In recent years, we have witnessed significant shifts in the conceptual and normative boundaries in the fields of criminology and criminal law. The research project aims at identifying the reasons and rationales of such shifts, recognising the risks posed by these shifts and generating new knowledge that could help find solutions to the identified risks and draw a path for further developments.
In the context of shifting boundaries within criminology, specific changes have blurred the difference between what types of violent and acquisitive activities are deemed criminal and what are deemed “normal” (legal). Moreover, boundaries between criminology and related fields have become more blurred, and the potentially most intriguing could be the emergent (over) reliance on neuroscience and genetics in explaining the potential criminality of an individual or his/her tendency to develop anti-social behaviour. At the more practical level, boundaries between criminal law and other legal disciplines have shifted, leading to, among other things, over-criminalization, an omnipresence of criminal law and technical surveillance, and the lowering of procedural standards. In the field of economic criminal law, the more repressive stance creates a pressure to shift procedural and substantive law rules. Additionally, shifting boundaries in the field of laws of armed conflict have materialised in the re-conceptualization of war and terrorism, the line between war and peace, and between terrorists and civilians. Finally, in the field of punishment we can observe processes of formalization and an inflation of incriminations and criminal sanctions redefining the concept of what, who, where, and how to punish.
The research project is divided into six thematic work packages (WPs), each covering one of the substantive shifts described above. Some of the specific objectives set in the work packages (and elaborated below) are as follows: 1) to provide an overview of shifting normative boundaries in post-modern society and examine reasons for the absence of normative limits where they are most needed, i.e. in the capitalist economy; 2) to analyse how progress in neuroscience and genetics alters the perception of boundaries between the social and biological perception of the crime; 3) to identify the common core of criminal law principles and apply these principles to national and transnational solutions that seem to breach these principles; 4) to analyse recent criminal law and policy responses in the area of economic crime and address the adverse consequences of some of the proposed remedies; 5) to examine the shifting of boundaries in the re-definitions of war and terrorism which paved the way to the militarization of the “war on terror” and, consequently, less transparency and oversight in the fight against terrorism; and 6) to provide insights into changes occurring in the field of punishment, changes that can be seen at the temporal, spatial, and personal level and in the qualitative dimension of punishment.
The individual WPs and the synthesis of findings will offer a comprehensive view of the above mentioned shifts. It is crucial that we understand the processes and rationales behind significant changes in the domains where human rights and liberties are most vulnerable, on the one hand from a purely scientific standpoint, but from a very practice-oriented standpoint as well. Our objective is, first, to identify and comprehend the changes and their dynamics to couple them with relevant theoretical concepts, develop new ones and broaden our understanding of the development of the field. Secondly, we plan to provide policy makers and the public at large recommendations on how to tackle the above-mentioned risks resulting from the shifting of boundaries.