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Nicholas Lord, Yongyu Zeng, and Aleksandra Jordanoska

Historically, white-collar crime scholarship, including and since the seminal work of Sutherland, has tended to concentrate empirical, conceptual, and theoretical focus on manifestations of associated crimes and deviance, their dynamics and generative conditions, within individual nation-states. While white-collar crime scholarship itself has expanded across the globe, this predilection for analyses of local and/or national-level cases and the nature, extent, and scope of these white-collar crimes has largely remained. Notwithstanding, it is not entirely uncommon for white-collar crime scholars to make reference to the international, multinational, transnational, or global aspects of the crimes they study, even if these are predominantly national in nature, but the corresponding features and components of these “beyond-national” dynamics have not been comprehensively unpacked or conceptualized. Similarly, conceptualizing and interrogating the dynamics of white-collar crimes that go beyond national boundaries as part of their organization and nature, while recognized as significant, is often not a core analytical concern. Understanding the varying characteristics and features, as well as the differing configurations, interrelations, and organizational dynamics of those white-collar crimes that in some way transcend jurisdictional boundaries, is significant for white-collar crime theory and research. Examining these issues in further detail and thinking through the implications of the beyond-national aspects of white-collar crimes is a useful framework for interrogating white-collar crimes and understanding the necessary and conditional relationships of the white-collar crime commission process that overlay onto common patterns of routine business activities. There are notable examples from the academic literature but also from real cases of white-collar crime that demonstrate how white-collar and corporate offenders have organized their criminal activities across jurisdictional boundaries, how they have externalized the risks associated with their crimes, how they have exported their crimes to take place in other jurisdictions, and/or how they have utilized cross-jurisdictional structures and systems, including digital spaces and infrastructures, to facilitate their criminal activities and associated concealment, conversion, and control of illicit finances. Such analyses have often been accompanied by reference to purported processes of globalization as a generator of new and increased opportunities for white-collar crimes (though little is known about why some opportunities are realized but not others). Globalization, despite itself being a contested concept, has emerged as a significant factor for analyses of white-collar and corporate crimes that extend beyond individual nation-states as greater interconnectedness, increased mobilities, and increased interdependencies are seen. These purported processes of globalization have been identified as possessing varying intensity and speed that have influenced opportunities for, and the organization of, white-collar crimes. That said, globalization per se does not inevitably generate more white-collar crimes organized beyond the nation-state if they can be productive without having to do so. In these terms, globalization of white-collar crimes is not automatic, but is one explanatory factor that contributes to how some white-collar crimes have beyond-state aspects, usually alongside the expansion of routine business activities. Nevertheless, there is a need to explore the spatial (including digital) contexts of white-collar crimes that have beyond-national scope with a view to questioning how useful it is, or can be, to understand how different white-collar crimes pertain to, are associated with, or are restricted to particular “territories” at the domestic (i.e., nation-state), international, transnational, multinational, supranational, and global levels and how this has implications for research, policy, and practice.


In a broad sense, international criminology can be described as the set of activities related to crime prevention and control, coming from the academia, public and private institutions and agencies, to join efforts to debate and publish and make policies, addressed to a global audience beyond a single country. This process of internationalization of criminology, started since its beginnings as a science, at the end of the 19th century through important congresses and meetings developed in Europe, where public officials and academics met. In the 21st century we can talk of a global or globalized criminology around the world, expressed also via websites on the Internet. Together with international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of war and, to a lesser extent, aggression as crime against peace), transnational crimes (corruption, financial crime, terrorism, organized crime, and its different modalities of illegal trafficking, cyber-attacks, and crimes against the environment), as well as crimes of abuse of (political and economic) power (enforced disappearances, summary executions, torture) are the subject matter of international criminology. However, the concept of international criminology is elastic and welcomes any international approach to other topics, traditionally thought domestically; in any case from the international perspective the social-political dimension of criminality appears as a much more relevant issue than the criminal’s personality (and treatment) and protection of victims and the community become the focus of interest. Within the internationalization of criminology there are at least two trends that deserve further analysis. The first one is how to balance the cultural differences among all the countries and the myriad of interests involved in the construction of an international criminology. Some criticism is heard in the sense that international criminology is influenced by American or Anglo-Saxon views. From this perspective it is observed a risk of producing academic, legal, and policy criminological transplants without considering the cultural and socioeconomic context of every country and the voices of their inhabitants. The second trend refers to the role of international criminology in relation with the increasingly diffuse borders between police, intelligence agencies, and military forces; crime control and war; or internal and external security. Even though international crimes have always been a core topic, war and political and economic abuse of power across borders have been quite forgotten in the agendas of both national and international criminology. Today there are different forms of cooperation among countries in conflict situations, (e.g., terrorism, border controls, and the so-called refugee crisis) where the military, intelligence agencies, police forces, and private corporations of different countries work together, providing international criminology new topics for critical reflection and action.