Category : Criminology
Criminology is an advanced, theoretical field of study. It can be defined as the study of crime, the causes of crime (etiology), the meaning of crime in terms of law, and community reaction to crime. Not too long ago, criminology separated from its mother discipline, sociology, and although there are some historical continuities, it has since developed habits and methods of thinking about crime and criminal behavior that are uniquely its own.
Crime is not something that just happens because people are "bad" or "evil" (as most "common-sense" explanations of crime tend to ultimately suggest). Crime - at least in Capitalist societies - is related to inequalities of power, authority, economic ownership, wealth and so forth. In this respect, it is necessary to locate individual behaviour in a cultural context that encourages or discourages certain forms of thinking and behaviour. For example, in a society that generally encourages racist or sexist ideas, these forms of deviance will be fairly common.
Some theories in criminology believe that criminality is a function of individual socialization, how individuals have been influenced by their experiences or relationships with family relationships, peer groups, teachers, church, authority figures, and other agents of socialization. These are called learning theories, and specifically social learning theories, because criminology never really embraced the psychological determinism inherent in most learning psychologies. They are also less concerned for the content of what is learned (like cultural deviance theories), and more concerned with explaining the social process by which anyone, regardless of race, class, or gender, would have the potential to become a criminal. Social Learning, Control, and Labeling theories are all examples of social process theories.
II. Anarchy against the Discipline
Method in Criminology: A Philosophical Primer is a deceptively innocuous title for a wonderfully outrageous enterprise: a thoroughgoing epistemic attack which launches on both the day-to-day operations of criminology and the philosophical foundations on which these operations rest. In this brief but engaging book, carefully and ruthlessly (, 1972) dismantles the basic assumptions which under gird scientific criminology. In so doing, he exposes not only their internal illogic, but their external utility for the bureaucratic control of both crime and criminology, and for the structural maintenance of inequitable social relations. In place of the dangerous fraud which is scientific criminology, then, proposes an anarchic criminology -- a criminology which embraces alternative methods and epistemologies, encourages imaginative solutions to social and criminal problems, and in the process continually undermines encrusted hierarchies of certainty, truth, and power.
begins his decomposition of contemporary criminology by posing a seemingly safe, simple question: "Should any research method be granted a privileged status in criminology?" (). pursuit of this question, though, quickly becomes the thread which, once pulled, unravels the entire enterprise of contemporary scientific criminology. The unraveling begins with a deconstruction of causality and causal certainty as the goals of criminology. the radical uncertainty of against the proto-scientific methods of demonstrates that causal assertions are in fact "little more than constructs of the imagination" (), with no firm footing in external validation.
Having demonstrated the futility of causal analysis for criminology, generously offers those who would pursue a scientific criminology a variety of less stringent options -- probability, prediction, falsification -- and then proceeds to undermine these possibilities as well. Drawing heavily on (1975) brilliant attack on science and scientific method, and on philosophers of science like (1970), (1968), and (1989), dismisses probability and prediction due to their reliance on wholly unreliable methods of induction and inductive reasoning. He likewise exposes the falsity of a falsification method which fails to understand that theories and the facts by which they are allegedly falsified in reality interpenetrate and intermingle. Finally, he considers the least stringent of options -- that certain methods are, if not scientifically sound, at least the most plausible means for pursuing criminological goals. Again, though, he finds that fundamental epistemic uncertainty destroys any hierarchy of plausibility.
Significantly, demonstrates that this consideration of criminology's underlying principles constitutes much more than an exercise in abstract philosophy. First, he shows that mainstream criminology is carefully guarded by various gatekeepers of scientific authority and methodological purity: journal and book editors and reviewers, curriculum designers, granting agencies, and others. In demanding that criminological work meet the standards of science, and excluding that work which does not, these authorities shape the discipline around narrow (and, as argues, unfounded) definitions of scholarship (1993; 1991; 1984). Beyond this, the framing of criminology as objective science contributes to the functional rationality of the modern criminal justice system, and is in turn "especially conducive to the maintenance of inequitable distributions of power" (). As persuasively argues, the authority of allegedly objective knowledge, the sheen of scientific method and quantification, both construct new realms of legal domination and social control and at the same time distance those in control from responsibility for their actions.
