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"When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another, such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call this deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death man sees the murdered, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than commission. But murder it remains"

Friedrich Engels

Like the environment, social harm provides a concerted focus of attention for (In)Injustice International. Notions of widespread social harm, injury or death may relate to enduring adverse effects to health or career advancement and involve individuals or groups. It can include ideological discrimination against social groupings and allow definitions of crime to tackle needs-based social harms inflicted by the powerful on the less powerful. Primarily, social harm goes beyond conventional/marginal definitions of destructive, abusive and criminal actions/behaviours purveyed in the dominant legal, political, academic and socio-economic agendas. Social harm thus encompasses injustice by commission or omission to overcome and expose environmental destruction, cover-ups, corruption, disinformation, lack of accountability and violations of domestic and/or international laws by Nation States, organisations, elites and politicians alike (Ross 2003).


Of particular importance, is the fact that social harm has longitudinal, demographic, geographic, environmental and economic consequences. They are longitudinal in that the effects are traced over time and do not remain static in one particular juncture in time (i.e. water pollution and the effects of lead poisoning in the city of Flint, USA). Demographic in the respect that the harms inflicted can cause familial and communal devastation over time (such as the closure of coal mines in the UK), whereas geographic implications can become manifest in areas or countries devastated by war, mass migration and the subsequent mistreatment of refugees elsewhere (Syrian civil war and the Greek ‘pushbacks’ and detention of refugees). Environmental effects, however, arise from excessive mining, incessant manufacturing in the pursuit of profit, extreme forestry clearances for farming and the pollution of seas and waterways to name but a few. All of which have resulted in intense climatic changes that have impacted upon everyone in the world yet no-one has seriously been held to account.


Put more broadly, social harm widens the scope of investigation by including human rights violations such as the denial of food, shelter, self-determination and so forth. Social harm theory also includes ‘all behaviours for which no legal definition of criminality …[or injustice] exists, nor any analogous definition of crime …[or injustice] exists’ (Matthews and Kauzlarich 2007: 51). Indeed, this more holistic approach allows and requires a sharper focus on political responsibility (Hillyard and Tombs 2007). And, when moving away from a State’s restrictive legal framework and its ability to legitimate its own actions, international and domestic laws (of other States) and human rights standards can be used to define specific activities as unjust, destructive and criminal.


Finally, a social harm perspective takes responsibility away from an individual Nation State in terms of who decides what is harm and not ‘just’ as opposed to a crime liable to prosecution. By doing so, it looks at injustice from the perspective of those who are harmed and those individuals/groups who have experienced economic, cultural or physical and psychological harm/pain, social exclusion or exploitation because of tacit or explicit actions and policies (Kauzlarich et al. 2001). In short, it is an approach that provides a people-focused perspective and offers a balance for those who see domestic legislation as being constructed by the ruling elites. Ultimately, social harm provides a fundamental lens through which the aims and objectives of (In)Justice International can be achieved. For relevant videos click here.

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