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Book reviews

References and Links to Papers


Criminology:  A  Contemporary  Introduction  2nd  edition,  by  Tony  Murphy,

During  the  same  weeks  i  devoted  myself  to  reading  Tony  Murphy’s  Criminology:  A  Contemporary  Introduction,  i  was  analyzing  data  from  CRiMLA,  the  largest  criminology  project  ever  conducted  in  Latin  America  in  which  we  repeatedly  interviewed  420  persons  imprisoned  on  the  continent  (Goyes  &  Sandberg,  2024).  Parallel  to  reading  Murphy’s  text-book,  i  studied  the  track  records  of  our  participants’  families  of  origin.  one  thing  caught  that  my  attention:  while  39%  had  guardians  (mainly  parents  or  grandparents)  who  had  alcohol  use  disorders,  only  10%  had  guardians  with  a  drug  use  disorder.  Furthermore,  most  of  the  39%  with  a  track  record  of  alcoholism  in  their  families  experienced  violence  related  to  the  substance.  in  contrast,  only  a  small  fragment  of  those  with  a  track  record  of  drug  addiction  at  home  had  had  negative  experiences  due  to  it.  The  imbalance  in  the  data  contrasted  with  society’s  condemnation  of  drugs  and  widespread  acceptance  of  alcohol.  Then,  i  took  up  Murphy’s  book  and  found  the  following  paragraph  on  page  140:


The  issue  of  cannabis  consumption  is  all  the  time  more  interesting  when  considering  the  work  of  weissenborn  and  Nutt  (2012).  They  have  demonstrated  that  the  consequences  and,  indeed,  harms  associated  with  the  use  of  common  intoxicant  drugs,  such  as  alcohol  and  cannabis,  have  generally  not  been  properly  reflected  in  the  policy  decisions  in  recent  decades  in  the  Uk.  Alcohol,  for  example,  which  was  described  by  weissenborn  and  Nutt  as  being  more  than  twice  as  harmful  as  cannabis  to  users,  and  five  times  more  harmful  to  other  people,  has  not  received  the  regulatory  responses  (including  criminal  justice  sanctions)  that  cannabis  has  in  the  Uk.


There  it  was:  a  piece  of  information  that  helped  me  make  sense  of  my  findings  in  an  introductory  book.  Scholars  often  see  textbooks  as  simplified,  basic  knowledge  meant  to  give  neophytes  an  idea  of  what  criminology  is  about.  Yet,  after  reading  Murphy’s  entire  text,  i  can  attest  that  it  does  more  than  expected.  it  combines  a  friendly  entry  to  the  discipline,  with  deep  documentation  of  many  specialized  topics,  and  a  clear  pedagogical  philosophy.


Book review: Grant Pink and Rob White (eds), Environmental Crime and Collaborative State Intervention

Although green criminology emerged in the 1990s, commentators still refer to it as a ‘new subgenre within criminology’. Perhaps this is because green criminology continues to open original lines of research, as evidenced by Environmental Crime and Collaborative State Intervention, edited by Grant Pink and Rob White. The strengths of this innovative collection are its interdisciplinarity and the first-hand information and perspectives of contributing practitioners.

The volume establishes its importance from the very start: given that the creators of environmental risks implement strategies that are increasingly more sophisticated, more violent and more spatially fluid, explains Malcolm K Sparrow in the Foreword, environmental regulatory agencies need to establish collaborative networks that bring the requisite high-level responses. With this goal in mind, Pink and White define collaboration simply as ‘working together for a shared purpose’ (p. 6). As such, collaboration can include cooperating, coordinating, networking and still other ways of enhancing the capacity for mutual benefit.


Living Well at Others’ Expense: The Hidden Costs of Western Prosperity by Stephan Lessenich.

Living well at others’ expense is the modus operandi of modern capitalist societies. As this book’s title foretells, the author offers a view of the current world order in which the global north controls economic and political systems and receives the benefits of development, whilst the global south pays the price.

Stephan Lessenich explains how the daily dynamics of northern and southern countries are inseparably linked. Northern states and citizens satisfy their thirst for resources and commodities by impinging on the environmental and social boundaries of their southern counterparts, a process Lessenich calls “externalization”, “exploiting the resources of others, passing on costs to them, appropriating the profits, and promoting self-interest while obstructing or even preventing the progress of others”. Meanwhile, southern countries, prey to the rules imposed by the north, intensively exploit their own natural and human resources to try to keep up with the pace of demand.

Using ordinary language and clear examples, Living Well at Others’ Expense unveils the social dynamics of the global village as a “zero-sum game”. The high living standards of some are only sustainable through the suffering and degradation of most others – including non-human others.

Admittedly, many intellectuals have for decades been describing such an uneven and unfair distribution of wealth in the contemporary world. Even in the 1950s, the idea of the resource curse was popular among economists to indicate that countries rich in biodiversity are ‘cursed’ to experience war, poverty and exploitation; and since the 1980s, grassroots movements throughout the world have denounced the injustice by which the powerful enjoy ‘environmental goods’ while the marginalised cope with ‘environmental bads’.

Nevertheless, aside from exploring the northern exploitation of the south, Lessenich covers a topic that intellectuals have discussed much less: the societal denial of the unfair global allocation of opportunity. The American Dream and its associated idea of meritocracy currently dominate the universal collective consciousness, making us believe, first, that ‘successful’ individuals owe their privileges to hard work; and second, that anyone who works hard enough can achieve those privileges. However, as Lessenich shows, privilege is mostly inherited, either directly within a family or structurally within a nation, and hard work may not even come into the equation.

More than a decade ago Colombian writer Héctor Abad Faciolince stated: “Without nutrition, it is not even true that we all are born equal, because [malnourished] children come to the world already with a disadvantage.” Lessenich’s book is a timely reminder of such injustice. It is also a clear description of contemporary society, in which some have privileges and live well because others lack opportunities and resources. Living Well at Others’ Expense exposes the vacuous idea that we all can succeed if we work hard at it.

I have worked for over a decade with rural communities in the global south, so Lessenich’s insights are unsurprising to me. Yet, despite such close contact with injustice, I tend to forget that my own pleasures often come at the cost of suffering – of people and Nature. Therefore, this book is an extraordinary nudge that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

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