State-corporate crime

Last updated

In criminology, the concept of state-corporate crime refers to crimes that result from the relationship between the policies of the state and the policies and practices of commercial corporations. The term was coined by Kramer and Michalowski (1990), and redefined by Aulette and Michalowski (1993). These definitions were intended to include all "socially injurious acts" and not merely those that are defined by the local criminal jurisdiction as crime. This is not universally accepted as a valid definition so a less contentious version has been adopted here. As an academic classification, it is distinguished from:

Criminology science about the causes and manifestations of crime

Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, management, causes, control, consequences, and prevention of criminal behavior, both on individual and social levels. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field in both the behavioral and social sciences, which draws primarily upon the research of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, biologists, social anthropologists, as well as scholars of law.

Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain.

Sovereign state Political organization with a centralized independent government

In international law, a sovereign state, sovereign country, or simply state, is a nonphysical juridical entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood that a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subjected to any other power or state.


Corporate crime crimes committed either by a corporation or its representatives

In criminology, corporate crime refers to crimes committed either by a corporation, or by individuals acting on behalf of a corporation or other business entity. For the worst corporate crimes, corporations may face judicial dissolution, sometimes called the "corporate death penalty", which is a legal procedure in which a corporation is forced to dissolve or cease to exist.

Political crime

In criminology, a political crime or political offence is an offence involving overt acts or omissions, which prejudice the interests of the state, its government, or the political system. It is to be distinguished from state crime, in which it is the states that break both their own criminal laws or public international law.

State crime

In criminology, state crime is activity or failures to act that break the state's own criminal law or public international law. For these purposes, Ross (2000b) defines a "state" as the elected and appointed officials, the bureaucracy, and the institutions, bodies and organisations comprising the apparatus of the government. Initially, the state was the agency of deterrence, using the threat of punishment as a utilitarian tool to shape the behaviour of its citizens. Then, it became the mediator, interpreting society's wishes for conflict resolution. Theorists then identified the state as the "victim" in victimless crimes. Now, theorists are examining the role of the state as one of the possible perpetrators of crime whether directly or in the context of state-corporate crime.

One of the assertions made by those involved in this work is that a focus on the actual relationship between the state and corporations dependent on the state for their profitability can expose a more complete range of criminal activity than might be provided by independent analyses of solely corporate or state-organised crimes.


To be able to operate as a commercial business entity, the modern corporation requires a legal framework of regulation and oversight within which to exploit the relevant markets profitably. The infrastructure of law and commerce are provided by the government of each state in which the corporation desires to trade, and there is an inevitable linkage between the political and commercial interests. All states rely on businesses to provide an economic base consistent with each government's political policies. Without policies that are supportive of economic activity, businesses will not be profitable and so will not be able to provide the economic support that the state desires. In some cases, this symbiosis may lead to the commission of crimes. The research studies situations where, for various reasons, the oversight of corporate and/or state organisations by independent bodies has been manipulated or excluded, and either existing criminal activity is redefined as lawful, or criminal activity results but is not prosecuted.

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.

Harper and Israel (1999) comment:

...societies create crime because they construct the rules whose transgression constitutes crime. The state is a major player in this process.

i.e. the way in which crime is defined is dynamic and reflects each society's immediate needs and changing attitudes towards the local varieties of conduct. The process depends on the values underpinning the society, the mechanisms for resolving political conflict, the control over the discourse, and the exercise of power. Snider (1999) notes that capitalist states are often reluctant to pass laws to regulate large corporations, because this might threaten profitability, and that these states often use considerable sums to attract regional or national inward investment from large corporations. They offer new investors:

Once the state is committed to this offer, it can be difficult to enforce local laws against pollution, health and safety or monopolies. Green and Ward (2004) examine how the debt repayment schemes in developing countries place such a financial burden on states that they often collude with corporations offering prospects of capital growth. Such collusion frequently entails the softening of environmental and other regulations. The debt service obligation can also exacerbate political instability in countries where the legitimacy of state power is questioned. Such political volatility leads states to adopt clientelistic or patrimonialist patterns of governance, fostering organized crime, corruption, and authoritarianism. In some third world countries, this political atmosphere has encouraged repression and the use of torture. Exceptionally, genocide has occurred. But Sharkansky (1995) is careful to maintain a strict definition of "crime" for these purposes. Many individuals and organisations may disapprove of what governments do or fail to do, but such acts and omissions are not necessarily criminal.

