Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 211–226 | Cite as

What is crime? A search for an answer encompassing civilisational legitimacy and social harm

  • Aleš Bučar RučmanEmail author


Mainstream sociology and criminology uncritically accept the legal definition of crime. This paper rejects this academic ideologically-laden approach in favour of the current power relations by critically analysing and evaluating consensus, conflict and interactionist views as well as integrated definitions of crime. Later on, an alternative definition of crime is presented. This builds on the inclusion of civilisational legitimacy and social harm. Civilisational legitimacy stems from general justice and fairness. Harm is a necessary component of crime and is always linked with the abuse of power. The new definition of crime encompasses harmful acts and processes that penal codes do not recognise as crime while excluding legitimate yet illegal actions.


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Criminal Justice and SecurityUniversity of MariborLjubljanaSlovenia

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