Skip to content
May 16, 2018 / C H Thompson

State crimes – revision notes with evaluative points

Crime as a violation of human rights

Schwendinger H and J (1970)

  • Argues that crime should be defined according to the violation of human rights, rather than the breaking of legal rules.
  • This means that the state which denies an individual’s human rights must therefore be regarded as criminal
  • for example states that practice sexism or racism, or impose economic exploitation upon their citizens, are committing a crime as they are denying individuals and groups of their basic human rights ->
  • the state can be seen as a culprit of crime, not just as the authority that defines and punishes crime.

Stan Cohen

  • In his 1993 article ‘Human rights and Crimes of the State: the Culture of Denial,’ Stan Cohen doesn’t agree that state crime should include the violation of human rights
  • He criticises Schwendingers’ view arguing acts such as economic exploitation aren’t self-evidently criminal, for example it’s possible to argue the UK’s rates of homeless and its tolerance is illustrative of a state crime. But then compared to state crimes such as genocide and torture it’s less clear-cut.
  • In addition there isn’t enough agreement over what makes a human right. For example if education is a human right, does this extend through to higher education?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: