Why this project?

Contemporary scholarly research habitually maintains that, with regards to democracy, there has been a considerable – and increasing – decline in all aspects of democratic governance, including civil liberties, media freedom, political accountability and transparency, during the past decade (see Figure 1); and a concurrent decline in popular support for democracy, stemming from disappointment with the political class (see Figure 2), which – in turn – has led to a decline in popular participation in democratic politics (European Economic and Social Council, 2013; Diamond, 2016). The decline in citizen participation in democratic processes further implies that today, political actors have more leverage to do as they choose, since the vigilante of democracy – the citizenry itself – is becoming more apathetic and reluctant to fight for the public interest Arblaster, 2002; Lenard, 2008; 2012; 2015; Norris, 1999).

Figure 1: Advancements and setbacks (adapted from Freedom House, 2018)
Figure 2: Citizen satisfaction with democracy in the European Union (adapted from Gesis, 2017)

Consequently, with regards to state crimes, and State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs), both the (lack of) academic literature, as well as democracy-oriented International Non-Governmental Organisations’ (INGOs) expertise which has been recently explored by myself in another study (see Uibariu, 2017) suggest a two-way setting as follows. Definitional issues tend to be twofold, and describe a situation where either:

  1. identical concepts are defined in different ways, in different disciplines, or within the same discipline, by different scholars (Doig, 2011);
  2. or definitions are identical, yet used to define terms that although share the same meanings, are coined differently in various disciplines – for example, public administration’s economic-SCADs (or E-SCADs) (Siemons, Johannesson and Siemons, 2013) and the concept of ‘state-corporate crime’ in criminology (see, for example Monaghan and Prideaux, 2016).

In turn, it appears that one of the main obstacles in effectively influencing public policy based on knowledge stemming from the academia with regards to SCADs is posed by the very way in which the concept has been researched (Witt, 2010; Witt and Kouzmin, 2010). The lack of critical pragmatist thought, along with the purely descriptive conceptualisation of SCADs mean that the term cannot be effectively conceptualised beyond a vague and inherently empirical public administration theory, and thus fails impact beyond the ivory tower of the academia and higher education. Further, it is crucial that one does not only consider the conceptualisation of SCADs, but also ways in which detrimental political action impacts on citizens’ willingness and capacity to further engage in democratic processes. The study’s primary objective is, thus, to create a theoretical model of SCADs, which is fully grounded in a shared understanding of such phenomena by scholars, civil society representatives, and individual political actors, for the purposes of encouraging effective political action post victimisation.