Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 48, Issue 1–2, pp 27–41 | Cite as

Social harm future(s): exploring the potential of the social harm approach

  • Simon Pemberton


The notion of social harm has sporadically interested critical criminologists as an alternative to the concept of crime. In particular, it has been viewed as a means to widen the rather narrow approach to harm that criminology offers. More recently, the publication of Beyond Criminology: Taking Harm Seriously has renewed interest in the notion of social harm. The book asserted a number of very valid reasons for a social harm approach that provoked a number of interesting critical responses. The article seeks to respond to five recurring questions: Should the social harm perspective move beyond criminology? If so, where should the perspective locate itself? From this position, how will the perspective continue to engage within ‘law and order’ debates and address the concerns of those affected by crime? If the notion of crime is problematic, how will the perspective form an alternative definition of harm? Moreover, without a notion of crime and the accompanying concept of criminal intent, how would the perspective allocate responsibility for harm? The article is not offering definitive answers to these questions, but possible directions for the perspective’s future development.


Welfare State Criminal Justice System Hate Crime Crime Control Critical Scholar 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School for Policy StudiesUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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