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Unit information: Harms of the Powerful in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Harms of the Powerful
Unit code SPOL20034
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Miller
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The crimes and harms, including violence, committed by corporations and states are among the most devastating of all crimes and harms. This unit examines the nature, extent, and impact of the harms of the powerful and seeks to understand the various explanations for this type of activity. The specific aims of the unit are to:

  • examine the crimes and harms of the powerful focusing on their nature, extent and impact
  • theorise about the causes of the harms of the powerful
  • examine the different approaches traditionally taken to law enforcement and policy intervention in this field and review their effectiveness.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should be able to:

  • demonstrate the different types of crimes and harms associated with corporate and state actors
  • assess the prevalence and impact of their activities on society
  • explain why such crimes and harms occur
  • evaluate law enforcement strategies including recent policies and interventions (in both national and international levels) which attempt to hold corporations and states accountable for their actions.

Teaching details

Lectures (20 hours) and Seminars (10 hours) plus 1 reading week and 1 revision week.

Assessment Details

Summative assessment is

  • Blog (1000 words) 25%
  • Essay (2000 words) 75%

Reading and References

Barak, G. (2015) (ed.) The Routledge international handbook of the crimes of the powerful, Oxford: Routledge

Chambliss, W., Michalowski;R., Kramer, R. (2010) State crime in the global age, Cullompton : Willan Publishing

Cohen, S. (2000) States of Denial, London: Polity Press

Stanley, E. and McCulloch, J. (2013) (eds.) State Crime and Resistance, London: Routledge

Tombs, S. and Whyte, D. (2015) The Corporate Criminal. Why corporations must be abolished, London: Routledge

Whyte, D. (2015) (ed.) How Corrupt is Britain? London: Pluto Press