped by power and inequality rather than simply by law breaking and the operation of the criminal justice system which are the central focus of more traditional criminology.