In the Indian media and public discourse, the phrase 'criminalisation of politics' is often used to indicate one or more of the following:

  1. The nexus between organized crime and politics
  2. High, and still increasing numbers of politicians with criminal cases pending against them.
  3. Corrupt practices committed by politicians.

Apparently, the third form of usage isn't unique to India, as this wikipedia article talks about the United States.

OED says that criminalisation is "The action of turning an activity into a criminal offence by making it illegal." Clearly, by this definition, politics has not been criminalised in India. Criminalisation of politics could be said to have taken place in countries where formation or membership of political parties is illegal.

Countries with strict drug laws could have been said to have criminalised drugs, jurisdiction with strict laws on firearms usage and possession could have been said to have criminalised firearms, while those places with restrictive business laws could be said (not literally) to have criminalised business.

I request people to check if my understanding of the word criminalisation is correct, and that the Indian media uses it incorrectly. If that is the case, what would be correct and succinct words or phrases which mean (1), (2), and (3) in the first paragraph.

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    criminalization describes a process occurring in a particular area of life. Here: politics – Lambie Apr 21 '18 at 19:17
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    @Lambie - I'd be glad of a dictionary reference, where the word is defined in this way. – ranban282 Apr 21 '18 at 20:03
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    Sorry, but the suffix "zation" in English is what it is. It's like alphabetization or politicization. – Lambie Apr 21 '18 at 20:06
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    @Bread If I were to say criminalisation of marijuna, it would mean that the possession or use of the substance has been made illegal, and may have penalties. This question has actually been triggered by an article I once read in The Economist, which talked about 'criminalisation of business'. I was used to the 'Indian' sense, but was surprised to learn that it talked of excessive regulation. The author of the answer has quoted an NYT article, in which the word has been used similar to marijuna or business. So are both senses correct? Or only one? If so, which one? – ranban282 Apr 21 '18 at 20:20
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    @Bread While what you may have said in your last comments may be true, they don't address the original question, and deviate form the topic significantly. I do understand from an earlier comment, that, according to you, both usages are acceptable, and the meaning depends on the context. Fair enough, makes sense. I'd like to hear what other experts have to say on this, though. – ranban282 Apr 21 '18 at 21:33

One cannot 'criminalise' politics or business. Politics and business are legitimate occupations, personally and corporately. One can criminalise the sale of harmful drugs. Then it becomes a criminal activity.

Certain persons involved in legitimate activities can 'behave criminally' within their own sphere of activity. But they have not 'criminalised' the entire sphere through their individual behaviour. It remains untainted - available for anyone else to use the arena properly and lawfully.

Criminalise : 2. trans. To turn (an activity) into a criminal offence by making it illegal.


It would be correct and appropriate to say that in a certain locality, at a certain time, that a certain organisation had become corrupted by the activities of certain individuals such that everyone involved in that organisation could not function without partaking of the corruption. Then, the only valid and ethical action would be to resign from that organisation.

But I would say that the organisation would have to be named. And it is an organisation of which one must actively be a member. 'Politics' and 'business' are not organisations - they are open spheres of activity which require no 'membership' as such.

Corrupt 3. To render morally unsound or ‘rotten’; to destroy the moral purity or chastity of; to pervert or ruin (a good quality); to debase, defile.


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    This answer is consistent with the OED definition. However, while one cannot literally criminalize politics or business, but there's the NYT article talking about criminalising political differences. And the Economist article talked of 'criminalising' business by making the business environment, regulation, and laws ridiculously difficult to comply with. (This happened in India, in the 1970s) In a dictatorship, or in any state where political activity is restricted, politics can indeed be said to have been criminalised, I think. – ranban282 Apr 21 '18 at 20:52
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    @Bread A country must be governed in some way. And it should be done in a 'sensible and judicious' manner, as is the meaning of 'politic'. – Nigel J Apr 21 '18 at 22:34
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    @Bread You are misusing the word 'criminalise'. It just does not mean what you are trying to make it mean. An organisation of particular individuals can be corrupted such that it cannot function legitimately. But that is not what 'criminalise' means. – Nigel J Apr 21 '18 at 22:57
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    @Bread Are you therefore saying that all politics and all business, globally have been 'criminalised' as a permanence ? ? – Nigel J Apr 21 '18 at 23:15
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    @Bread Thank you but no. My answer stands and I have other things to do. Regards. – Nigel J Apr 21 '18 at 23:25

"Criminalization describes a process occurring in a particular area of life. Here: politics." (attribute - an esteemed member of this site)

"Criminalization of politics" is a political buzzword in the United States used in the media, by commentators, bloggers as well as high-ranking government officials in any party who have been indicted, faced criminal or ethical investigations or have been suspected of criminal activity, primarily to gain and/or maintain office. Your wikipedia reference is highly partisan.

Criminalization of politics does not imply organized crime involvement though I am sure there is some. And known criminals are barred. Politicians do though det convicted during and after office. It is typically used to cripple or impede a politician or politicians in their governance. In this democracy one politician's meat may be another's poison! So YES (with all said) to your question, with nuance and context.

Here is a recent NY Times article on same: NYT

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  • suggested edits appreciated – lbf Apr 21 '18 at 19:38
  • Thanks for the NYT article, it is a de-facto English standard. The NYT has the word criminalization correctly, and is consistent with the OED definition. The sense used in the Wikipedia article is completely different. My question is if that sense, along with other senses mentioned in the original question is correct or not. – ranban282 Apr 21 '18 at 20:02

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