British Sociological Association Annual Conference 2010

  • Lynne Copson (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


'Deadly Inequalities and the Limitations of Justice' Abstract: Drawing on the emerging zemiological or ‘social harm’ perspective to interrogate the existing approaches to harm embodied in conventional criminal justice apparatus, this paper discusses the limits of this system for addressing harm and its subsequent capacity to realise ‘justice’. Through focussing on the outcomes or experience of harm rather than its mode of causation, zemiology emphasises the location of harms within broader social structures and practices in contrast to the individualised and abstracted conceptions of harm permeating conventional legal approaches. Reflecting this perspective, this paper takes the archetypal criminal harm of murder as a starting point and draws primarily on the work of Dorling (20004; 2008) to demonstrate the way in which this harm is best understood as a socially mediated phenomenon, reflective of contemporary patterns of inequality rather than an abstract and individualised occurrence. Moreover, by drawing on Wilkinson’s (1994; 1996; 2000; 2009) work on health inequalities, the paper highlights a similar mediation of mortality more generally through contemporary structures of socioeconomic inequality. Conceived thus, as merely one (generally very rare) cause of mortality, questions arise as to the adequacy of the conventional justice system for addressing harm. Consequently, it is argued, as a result of its emphasis upon the outcome rather than cause of harm, the zemiological perspective implies an alternative conception of justice based on addressing structural inequalities, thereby challenging the primacy of individual culpability embodied in the conventional legal system for the realisation of justice.
PeriodApr 2010
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United Kingdom