Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Susan M. Carlson

Second Advisor

Dr. Ron C. Kramer

Third Advisor

Dr. Gregory Howard

Fourth Advisor

Dr. David Kauzlarich


state crime, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Hazel, social structures of accumulation, Hurricane Camille, 1900 Galveston hurricane


Destruction of the built environment during a natural disaster is by no means a new phenomenon. What has changed over time is how we as a society react to such destruction, as well as what we expect from the state in terms of protection from, and responses to, said destruction. This dissertation explores these changes through a political economic lens with the goal of gaining increased knowledge of the phenomena that constitute state crime. Social structure of accumulation (SSA) theory provides the basis for a view of the state as a social institution which acts according to the goals of accumulation and legitimization. SSA theory identifies specific social structures of accumulation that facilitate capital accumulation for a given time period. Each social structure of accumulation then incorporates distinct relations between the state and different groups in society, including civil society in general. This analysis includes case studies of four hurricanes that span the previous two identified social structures of accumulation, the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, Hurricane Hazel in 1954, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Within the existing research on natural disasters as state crime there are several issues that have not yet been addressed. The most important of these issues concerns when the injuries, deaths, and destruction of the built environment during and in the aftermath of a natural disaster is a state crime versus merely a result of natural causes. Drawing on existing definitions of state crime as well as more traditional elements of crime I propose a definition of natural disasters as state crime that has four elements; social harm actus reus, mens rea, and sanctions. Each of the four hurricanes in this study is analyzed in regards to these four elements to determine whether each was or was not a state crime. This work stands to benefit the study of state crime by deepening the theoretical understanding of the state in a historical context and providing criteria for further analysis within the area of natural disasters as state crimes.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access