Against a criminology which is both unjustifiably narrow in its scope and overtly harmful in its consequences , therefore, suggests an anarchic criminology characterized by openness, creativity, and inclusion (1978; 1979; 1980; 1993;1994). In place of the stale straightjacket of (pseudo)scientific criminology, anarchic criminology promotes the widest possible range of theories and methods, values marginal and even "unreasonable" knowledge, and revitalizes the "criminological imagination" ( 1984). In place of the false objectivity of contemporary criminology, anarchic criminology employs a sort of "reflexive hermeneutics" () which encourages both interpretive knowledge and critical awareness. In place of a criminology which is all too useful for inequitable social and legal control, anarchic criminology takes shape in humble conversation with those outside the domains of criminology and criminal justice.
This notion of an open, anarchic criminology sheds light on a variety of ongoing discussions within and beyond contemporary criminology. To begin with, it provides a useful framework for making sense of the various alternative criminologies which have emerged in recent years. The Russian anarchist infamous injunction -- that "the passion for destruction is a creative passion, too" (1974) -- here reflects the notion that the destruction of paradigmatic hegemony in criminology in fact opens up intellectual space for the creation of various alternative criminologies. If the deconstruction of theoretical certainty and methodological privilege by and those who have gone before him has created a sort of negative space, an epistemic void, it is a void that has been quickly filled by a healthy tangle of fresh perspectives. In this sense, the plethora of criminologies which have blossomed in recent times -- peacemaking, news making, feminist, narrative, cultural, anarchist -- constitutes perhaps a crisis of criminological certainty, but more so a measure of disciplinary life.
Finally, anarchic criminology as sketched by and others clearly informs, and is informed by, those orientations grouped under headings like "postmodernism" and "cultural studies." notes that "perhaps the most refreshing anarchic developments in criminology will be sifted from the work of postmodern criminologists" (), and indeed anarchic and postmodern criminologies have much in common. The epistemic assault on various forms of legal and intellectual authority; the decentering of both centralized power and the certainty which accompanies it; the rejection of metanarratives which position themselves as true and universal accounts of social or criminal life -- these are the projects of postmodern and anarchic criminologies alike. And as these projects open up the constricted intellectual space of scientific criminology, they at the same time lead criminology into new domains of research and analysis. in this sense argues that "criminological inquiry is more than a question of logic. Questions of aesthetics and morality are just as important" (). Like others (1995), he thus recognizes the importance of aesthetic and stylistic processes in constituting both criminology and criminal action, and attempts to reclaim this "cultural trash" from the dustbin of scientific, rationalist criminology.
might have productively explored many of these issues more fully; though he notes postmodern and aesthetic issues in the context of anarchic criminology, for example, he all but fails to follow his own lead. He might also have more thoroughly rooted his anarchic criminology not only in prior anarchist work within criminology, but in the long history of anarchist thought. Though brevity may be the soul of wit, a hundred page book might well be expanded to include more thorough exploration, and a few more pages. In addition, the book, though simply and understandably written, would have benefited in places from a good round of editing. Utilizing conventional language in new or intentionally inappropriate ways certainly carries anarchic potential; simply writing "and so forth" or "etc." into sentences seems more sloppy than seditious. These, though, are minor criticisms of an exciting and courageous contribution to criminological thinking. Method in Criminology transcends its own limitations in inventing a far- reaching critique of contemporary criminology, and imagining a humane and flexible alternative to it.
And in this spirit of anarchist imagination, (1995) offer a closing note as to means and ends, process and product. concludes that, given anarchic criminology's promotion of "freedom of thought and creativity" (), an anarchic criminology benefits criminology as a whole, despite the fact that it may never be fully accomplished. (1995) agree, but go a step further to argue that anarchic criminology is beneficial precisely because it can never be fully realized. By its own logic, anarchic criminology serves best, it seems, as an unfinished and uncertain project, an emerging sensibility floating around and "against criminology" (1988), a critique which folds back on itself so as to undermine not only mainstream criminological rigidity but its own encrustation as well. And in this sense, we arrive at an anarchic criminology only as we continue to stumble toward it.
