Corporate Justice: Some Preliminary Thoughts*

Date01 June 1984
Published date01 June 1984
OF CRIMINOLOGY (June 1984) 17 (79-86) 79
Philip C Stenning* * and Clifford D Shearingt
Through the rapid modern growth of private security as a form of "internal"
policing, and the preference of many large organizations for handling problems
"internally" which might previously have been dealt with through the public
criminal justice system, both the content and quality of "justice" in Western
societies is being radically transformed. Corporate justice is beginning to supersede
state justice as the preferred means of resolving disputes, maintaining order and
effecting social control. Reflecting on 10 years of research into the growth of private
security and its implications in this regard, the authors illustrate how corporate
justice, while posing important problems for civil liberties, provides some
interesting and innovative approaches to solving problems which have long been
unsatisfactorily dealt with by the institutions of public criminal justice.
The twentieth-century thinker, Ivan Illich, has drawn attention to the modern
tendency of ideas and values to become appropriated by institutions. He argues that
this "institutionalisation of values" has led to a distortion and impoverishment both
of the values themselves and of the social world in which they operate. Thus,
"education" has been reduced to mean what goes on in schools, "health" as what
the medical profession dispenses etc. In this way, functions which are vital for
individual and social survival and development have been removed from the grasp
of ordinary people, and have become the property of professionals and "experts",
establishing a self-perpetuating and dangerously destructive dependency.
As criminologists, we can not only recognize that the value of "justice" has
similarly been appropriated in this way but, if we are honest, we can also recognize
our own part in contributing to and legitimating this theft. In the discourse both of
law and criminology, "justice" is a term which has all too commonly come to be
identified with what the police, the courts, the correctional authorities etc do. Thus
we refer to this collection of State institutions as the "criminal justice system" , even
while we rail against the injustices which it perpetrates.
Used in this sense, the term "justice" has come to refer not to whether things are
just or unjust, but simply to the activities and processes of these State institutions
in dealing with the "troubles" which come to their attention. It is in this sense -
the institutionalized sense - that we use the term "justice" in this paper, in
speaking of "corporate justice". By "corporate justice" , then, we mean no more nor
less than the things corporate bodies do in responding to "troubles" which come to
their attention. It will be evident, that in referring to such activities and processes
as "corporate justice" we are not to be taken as implying that they are (or are not)
just in any abstract sense.
*This is an edited version of a paper presented at the 53rd ANZAAS Congress, in
Australia, on 18 May 1983. The paper represents some general reflections
which the authors have undertaken during the last 10 years on the growth and sIgnificance of
security in North America. . ,
** Sj D, Senior Research Associate, Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, Canada.
Currently, Honorary Visiting Fellow, Law School, University of Western
tPh D, Assistant Professor, Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, Caaada.

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