Unmasking the Crimes of the Powerful:
Scrutinising States and Corporations

Edited by Steve Tombs and Dave Whyte (Peter Lang, £23.77)

Reviewed by James Cookson

A diverse but nevertheless tight-knit collection of articles grouped under the heading of state and corporate crime. This is a tricky subject, since it is states that positively ‘make’ the laws and prosecute the ‘criminals’, following their dedication to economic growth and profit-making.

Therefore, a problem is created regarding power and its relation to knowledge. Tombs and Whyte show that political economy is probably the best tool in such a trade-off. In particular, they advocate a Marxist approach as most effective, in the tradition of Antonio Gramsci.

Contributors provide excellent work on outrageous - but apparently prevalent - instances of corporate and/or state behaviours across a wide variety of areas: prisoner abuse, censorship in policy research and support for repressive regimes, to name just a few. Roy Coleman’s CCTV Surveillance, Power, and Social Order examines the extensive dumping of Big Brother technology on Liverpool.

Although sometimes technical, this book is still readable and has something to offer lay readers and activists as well as researchers. For those willing to tough it out there is a firm grounding and a solid case for the value of research in exposing what in human (if not legal) terms is criminal behaviour by the governing classes.