Pollution introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. In 2015, pollution killed 9 million people in the world.

Examples of the research

Following the Challenger space shuttle explosion, Kramer (1992) noted that NASA, the United States Federal government body with responsibility for the project, had only been subject to self-regulation of an entirely inadequate nature. Kauzlarich and Kramer (1993) examined a nuclear weapons production complex in the United States and found that the Department of Energy and the private corporations that contracted with the Department had been allowed to work in extreme secrecy, unfettered by the regulations that had governed the civilian nuclear industry. While Aulette and Michalowski (1993) examined a fire in the Imperial Food Products chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina where twenty-five workers died, and uncovered "an interwoven pattern of regulatory failure on the part of several state and federal agencies" that had allowed the company's management to continue violating basic safety regulations in search of corporate profit. Finally, Harper and Israel (1999) concluded that the economic need for inward investment forced the Papua New Guinea government to match the lax regulatory regimes offered in other developing countries. While governments and individual public servants claimed to maintain a commitment to environmental conservation, they were prepared to sacrifice the environment for economic development.

NASA space-related agency of the United States government

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Hamlet, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Hamlet is a city in Richmond County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 6,495 at the 2010 census.

Related Research Articles

Public policy is the principled guide to action taken by the administrative executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues, in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs.

Corporate propaganda refers to propaganda disseminated by a corporation, for the purpose of manipulating public opinion concerning to that corporation, and its activities. The use of corporate propaganda can be commonly found in the fields of advertising, marketing, politics, history, and public relations. There is debate as to whether corporate propaganda should be legal, with corporations claiming that advertising is an inherent right for any entity in a free market economy trying to sell a product or service, while modern leftists, social liberals, and social rights activists argue that corporate propaganda is tantamount to brainwashing.

White-collar crime financially motivated nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals

White-collar crime refers to financially motivated, nonviolent crime committed by businesses and government professionals. It was first defined by the sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation". Typical white-collar crimes could include wage theft, fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, labor racketeering, embezzlement, cybercrime, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery. Lawyers can specialize in white-collar crime.

Cybercrime, or computer-oriented crime, is a crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target. Cybercrimes can be defined as: "Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm, or loss, to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet and mobile phones (Bluetooth/SMS/MMS)". Cybercrime may threaten a person or a nation's security and financial health. Issues surrounding these types of crimes have become high-profile, particularly those surrounding hacking, copyright infringement, unwarranted mass-surveillance, sextortion, child pornography, and child grooming.


Criminalization or criminalisation, in criminology, is "the process by which behaviors and individuals are transformed into crime and criminals". Previously legal acts may be transformed into crimes by legislation or judicial decision. However, there is usually a formal presumption in the rules of statutory interpretation against the retrospective application of laws and only the use of express words by the legislature may rebut this presumption. The power of judges to make new law and retrospectively criminalise behaviour is also discouraged. In a less overt way, where laws have not been strictly enforced, the acts prohibited by those laws may also undergo de facto criminalization through more effective or committed legal enforcement.

Critical criminology

Critical criminology is a theoretical perspective in criminology which focuses on challenging traditional understandings and uncovering false beliefs about crime and criminal justice, often but not exclusively by taking a conflict perspective, such as Marxism, feminism, political economy theory or critical theory. Critical criminology frequently takes a perspective of examining the genesis of crime and nature of 'justice' within the social structure of a class and status inequalities. Law and punishment of crime are viewed as connected to a system of social inequality and as the means of producing and perpetuating this inequality. Critical criminology also seeks to delve into the foundations of criminological research to unearth any biases.

