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Crimes of the Powerful: Corporations, the State and Human Rights

  • Module code: PO6013
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 6
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 5 Politics or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module takes a critical look at the concepts of crime, power and class in the contemporary world, and the impact of ‘crimes of the powerful' on the struggle for human rights and social justice. The gaze of many political scientists and criminologists tends to be focused firmly ‘downwards', towards analysing the misdemeanours of the poor, the dispossessed, the underclass. This module, in contrast, will focus ‘upwards', in an attempt to understand and explain deviant actions by states, corporations, and the ruling class more broadly. Through the use of case studies, presented by the teaching team but also generated by students, we will examine issues such as war crimes, torture, corruption, global supply chains, police abuses, and state terrorism. 

Aims

  • To analyse the major academic debates relating to the study of ‘crimes of the powerful', and to identify competing positions within those debates;
  • To critically evaluate contesting interpretations and interventions in a range of case studies;
  • To engage students with competing theories of corporate crime, state crime, and associated concepts of impunity, accountability and redress;
  • To provide the skills and support for students to identify an important case study in the field, and to complete a piece of independent research relating to that case study.

Learning outcomes

  • articulate different theoretical approaches to corporate crime and state crime, together grouped as ‘crimes of the powerful';
  • critically evaluate a range of politically contested interpretations of crimes of the powerful and their human rights consequences;
  • analyse, evaluate and interpret complex abstract ideas and relate them to a range of specific case studies;
  • understand the process required to identify an area for independent research, to gather appropriate source material and to overcome barriers to the study of ‘crimes of the powerful';
  • complete a detailed piece of independent research relating to a student-selected case study

Curriculum content

  • What are ‘crimes of the powerful'?
  • How can we study ‘crimes of the powerful'?
  • Class, capital and development
  • State crime, corporate crime, state-corporate crime
  • Selecting your case study
  • Researching your case study
  • Corruption
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • State terror
  • Outsourcing and global supply chains
  • Paramilitarism
  • Torture
  • Surveillance
  • Crimes of the Powerful and ‘Empire'
  • Impunity, Accountability and Social Justice

Teaching and learning strategy

The teaching and learning strategy for this module is based around three key elements.

The three-hour workshops will allow space for lecture-type material which will provide a theoretical, historical, or thematic overview of an aspect of ‘crimes of the powerful', and will frame all of the other activities. The format will be interactive, testing the level of students' awareness of the subject as class proceeds. There will be opportunity for some broad discussions as well as more formal presentation of ideas. Alongside lecture material, the workshops will include a range of focused exercises which provide a forum for debate and discussion, and for consolidation of the learning achieved via completing the reading and attending the sessions. Students will come to class having completed reading each week, and classes will be designed to discuss the issues and the reading in particular.

Individual study

Much of the module will revolve around individual study, with students working on their own or in small groups to explore the key literature and concepts.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Workshop 66
Guided independent study 234
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The learning objectives for this module will be formally assessed through the submission of three pieces of work:

A 1,000 word "position paper", where students will be invited to engage in one of the theoretical and conceptual debates introduced in class, and to position themselves within that debate.

A 500 word "case study rationale", where students will outline their choice of case study, and their proposed method of research

A 2,500 word "case study essay", where students will complete a longer piece of independent research on their chosen case study

In addition, the module will provide ample opportunity for formative assessment, so that students have guidance and early feedback for their summative assessment. This will take the form of in-class discussions, student presentations, and independent, peer-led study groups.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
articulate different theoretical approaches to corporate crime and state crime, together grouped as 'crimes of the powerful'. Position paper, case study essay, in-class discussions, student presentations
critically evaluate a range of politically contested interpretations of crimes of the powerful and their human rights consequences Position paper, in-class discussions, student presentations
analyse, evaluate and interpret complex abstract ideas and relate them to a range of specific case studies Position paper, case study essay, in-class discussions, student presentations
understand the process required to identify an area for independent research, to gather appropriate source material and to overcome barriers to the study of 'crimes of the powerful' Case study rationale, in-class discussions, student presentations
complete a detailed piece of independent research relating to a student-selected case study Case study essay, peer-led study groups

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK 1000 word position paper 25
CWK 500 word case study rationale 15
CWK 2500 word case study essay 60
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Cohen, S. (2001) States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering

Green, P. and T. Ward (2004) State Crime: Governments, Violence and Corruption

Michalowski, R.  and R. Kramer (2006) State-Corporate Crime: Wrongdoing at the Intersection of Business and Government 

Sutherland, E. (1983 [1949]) White Collar Crime: The Uncut Version

Bibliography recommended reading

Barton, A. et al (eds) (2007) Expanding The Criminological Imagination: Critical Readings in Criminology

Coleman,R.; Sim,J.; Tombs, S. and Whyte, D (2009) State, Power, Crime

Falk, R.; H. Elver and L. Hajjar (eds) (2008) Human rights: critical concepts in political science. Vol. III

Higginbottom, A. (2006) Globalisation and Human Rights in Colombia: Crimes of the Powerful, Corporate Complicity and the Paramilitary State

Hillyard, P. et al (eds) (2004) Beyond Criminology: Taking Harm Seriously

Sluka, Jeffrey A. (ed.) (2000) Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror

Steiner, H A & Alston, P (2000) International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals

Tombs, S. and D. Whyte (2003) Unmasking the Crimes of the Powerful: Scrutinizing States and Corporations

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