CR6026 - Social Harm

What will I learn on this module?

Since the late 1990s, the study of legal-but-harmful social, cultural, environmental, and political-economic practices has exploded. Some of the most significant problems facing contemporary society not only lie beyond the present scope of legal prohibition but are thoroughly normalized and integral to the functioning of liberal-capitalist political economy. Our current period in history is one beset by a range of interconnected and overlapping crises. Climate change; crises in housing, employment, and homelessness; resource wars; a libertarian financial elite generating widening gaps of inequality both globally and domestically; global pandemics; and a socially corrosive consumer culture generating harsh interpersonal competition, indebtedness and significant mental health issues. These issues are, for the most part, not criminal or caused by criminal behaviour. They are normalised social harms that are, in various ways, embedded within and caused by our current political-economic, cultural, and ecological way of life. Consequently, social harm is one of the most potentially potent and transformative concepts currently available to the social sciences.

The first part of the module will equip students with a detailed understanding of the criminological and philosophical underpinnings of the concept of social harm, how it can be deployed, and how it is rapidly expanding the boundaries of criminology as a discipline. The second part of the module will then focus on various specific areas of social harm, attempting to understand what is causing them, and considering on what grounds we can legitimately call these things harmful. Harms such as climate change; housing crises; unemployment and precarious hyper-exploitative employment; food poverty; indebtedness; mass depression and anxiety; and a self-destructive and socially corrosive consumer culture. In the third part of the module, we will consider what political, economic, and cultural changes are required to address these issues, and what tools are already available to us. Overall, the module endeavours to equip students with a better understand of the world they live in and some of the frustrations and harms that blight our collective lives.

How will I learn on this module?

Weekly workshops will incorporate a variety of learning techniques including lectures, seminar discussions, student and guest presentations. Alongside lectures used to convey core theoretical and substantive material, workshops will include student-led discussion as well as numerous research-tutored and based activities. Workshops will be used to discuss, debate, and reinforce knowledge and concepts and to explore additional case study material. Supporting resources will be indicated or made available via the eLearning Portal.

Under the guidance of the lecturers, you will be expected to prepare for and contribute to weekly workshops, identifying appropriate areas for group work and engaging in focused, detailed in-depth discussion on contemporary social harm issues. Lecturers will encourage you to identify appropriate subject areas for research, to devise manageable and well-focused written work, and to plan a schedule of work to function successfully as an independent learner.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Staff members will be available to support you via email, in workshops, and during scheduled office hours. A comprehensive blackboard site will also be constructed to support student learning. There is substantial support from library based resources, in addition to peer-support from your fellow students during workshops and outside of class.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

The ability to describe and contextualise the emergence of the concept of social harm in criminology, and evaluate, synthesise and critically appraise different approaches and conceptualisations of social harm.
2. Display a knowledge and understanding of some of the most significant contemporary forms of social harm—both globally and domestically—and provide a theoretically sophisticated and well-informed account of their underpinning causes and causative processes

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Students will learn to evaluate key texts, and place these texts in an appropriate intellectual context.
4. Students will learn how to appraise abstract intellectual claims, as they relate to the field of social harm.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

5. To demonstrate intellectual curiosity, flexibility and openness of ideas when analysing a specific topic.

How will I be assessed?

There will be one summative assessment for this module:

One 4000-word essay that responds to one of several essay prompts on contemporary social harm issues. This essay will address all of the MLOs outlined in this specification. Students will be required to submit their essays via e-submission on Blackboard, and feedback will be provided via Blackboard within 20 working days. The workshops will support the summative assessment for this module, in which students will become well-versed in learning all relevant material for this essay and executing its various components. This will allow for guided support and formative feedback on their knowledge and understanding throughout the module. This longer essay format will also prepare students for writing longer pieces of work in anticipation of their dissertations.





Module abstract


Course info

UCAS Code C8M9

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with optional study abroad year

Department Psychology

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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