The Assumption of Harmlessness

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Criminological interest in the concept of social harm has exploded over the past two decades and rightly so. Social harm’s broader critical analytical lens brings the most pressing and systemic issues facing humanity into criminology’s purview, thereby broadening criminology’s horizons while simultaneously extending our discipline’s wider import beyond crime and the criminal justice system. While these are maintained to be positive developments for the discipline, this chapter critically appraises the state of the concept of social harm. While frequently used in both academia and everyday life, the chapter argues that as it stands, the concept of social harm is not as healthy as it might seem. On the contrary, social harm is argued to be in a conceptually underdeveloped state of practical and philosophical disorder. This disorder is located in failures to properly comprehend the nature of the concept of social harm; the political and moral philosophy of liberalism; and associated trends of postmodern cynicism. Finally, the chapter explores how this disorder has allowed the perpetuation of liberal capitalism’s assumption of harmlessness; a vital ideological process which facilitates the continuation and disavowal of liberal capitalism’s most severe political, socio-cultural, economic and environmental harms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Social Harm
EditorsPamela Davies, Paul Leighton, Tanya Wyatt
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783030724085
ISBN (Print)9783030724078, 9783030724108
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2021

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Victims and Victimology
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2947-9355
ISSN (Electronic)2947-9363

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