Beyond State-Fetishism: Developing a Theoretical Programme for State Crime Studies

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In ways that were perhaps unimaginable even a decade ago, state crime studies has the opportunity to become a rich intellectual resource for diverse struggles of resistance opposed to the crimes of the powerful. However, this role is by no means assured. One barrier that must be overcome is a disciplinary tendency to fetishise those organisational forms – principally states and corporations – through which capitalist relations of production function. This paper will examine the epistemological roots of organisational fetishism, and the consequential effects this analytical tendency has on understandings of state crime. We will then consider how the method, and conceptual framework, which Marx developed to inquire into the sinuous core of the capitalist mode of production can be used to move beyond fetishised understandings of the state. To demonstrate the complexity of the theoretical task before us, I will draw upon the example of Papua New Guinea, a country that has witnessed a range of gross human rights violations associated with the Bougainville war, and which departs in many ways from archetypal models of capitalism. Nevertheless, it will be maintained that Marxism remains a vital framework for enriched understandings of state crime in Papua New Guinea, that move beyond fetishised accounts of elite offending.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-137
JournalCrítica Penal y Poder
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Sept 2013


  • State Crime
  • Crimes of the Powerful
  • Marxism
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Bougainville


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