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May 18, 2022


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This course, Criminology beyond crime, examines the notion of 'social harm' as an alternative to the legal definition of 'crime'. To illustrate this concept, the course considers developments in Green Criminology, which have sought to examine the problems of global environmental harm and the myriad interactions between human beings and the natural environment.


Large-scale human, social or global harms are areas that critical criminologists have been examining for some years. In the increasingly globalized world of the twenty-first century, such endeavors have become central to the critical enterprise. To this end, notions of a ‘supranational criminology’ (Smeulers and Haveman, 2008) have been developed. This area of critical criminology is concerned with the study of international crimes, harms, and violations that have an impact on a mass or global scale – for example, war crimes, torture, genocide, crimes against humanity, and human rights violations. In this OpenLearn course, the notion of ‘social harm’ is introduced as an alternative to the legal definition of ‘crime’. This casting off of the constraints of a strictly legal definition of crime removes some of the geographical and historical contingency that has hitherto limited the concept of crime. Further, the notion of ‘social harm’ allows for a broadening of the criminological gaze to include considerations of human activities that cause serious damage to human and social life but which may fall outside the narrow confines of ‘criminal justice’. As an example, developments in Green Criminology are considered. This course provides a sample of postgraduate study in Criminology.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:
  • Describe what the social harm perspective has contributed to critical criminology
  • Provide a brief overview of supranational criminology and what is included within it
  • Provide examples of the difficulties associated with researching global harms and global perpetrators
  • Identify the central features and contributions of Green Criminology.

Course Curriculum

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Open University UK