Guest post by Sahng-Ah Yoo, MSc student in Criminology and Criminal Justice at University of Oxford. Sahng-Ah's work explores the various avenues institutional power and authority manifest into discrimination, oppression, and human rights violations.

Review of Global Injustice and Crime Control by Wendy Laverick (Routledge, 2016)

At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in June, United States President Barak Obama reacted to the recent Brexit vote:

I do think that yesterday’s vote speaks to the ongoing changes and challenges that are raised by globalization...  In today’s world, where our economies have undergone dramatic shifts, where businesses don’t stop at borders, where technology and automation have transformed virtually every industry and changed how people organize and work, entrepreneurship remains the engine of growth―that ability to turn that idea into a reality, a new venture, a small business that creates good-paying jobs. It puts rising economies on the path to prosperity and empowers people to come together and tackle our most pressing global problems, from climate change to poverty...

But, he also noted that globalization isn’t just about positive growth:

It also has challenges. And it also evokes concerns and fears… I believe we are better off in a world in which we are trading, and networking, and communicating and sharing ideas. But that also means that cultures are colliding, and sometimes it’s disruptive and people get worried.

Obama’s speech is a prime example of how globalization has been understood by policymakers in much of the Western world, as an opportunity for both economic improvement as well as international conflict and crime.

This understanding of globalization inherently espouses the idea that economic liberalization and market integration is beneficial for everyone, where a global level economic playing field exists for every nation to have the opportunity to work hard and rise up the ladder, progressing from ‘developing’ nations into ‘developed’ nations. It is, in short, the ‘American Dream’ on a global level.

This neoliberal discourse on globalization easily informs how crimes are contextualized. Crimes that are common to ‘developing’ nations are compared to crimes of the past within ‘developed’ nations―corruption, slavery, discrimination, and trafficking are all perceived as inhumane crimes that were of more ‘barbaric’ times and that do not fit within the progressive narrative of the twenty-first century.

This theory of globalization makes the role of ‘developed’ countries a straightforward one―a parental figure that can teach ‘developing’ nations the tools needed to become more successful, more stable, and safer states. But is this the only way to understand globalization? More importantly, is this the right way to understand our modern society and the problems that we have come to associate with it?

Wendy Laverick’s Global Injustice and Crime Control is written directly to provide the tools and information for us to answer this question. Directed at criminology students, the aims of this book is introduce the reader to ‘transnational and international crime and terrorism and to provide an overview of international, regional, and national efforts towards their control’ (p. 7) by discussing them as consequences of globalization, a slippery and overused concept. Laverick steers clear of championing one theory of globalization over another, and instead urges the reader to seriously consider and engage with the different theories of globalization she describes in her piece.

The book is divided into three main parts. The first contextualizes the book’s topic for the reader, defining what types of behaviors are included under the term ‘international crimes,’ what these crimes look like, and how they have developed over time. Utilizing two examples―slavery and piracy―Laverick highlights the association modern society has made ‘between weak states, international and transnational crimes and terrorism leading towards the development of an international security consensus’ (p. 23). This, in turn, helps provide a strong motivation to truly understand why criminal behaviors occur to create international strategies to prevent them.

The second part, then, is focused on providing the reader a crash course on world history, focusing specifically on how the concept of ‘crime’―what it is, how it’s managed, and when it’s perceived as problematic―changes over the course of history, from colonial periods through the great wars and into our tech-filled society today. Within this section, Laverick introduces two main theses on globalization: the ‘Standard View’ of globalization and the ‘World Systems Theory.’

The ‘Standard View’ of globalization, which was reflected in President Obama’s speech quoted above, is not without its skeptics. Contextualizing the increased exchange of goods, people, and capital within international history, these skeptics argue that globalization is, in fact, not a ‘new’ phenomenon and not one that is necessarily more ‘progressive’ or ‘better’ than in centuries past. More importantly, the thesis contends that the ladder of ‘developing’ to ‘developed’ countries is an artificial one, created and maintained by former colonial powers in the interest of maintaining their power and privilege. World Systems theorists reject ‘the notion of underdevelopment as an original evolutionary stage of development, arguing instead that it is a direct consequence of historical capitalism, based upon unequal exchanges and exploitative relations between core, semi-periphery and periphery countries,’ in a system that makes core wealthier nations even more wealthy and periphery poorer nations even poorer (p. 78).

In the final section of the book, Laverick brings these theories to life through three case studies: genocide, terrorism, and human trafficking. In each, she defines the crime, explains the current crime control methods, and then utilizes the World Systems Theory to help explain why these methods might not be working, and more importantly, what other factors should be considered when creating practical solutions to our world’s gravest problems.

Put simply, Laverick’s analyses of ongoing debates within globalization scholarship are thoughtful and eloquent, and deserve the attention of any budding criminologist. It examines theory from a range of disciplines and introduces students to the frequently neglected area of the world order and world politics. By pulling out themes of power and privilege throughout the entire piece, she weaves together a coherent narrative that exposes the faults of our current understanding of international crime. She requires us to view issues of border control with a more holistic view of crime in the global world. When we consider transnational crimes―like terrorism and human trafficking―we need to ask ourselves how those actions and behaviors came to be criminalized, and what it means to ‘alleviate the problem.’

If there were one place for improvement in this book, and in the field of critical criminology in general, it would be the active inclusion of non-western voices. Although this book puts in a considerable amount of effort to reflect on the existing power relations between strong and weaker nations, it fails to understand crime and globalization from the perspective of struggling nations, themselves. Without the perspectives of non-western criminologists, this book risks speaking on ‘global’ issues without the perspective of more than half of the globe, implicitly silencing and potentially misunderstanding how the rest of the world perceives modern crime as we know it.

Although this book is explicitly written for students it’s most crucial message is for all criminologists, young and old alike. It’s a call for more self-reflection among our academics to not only study the control of criminal behavior, but to also contextualize the discussion within the realities of social history, something that has been written about extensively but for some reason left on the outskirts of traditional criminology. The aim to think about state power and privilege should resonate with experts not only in the field of international crimes but also topics typically perceived as domestic (e.g., prison control, family adoption, race reconciliation, and crime rehabilitation). Until we start appreciating how much power, privilege, and political history influences criminal behavior, we will only be seeing an incomplete picture. And when it comes to policy making and protecting lives, an incomplete picture is simply not good enough.

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