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The Democratic Republic of Capitalism

The ultimate expression of power is the ability to act beyond the confines of law, with contemporary society enabling elite groups to wield “panoramic power”. From the murderous crimes of the corporate giants that provide us with life’s luxuries and necessities to the data gathering activities of media and educational institutions, the authors offer new thinking on damaging structures of power and privilege.

This accessible book provides a comprehensive understanding of elite corporate wrongdoing, and the late capitalist society that enables harm, considering both how we got into this mess and how we get out of it.

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The ultimate expression of power is the ability to act beyond the confines of the law, with contemporary society enabling elite groups to wield ‘panoramic power’. This book charts how a select few have captured such power and how, along the way, they have eroded the very principles and processes of democracy. Within this democratic republic of capitalism, crimes, including the murderous actions of the corporate giants that provide us with life’s luxuries and necessities, financial crimes that span the globe, the harmful practices of weapon manufacturing, and the data-gathering activities of both media and educational institutions, will each be brought to attention. In doing so, the authors offer new thinking on damaging structures of power and privilege.

This text proposes a thought-provoking and demanding exploration. It contends that for critical criminology to effectively illuminate the pressing issues we confront, there needs to be a comprehensive examination of the lives of our most vulnerable and marginalised citizens in contrast to the most influential. To achieve this objective, the text will leverage a diverse range of examples, cases and controversies pertinent to scholars in criminal and social justice. It argues that a genuinely enlightened comprehension of powerful crimes requires an examination at the meso, micro and macro levels, encompassing a thorough understanding of the socio-economic, political and cultural contexts in which crimes unfold.

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In the contemporary socio-economic landscape, the influence of corporations has burgeoned into a formidable force, reshaping the dynamics of power and governance. This chapter delves into the multifaceted dimensions of the growing influence of corporations, dissecting its impact on politics, society and the global economy. The exploration begins with an analysis of the historical trajectory that has led to the ascendancy of corporations, tracing their evolution from mere economic entities to powerful stakeholders with the ability to sway political decisions and societal norms. By examining key case studies and pivotal moments in corporate history, this chapter seeks to unravel the intricate interplay between governmental policies and corporate strategies that have propelled these entities into positions of unprecedented authority. Furthermore, the chapter explores the symbiotic relationship between corporations and political entities, shedding light on the mechanisms through which corporations leverage their economic clout to influence legislative agendas and regulatory frameworks. It investigates the implications of this synergy on democracy, probing the boundaries between corporate interests and public welfare.

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This chapter investigates the intricate web of illicit activities that span international borders, exploiting the complexities of the global financial system. Beginning with an exploration of the historical evolution of financial crime, the chapter delineates the changing nature of illicit financial activities and the adaptation of criminal enterprises to advancements in technology and globalisation. It investigates the emergence of sophisticated networks that transcend geographical boundaries, posing unprecedented challenges to regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies. It also scrutinises the response of the global community in combating financial crime. It evaluates the effectiveness of international collaborations, regulatory frameworks and technological solutions in preventing, detecting and prosecuting those engaged in illicit financial activities. The examination also encompasses the role of financial institutions, regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies in fostering a united front against global financial crime.

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In this chapter, we turn our critical gaze to our own industry: higher education. It looks at the rampant marketisation and what it means for the generations of students who are ‘buying’ their futures. From the hike in student fees in the UK and the predatory student loan system on both sides of the Atlantic to the new academic entrepreneurs eager to capitalise on this growing industry. Central to this discussion is the realisation that with all lucrative and contemptible industries, the conditions are created that nurture corruption, and much can be exploited; the corrupt university senior executives and those running Ponzi schemes are just a few of the examples that are focused on. An investigation of the repercussions faced by academics who refuse to bend their knee to university executives whose main concern is market forces and a critical discussion surrounding academic freedom and integrity frames this important chapter.

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This chapter confronts the sobering reality of human costs associated with corporate activities, focusing on a number of diverse industries. It meticulously investigates the intricate web of global supply chains, exploring the often-hidden consequences that result in loss of life and human suffering. The initial section delves into why we often fail to recognise the harms that pervade the contemporary landscape and the all too common mistake of thinking that such incidents are due to a few ‘rotten apples’. The chapter then explores why such issues are more systemic than previously realised, with a deep-dive into the expansive and intricate world of iPhone production, fast fashion, fast food, sugary drinks and e-commerce, unravelling the human toll embedded in the manufacturing and labour processes. From the extraction of rare minerals to assembly line operations, the chapter meticulously examines the impact on workers, revealing instances of hazardous working conditions, exploitation and, tragically, deaths. Through in-depth case studies and investigative reports, the chapter aims to shed light on the complexities of corporate responsibility in a technologically driven era.

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In this chapter, we delve into the intricate realms of power, unravelling its philosophical underpinnings and multifaceted nature. Our exploration begins by questioning the very essence of power, probing its origins and manifestations across diverse landscapes. The chapter embarks on a journey through the annals of philosophical thought, drawing insights from classical philosophers to contemporary thinkers. From Hobbes’ notion of the ‘leviathan’ to Foucault’s examination of power structures, we navigate the rich tapestry of ideas that have shaped our understanding of power throughout history. As we traverse through various philosophical lenses, the chapter invites readers to reflect on their own relationship with power. Interweaving real-world examples and case studies, we bridge theory with practice, encouraging a nuanced understanding of power dynamics in contemporary society.

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This chapter investigates the intricate and multifaceted dynamics of the global arms industry, exploring its far-reaching impact on geopolitics, security and international relations. From historical antecedents to contemporary complexities, the chapter offers a comprehensive analysis of the key players, regulatory frameworks and ethical considerations surrounding the production and trade of arms on a global scale. Central to the discussion is an examination of the major actors in the global arms market, encompassing both state-owned and private enterprises. The chapter analyses the economic, political and technological factors that drive the arms trade, shedding light on the motivations and strategies employed by countries and corporations to assert dominance in this competitive and strategic arena. A critical component of the chapter is the exploration of international arms regulations and the challenges associated with their enforcement. It assesses the effectiveness of existing frameworks, such as arms control treaties and export controls, in mitigating the risks of arms proliferation while also considering the loopholes and controversies that persist in the global arms trade.

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In this chapter, we look at the ‘drug’ of nations: the media. We compare and contrast the in-your-face media practices of some of the authoritarian East, to the insidious practices of some of the Western media tycoons that often go unnoticed. From China’s social credit system to the BBC’s editorial guidelines, we highlight the coercive control that the media has over its global ‘customer’ base. Not only does it draw attention to the malpractices of the traditional global news media, but we also focus on the new media and provide a critical insight into the normalisation of being watched and how this normalisation has changed society’s notions of the Orwellian gaze of the omnipresent ‘Big Brother’ from a chilling prophecy to a much-coveted prosumer lifestyle.

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In this chapter, we navigate the tumultuous terrain of harm, violence and dangerous subjectivities, peeling back layers to reveal the intricate interplay between these dimensions. Our exploration transcends conventional boundaries, delving into the physical, structural and cultural aspects that contribute to the genesis and perpetuation of violence and subsequent harm. The chapter begins by dissecting the multifaceted nature of harm, examining its manifestations on both individual and collective levels. From subtle manifestations of harm to overt physical violence, we traverse the spectrum, unravelling the threads that bind these phenomena to the human experience. Venturing further, the discourse extends to the concept of dangerous subjectivities – exploring how individual perspectives, ideologies and identities can become perilous in fostering a culture conducive to harm and violence. Drawing from the contemporary ultra-realist perspective, we dissect the intricate web of factors that shape dangerous subjectivities.

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