Genesis of Crime and Victim in a Commodity-exchange Society: Theoretical and Empirical Underpinnings of the Rise in Cyber Crimes in India

Published date01 April 2023
AuthorPrakhar Ganguly
Date01 April 2023
Subject MatterOriginal Articles
Genesis of Crime and
Victim in a Commodity-
exchange Society:
Theoretical and
Empirical Underpinnings
of the Rise in Cyber
Crimes in India
Prakhar Ganguly1
How is criminality, as a social relation, defined and redefined? Scholars have often
explained the same through change in material realities in the political economy.
This article attempts to answer the same by premising on Pashukanis’ theory of
commodity exchange. He claimed that the definition and progression of criminal
liability as a social category resulted from how commodity was exchanged in
any particular epoch. It was in the bourgeois epoch that this liability was wid-
ened, and this could be possible only after the universalization of the rights-
based category—the legal subject. Is this theorization visible, in its materiality,
in Sutherland’s comprehension of the white-collar criminal? In the twentieth
century, Sutherland, in his work titled ‘White-Collar Crimes’, observed that a
novel kind of crime was being committed because of the creation of the middle
class in the United States of America. Its victims were the consumers. Is a simi-
lar phenomenon visible in twenty-first-century India? What does the universal
access to data and greater commission of cybercrimes suggest? This article aims
to tie a thread between these three scholars by asking a question—does criminal
liability, as a social category and the creation of novel victims, get defined by how
the commodity is exchanged in a particular epoch? In other words, this article
suggests that the rise of cybercrimes in India should be looked at through the
lens of Pashukanis’ commodity-exchange theory.
Commodity-exchange society, white-collar criminal, digital legal subject, cyber
victim, cybercrimes
Original Article
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
6(1) 90–107, 2023
2023 National Law
University Delhi
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/25166069231154299
1 NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
Corresponding author:
Prakhar Ganguly, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, Telangana 500101, India.
Ganguly 91
To comprehend what the rule of law is and what is illegal, we need to determine how
an organized society shall operate through its appointed agents. These agents impose
the rule, which is mostly non-optional in nature, when there is a breach of the said
rule.2 Subjects in such organized societies are endowed with rights and correspond-
ing duties wherein the breach of duty by X commences a power-liability correlation
to compensate Y, whose rights have been breached.3 Crimes are not just aberrations
to the rule or a mere creation of the law, as they have broader social connotations.4
The rule, social or legal, consists of rights and duties. When there is a breach of a
right, the capacity of the organized society to take action,5 through incarceration or
otherwise, brings forth the power-liability correlation. One kind of breach of such
duty is categorized as ‘criminal’, and the rest are categorized under heads such as
civil and international. Criminality is a diverse set of liabilities.6 This structure based
on jural relations requires the legal subject, and it is on this legal subject that the
entire universe of legal protections is conferred with corresponding duties. For
Pashukanis, whose work provides the normative basis of this article, the one con-
stant variable that has defined the category of the ‘legal subject’ has been how prop-
erty (commodity) has been exchanged across all epochs. In his work ‘The General
Theory of Law and Marxism’, he traces the implications of the predominant mode
of exchange of property from an archaic to the modern bourgeois society.7 He claims
that in the bourgeois epoch, each social relation, such as rights and liabilities, takes
colour from value relations.8 Social relations become value relations when they take
the form of activity that creates economic value. The activity that creates value in
the bourgeois epoch is gaining an equivalent amount in exchange for a commodity.9
In the bourgeois society, the commodity is marked by its exchange-value, not its use
value.10 For Pashukanis, this would not be possible without expanding the parapher-
nalia of legal correlations and the legal subject. Similar to the commodity gaining
its objective existence through exchange value, the legal subject was bestowed
with rights and duties in the bourgeois political economy. The universalization of
the legal subject in the bourgeois commodity-exchange society signifies the need
for the commodity to be in the constant motion of exchange.11 This act of exchange
2 See generally H. L. A. HArt, tHe concept of LAw (3rd ed. 2012).
3 Arthur L. Corbin, Jural Relations and Their Classification, 30 YALe LAw J. 226 (1921).
4 G. Lamond, What is a Crime, 27 oxf. J. Leg. Stud. 609–632 (2007).
5 Corbin, supra note 2, at 226.
6 Lamond, supra note 3, at 609.
7 See generally EvgEniĭ Bronislavovich Pashukanis, tHe generAL tHeorY of LAw & MArxiSM (2002).
8 Id. at 113.
9 Id. at 121.
10 Pashukanis claims that the bourgeois turn of the economy from its natural to its political ethos
enabled the construction of the man in abstract. It is the abstract legal subject under the umbrella
of the logically perfect abstract universal law. Social relations in this political economy takes hue
from value-relations. Every human interaction is marked by the idea of exchange of equivalent value
because this is what grants value to the bourgeois commodity.
11 Supra note 6, at 125.

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