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Unit information: Inequality, Harm and Public Policy 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 Inequality, Harm and Public Policy
Unit code SPOL30061
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Mike McBeth
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit addresses the relationship between state, society and the production of crime and harm. The unit is concerned with understanding how crime and social harms can be understood as products of the ways different societies are organised. It focuses on the role and impact of the inequality to address a key question of whether unequal societies produce higher levels of crime and social harm than more egalitarian societies. From this, further questions are raised about specific processes, policies and interventions which make crime and social harms less likely to occur in more egalitarian societies. Public policy interventions towards a crime and harm-free society are thus explored.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

1.demonstrate a sophisticated understadning of how crime and social harms can be produced through the different ways societies are organised

2. use and interpret the empirical evidence and synthesise the theoretical debates on the relationship between inequality and crime and social harm

3. critically evaluate how crime and social harm can be reduced through public policy interventions in different country contexts.

Teaching details

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

Assessment Details


  • Timed essay (48 hours) (25%)
  • Unseen exam (2 hours) (75%)

Reading and References

Braithwaite, J. (2013) Inequality, Crime and Public Policy, London: Routledge

Chasin, B. (2004) Inequality and Violence in the United States: Casualties of Capitalism, Humanity Books

Hillyard P, Pantazis C, Tombs S and Gordon D (eds.) (2004) Beyond Criminology: Taking Harm Seriously, London: Pluto

Iadicola, P.and Shupe, A. (2012) Violence, Inequality and Human Freedom, Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield INC.

Leonard, E. (2015) Crime, Inequality and Power, London: Routledge

Pantazis, C. & Pemberton, S. (2009) “Nation States and the Production of Social Harm: Resisting the Hegemony of ‘TINA’”, in R. Coleman, J. Sim, S. Tombs & D. Whyte (eds) State, Power, Crime, London: Sage (pp214-233)

Pemberton, S. (2015) Harmful Societies: Understanding Social Harm. Bristol: Policy Press

Wilkinson, R. and Pickett, K. (2010) The spirit level : Why equality is better for everyone. Penguin: Harmondsworth