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State Crime (level 5)

Overview

  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 5

Module description

Long-standing debates exist within criminology about the scope and subject matter of state crime. The debates are reflected in the polarity of definitions of the concept, which locate breaches of the law by states at one end of the spectrum, and definitions based on non-statutory breaches of human rights at the other. How could the state be a criminal actor when legally it is the state itself that defines criminal behaviour by making and enforcing the law?

In other words, it could only be criminal on those rare occasions when it denounces itself for breaking its own laws. Yet, if criminology is to develop as a discipline that studies and analyses criminal, violent, abusive and deviant behaviours, then it is necessary to include state criminality in its field, on the grounds that the consequences of state crimes are more widespread and destructive than those of conventional crimes.

This module critically explores the definition and nature of state crime in criminological and political discourse. It aims to develop a critical understanding of the nature of the state, the scale and type of crimes committed by state agents and agencies, the definitional processes involved in state's labelling acts as criminal, and the forces which explain why and how states enter into deviant or 'criminal' practices and omissions. A range of crimes will be explored in both the domestic and international spheres.