Example Criminology Essay

Example Criminology Essay
It is tempting to give a simpleor even simplistic answer to the above question: it is tempting to say thatanalysis and theory of crimes of the powerful have grown so quickly in the lastcentury because the quantity and diversity of such crimes have themselvesexploded outwards.
As the number of crimes committed by the powerful have risenexponentially across the years and continents, so the police forces, crime-preventionagencies and legislators of the governments charged with halting these crimeshave had to evolve into larger and more complex organizations also. Forinstance, amongst myriad forms of organized crime that developed in thetwentieth century, one pertinent recent example is the efflorescence ofhigh-tech and internet crime, where professional and international gangsmanipulate technology to extort or steal large sums of money from the public.High-tech crime is of course a recent phenomenon; it did not exist at the turnof the last century. Therefore analysis of such activities by law agencies hasgrown to respond to this new threat; moreover, the analysis and prevention ofsuch crimes has had to grow in sophistication and size just as the crimesthemselves have done. Organized crime - be it narcotic trafficking,prostitution rings, corporate crimes and so on - has become a massiveinternational business, and it has required larger agencies equipped withbetter criminal theory and technology and international cooperation betweenagencies to deal with it. Moreover, the clear lapse between the professionalismand techniques of many criminal organizations and the law agencies that pursuethem will require these agencies to catch-up to the advances of these criminalsin the next decades. And, of course, this catch-up will depend heavily uponadvances in criminal theory and analysis.

'Crimes of the powerful' are notexclusively concerned with illegal activities of the above description, butalso with 'crimes' committed by corporations, by governments, by dictators andeven, in an interesting new perspective, by patriarchal gender structures thatsanction crimes of power against women. The attention of law agencies andlegislators upon these crimes has led to a mass of new analysis and theory bycriminologists on the nature of such crimes. Likewise, several theories competeto describe the causes of organized crime and crimes of the powerful. One suchtheory points to social change as the most profound catalyst in the spread oforganized crime and the detection of organized crime. This theory assimilatesthe teachings of sociology, psychology, anthropology and history to produce adetailed sociological critique of these causes. In the eighteenth or nineteenthcenturies, many acts committed by the powerful that would today be classifiedas criminal were then merely pseudo-illegal or socially disapproved of; theycarried no specific criminal offence. But social and legislative advances havemade the prosecution of crimes of the powerful easier enact. out. For instance,the prosecution of corporate crime is, theoretically at least, far easier toidentify and prosecute than it was in the early twentieth century. Moreover,greater media exposure of the life of corporations and governments hasmagnified their crimes whenever they are committed.

A moment of this essay might be given to discuss exactlywhat is meant by the phrase 'crimes of the powerful'. Indeed, a personunfamiliar with the literature of criminology might be forgiven for regardingthe term as somewhat amorphous and nebulous: he might argue that nearly anycriminal phenomenon could be termed a crime of the powerful. The dictionarydefines a crime as 'an act punishable by law, as being forbidden by statute orinjurious to the public welfare. ... An evil or injurious act; an offence, asin; esp. of grave character' (Oxford, 1989). It is difficult to see how theword 'power' could not be inserted into any part of this definition and for itstill to make sense. There is therefore in the pure 'black letter'interpretation of the law a huge shaded area that allows for misinterpretationof the term 'crime of power'. Can, for instance, a crime of the powerful be aphysical act? Or must it the top levels of an organization? Moreover, the useof the word 'crime' is itself ambiguous. The trafficking of drugs or childrenis clearly illegal and criminal according to the principles of law; but we alsospeak of corporate crimes against the public -- withholding medicines from thedying, adulterating foods etc., -- as 'crimes' even though they have noexplicit recognition as such in law. There is then a near infinite possibleextension of the word 'crime' when one uses the word in the sense of somethingthat ought to be illegal rather than something that is presently illegal. In Smith'swords: 'If a crime is to be understood simply as law violation, then...no matter how immoral, reprehensible, damaging or dangerous an act is, it isnot a crime unless it is made such by the authorities of the state'.

There is moreover often the paradoxical situation where agovernment that commits 'crimes of power' against its people can only belegally recognized as doing such if it passes legislation against itself. Thatis: their This is obviously extremely unlikely to happen and so many suchcrimes go unnoticed. It is often directly against the interests of certaingroups or interests to recognize the existence of certain 'crimes' because thenhave to recognize theory legal existence also. Recently however, one growth ofcriminal analysis of the powerful has come from greater international laws thatallow for the international legal recognition of crimes committed by dictatorsor despots when they would never do this themselves. For instance, SaddamHussein is near universally thought to have committed crimes of power againsthis people; such things were never legally recognized as 'crimes' as such untila body such as the United Nations had the international authority to declarethe illegal actions of heads of states.

Sociologists and psychologists amongst other groups(Chesterton, 1997) have argued that the moral, sociological and psychologicalaspects of 'crimes of the powerful' should be recognized by criminologists to afar greater extent. By using approaches such as these criminologists can addthe activities of environmental pollution, insider trading, and tax evasion tothe public consciousness of what constitute crimes of the powerful. In Sellin's(2003) words 'if the study of crime is to attain an objective and scientificstatus, it should not allow itself to be restricted to the terms and boundariesof enquiry established by legislators and politicians' .

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