Austerity, Harm and Victimisation

Cooper, V. (2016). Austerity, Harm and Victimisation. In: Corteen, Karen; Morley, Sharon; Taylor, Paul and Turner, Joanne eds. A companion to crime, harm and victimisation. Companions in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Croydon, UK: Policy Press, pp. 11–14.


In the United Kingdom (UK), austerity is the main policy response to the financial crisis that began to unfold in 2007/8 and describes the expansion of a neo-liberal economic policy that positions the poor as the main ‘debt burden’. It is important to situate discussions of austerity within studies of criminology and victimology because measures of fiscal discipline implemented in the post-crash period has resulted in significant financial, physical and psychological harms experienced by those most affected by it. Within criminology, it is useful to think about the harms of austerity within the context of the ‘social harm approach’ (Hillyard and Tombs, 2007). As opposed to simply focus on those harms defined under criminal law, the social harm approach moves beyond those conventional understandings of crime and victimisation and focuses on political programmes that create social problems and produce harmful outcomes such as ‘inadequate housing and unemployment’. The social harm approach, then, is suitably apt for thinking about austerity as a harmful policy response to the financial crisis, as it encourages us to engage with the economic, physical and psychological fall-out caused by the chain of austerity measures.

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