The environment and the crimes of the economy

Authored by: Vincenzo Ruggiero

Routledge International Handbook of Green Criminology

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415678827
eBook ISBN: 9780203093658
Adobe ISBN: 9781317809005


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The notion that there is continuity between legality and illegality is crucial for an understanding of white-collar, corporate, state crime, and of the crimes of the powerful in general. This notion may be fruitfully utilized when environmental harm is analyzed because such harm may be produced by both criminal conduct and completely lawful initiatives. The study of environmental harm, in other words, presents the same theoretical predicament experienced by students of the crimes of the powerful and campaigners mobilizing against them. As Sutherland (1949) realized, research on the crimes of the powerful is difficult without a willingness to expand one’s sample well beyond the legal definitions of crime. Harm to the environment is caused by a series of interlaced conducts that are bad in themselves and conducts that are bad because they are prohibited by law, namely mala in se and mala prohibita. After some preliminary observations around the legal-illegal continuum, this contribution attempts to identify the novel traits of the crimes of the powerful which make the causes of environmental harm possible. It then examines how the very logic of economic development, supported by the “science” of economics, may be, even if legitimate, equally or more harmful and destructive.

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