This free course, Questioning crime: social harms and global issues, has intended to provide a flavour of studying some perspectives on crime, justice and social harm at a postgraduate level, based on the Open University course.
The central focus of the course has been the social harm (or zemiological) perspective which argues that an exclusive focus on crime misses the impacts of harms on social lives. These harmful acts can related to powerful actors such as states, corporations and the media, and are reinforced through structures of power and inequality.
You have seen that crime is largely defined by the powerful and that both the definition and application of the label ‘criminal’ is selective, being applied particularly to less powerful groups in society through discourses which involve ‘othering’. The discourses involved draw attention away from the actions and inactions of powerful groups even if these result in much more harm than actions which are criminalised. These processes are increasingly shaped by actors and processes which are not confined to individual nations, particularly with the increasing role of transnational corporations.
The course has shown you the ways in which a focus on harm rather than crime provides an approach which moves beyond criminology and which offers great potential for providing news ways of understanding social life and promoting social justice. The course has argued that both crime and harm cannot be understood without the analysis of power and inequality, and must also incorporate an understanding of the global dimensions of harm production.