Political economy

Explorations of broad structural factors in terms of how crime is defined, measured, researched, understood and responded to tend to take a backseat in academic and political discussions about criminal justice. This project aims to explore perspectives and research on the political economy of criminal justice, harm and crime, thus attempting to improve understanding of the social, economic and political foundations of a society in which crime and other harms are less prevalent.

On 22 November 2006 the Foundation published 'Welfare and punishment', a briefing on the relationship between welfare expenditure and levels of punishment. Professor David Downes and Dr Kirstine Hansen present their analysis of welfare spending and imprisonment rates across 18 countries. They argue that their data implies that a substantial welfare state is increasingly a principal, if not the main, protection against the resort to mass imprisonment in the era of globalization. To download the briefing, click here.

In March 2007 the Foundation held an expert seminar, 'The political economy of crime, harm and criminal justice', to examine and discuss academic work and research in this area. We are currently considering opportunities for developing this work further.

In June 2007 the Harm and Society project published `Law-abiding majority?', a briefing that explores the amount of law-breaking that takes place in middle class life. The authors Susanne Karstedt and Dr Stephen Farrall put forward a thoughtful and challenging contribution to the debate about `crime' and `criminality' and role of the market. As the authors point out, `Consumers are sheep and wolves - easy prey and preying on others. Offending and victimisation are as closely and intricately linked at the core of society as at its margins.' To download the briefing click here.

Contact: Rebecca Roberts and Will McMahon

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