Conflict criminology

Largely based on the writings of Karl Marx, conflict criminology holds that crime in capitalist societies cannot be adequately understood without a recognition that such societies are dominated by a wealthy elite whose continuing dominance requires the economic exploitation of others, and that the ideas, institutions and practices of such societies are designed and managed in order to ensure that such groups remain marginalised, oppressed and vulnerable. Members of marginalised and oppressed groups may sometimes turn to crime in order to gain the material wealth that apparently brings equality in capitalist societies, or simply in order to survive. Conflict criminology derives its name from the fact that theorists within the area believe that there is no consensual social contract between state and citizen.

In criminal law, corporate liability determines the extent to which a corporation as a legal person can be liable for the acts and omissions of the natural persons it employs. It is sometimes regarded as an aspect of criminal vicarious liability, as distinct from the situation in which the wording of a statutory offence specifically attaches liability to the corporation as the principal or joint principal with a human agent.

In general, corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Corruption is most commonplace in kleptocracies, oligarchies, narco-states and mafia states.

Marxist criminology

Marxist criminology is one of the schools of criminology. It parallels the work of the structural functionalism school which focuses on what produces stability and continuity in society but, unlike the functionalists, it adopts a predefined political philosophy. As in conflict criminology, it focuses on why things change, identifying the disruptive forces in industrialized societies, and describing how society is divided by power, wealth, prestige, and the perceptions of the world. "The shape and character of the legal system in complex societies can be understood as deriving from the conflicts inherent in the structure of these societies which are stratified economically and politically". It is concerned with the causal relationships between society and crime, i.e. to establish a critical understanding of how the immediate and structural social environment gives rise to crime and criminogenic conditions.

Right realism

Right realism, in criminology, also known as New Right Realism, Neo-Classicism, Neo-Positivism, or Neo-Conservatism, is the ideological polar opposite of left realism. It considers the phenomenon of crime from the perspective of political conservatism and asserts that it takes a more realistic view of the causes of crime and deviance, and identifies the best mechanisms for its control. Unlike the other Schools of criminology, there is less emphasis on developing theories of causality in relation to crime and deviance. The school employs a rationalist, direct and scientific approach to policy-making for the prevention and control of crime. Some politicians who ascribe to the perspective may address aspects of crime policy in ideological terms by referring to freedom, justice, and responsibility. For example, they may be asserting that individual freedom should only be limited by a duty not to use force against others. This, however, does not reflect the genuine quality in the theoretical and academic work and the real contribution made to the nature of criminal behaviour by criminologists of the school.

Left realism

Left realism emerged in criminology from critical criminology as a reaction against what was perceived to be the left's failure to take a practical interest in everyday crime, allowing right realism to monopolize the political agenda on law and order. Left realism argues that crime disproportionately affects working-class people, but that solutions that only increase repression serve to make the crime problem worse. Instead they argue that the root causes of crime lie in relative deprivation, although preventative measures and policing are necessary, but these should be democratically controlled.

Environmental crime illegal act which directly harms the environment

Environmental crime is an illegal act which directly harms the environment. International bodies such as the G8, Interpol, European Union, United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute have recognised the following environmental crimes:

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) is Australia's national research and knowledge centre on crime and criminal justice. The Institute seeks to promote justice and reduce crime by undertaking and communicating evidence-based research to inform policy and practice.

Green criminology is a branch of criminology that involves the study of harms and crimes against the environment broadly conceived, including the study of environmental law and policy, the study of corporate crimes against the environment, and environmental justice from a criminological perspective.

Public criminology Academic tendency within criminology

Public criminology, a concept closely tied with “public sociology”, draws on a long line of intellectuals engaging in public interventions related to crime and justice. It argues that the energies of criminologists should be directed towards "conducting and disseminating research on crime, law, and deviance in dialogue with affected communities." Its proponents see it as potentially narrowing "the yawning gap between public perceptions and the best available scientific evidence on issues of public concern," a problem they see as especially pertinent to matters of crime and punishment.