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Profs' new books explore U.S. banking system, state crime

Nov. 11, 2010

KALAMAZOO--The growing potential for nations around the world to engage in criminal acts and an examination of an important part of the U.S. banking system are explored in timely books authored or edited by Western Michigan University professors.

Photo of Dr. Susan M. Hoffmann and Dr. Ronald Kramer, WMU.Dr. Susan M. Hoffmann, professor of political science, is garnering considerable attention in banking and public policy circles as the co-author of the book "Mission Expansion in the Federal Home Loan Bank System." Meanwhile, Dr. Ronald Kramer, professor of sociology, is breaking new ground as a co-editor of "State Crime in the Global Age."

Hoffmann wrote "Mission Expansion" with Dr. Mark K. Cassell, associate professor of political science at Kent State University. The book, released in October by State University of New York Press, provides a comprehensive study of the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

The system was created by Congress in response to the Great Depression, originally solely as a way of using the nation's financial structure to make home ownership broadly accessible and affordable. It is modeled on the Federal Reserve and consists of 12 regional wholesale banks, plus more than 8,000 members representing some 80 percent of the nation's insured lending institutions.

As a financial intermediary chartered to pursue public policy priorities, the Federal Home Loan Bank System is lesser known than Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other government-sponsored enterprises. Yet it has been America's largest source of funding for community lending for the past eight decades.

Hoffmann and Cassell argue that the system did not contribute to the ongoing foreclosure crisis but bears monitoring. "So far, so good," as Hoffman puts it. The authors also contend that the system is an unparalleled source of housing finance expertise which, with reform, could be vital to policymakers today.

Kramer's book, "State Crime in the Global Age," was edited with Dr. William J. Chambliss, professor of sociology at George Washington University, and Dr. Raymond Michalowski, Arizona Regents' Professor of Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University. Kramer wrote two chapters for the text, and one of his former doctoral students, Dr. Dawn L. Rothe, contributed one chapter.

Released in March by Willans Press, the book developed out of a 2008 conference organized by Kramer and his co-editors and held at Spain's International Institute for the Sociology of Law.

"State Crime" brings together original writings from leading criminology scholars to explore the many ways the use and abuse of state power results in grave social harms. Topics covered include the crimes of empire, illegal war, the bombing of civilians, state-sanctioned torture, state sacrifice of human lives and judicial wrongdoing.

It breaks new ground by examining how globalization has intensified the potential for nations to engage in crime, using novel theoretical understandings of the state to study state crime, and exploring strategies for confronting state crime.

Hoffmann came to WMU in 1999 and is director of the Institute of Government and Politics. She studies and teaches in the areas of policy process, public administration and urban politics. Her research focus is on government-sponsored enterprises.

A former practicing city planner, Hoffmann has held positions in capital budgeting, neighborhood planning, housing rehabilitation, and economic development. She has written one other book, "Politics and Banking: Ideas, Public Policy and the Creation of Financial Institutions," published in 2001.

Kramer came to WMU in 1978 and is director of the Criminal Justice Program. Within criminology, his research focus is on corporate and state crime, and crime prevention and control strategies. His other book credits are co-editing 2006's "State-Corporate Crime: Wrongdoing at the Intersection of Business and Government" and co-writing 1998's "Crimes of the American Nuclear State: At Home and Abroad."

Active in the local community, Kramer has been a leader in Kalamazoo County's crime-prevention efforts as well as a longtime peace and justice activist. He also has been working for the past several years on a project that analyzes the 2003 Iraq war as a form of state crime. He is developing that work into a book tentatively titled "Crimes of Empire: The Bush Administration's Illegal War on Iraq."

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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