III. Deviance and Social Control (Radical Criminology in Britain)
"Deviance" is a wide-ranging term used by sociologists to refer to behaviour that varies, in some way, from a social norm. In this respect, it is evident that the concept of deviance refers to some form of "rule-breaking" behaviour.
In relation to deviance, therefore, the concept relates to all forms of rule-breaking (whether this involves such things as murder, theft or arson - the breaking of formal social rules - or such things as wearing inappropriate clothing for a given social situation, failing to produce homework at school or being cheeky to a parent, teacher and so forth - more-or-less the breaking of relatively informal social rules).
As should be apparent, criminal behaviour is a form of deviance (one that is defined as the breaking of legal rules) and, whilst we will be concentrating upon this area of deviance, it needs to be remembered that it is only one aspect - albeit a very significant one - in relation to the concept of deviant behaviour in any society.
As a general rule, therefore, we can say that there is a distinction between crime and deviance in terms of:
"All crime is, by definition, deviant behaviour, but not all forms of deviance are criminal".
Generally, the study of "crime" tends to be seen as the preserve of the criminologist, whereas sociologists tend to focus their attention and interest upon the wider social implications of all forms of rule-breaking (and, of course, rule creating) behaviour in any given society. However, as we shall see, this does include the analysis of crime and criminal behaviour considered as forms of deviance.
A. Radical Criminology and the Deviant Reaction
The idea of a new, radical, form of criminology - one based upon concepts such as class, power and ideology developed by Marxists in their analysis of Capitalist society - developed initially in Britain and the United States in the early 1970's.
The prime movers behind the development of Radical Criminology in Britain were Paul Taylor, Ian Walton and Jock Young and the first statement of their intent to formulate a "new theory of deviance" came in the book "The New Criminology", 1973 (which, not surprisingly, is why Radical Criminology is sometimes referred-to as the "New Criminology" or even "Critical Criminology" following the publication of an anthology of the same name in 1975).
Radical criminology originated in Britain in the early 1970's, mainly through the work of ("The New Criminology", 1973; "Critical Criminology", 1975
Radical criminology attempted to combine various Marxist concepts (social structure, economic exploitation, alienation and so forth) with a number of Interactionist concepts (social reaction, primary and secondary deviation and so forth) in a "new" theory of crime and deviance. In this respect, Radical criminology attempted to combine a Marxist theory of power with a form of labelling theory.
In order to understand both criminal and non-criminal behaviour, Radical criminologists argued that we have to understand the social framework within which laws are created and applied by and to various groups in society.
"Laws" are not "neutral" expressions of social relationships; on the contrary, they are created and applied in capitalist societies for two main reasons:
a. To protect certain property rights (laws governing theft, contract rights, etc.).
b. To maintain a form of social order that is conducive to the continued economic exploitation of the working class by the ruling class (various "public order" offences - violence, picketing, political activity and so forth).
Deviants are not seen to be "passive victims" of a labelling process, since it involves a level of choice on the part of the deviant (primary deviance). However, in terms of secondary deviation, the social reaction is conditioned by the ability of powerful groups to proscribe ("make unlawful") and prosecute various forms of deviance.
A "fully social" theory of deviance involves consideration of the following:
a. The wider origins of a deviant act.
b. The immediate origins of a deviant act.
c. The act itself.
d. The immediate origins of a social reaction.
e. The wider origins of a deviant reaction.
f. The outcome of the social reaction to a deviant's further actions.
g. The nature of the deviant process as a whole.
A major weakness in the Radical criminology perspective appears to be that although they illustrate the way it is possible to arrive at a "social theory of deviance" no attempt was ever made to put this theory into practice.
Radical criminologists have been accused of "romanticizing criminals" as being somehow in the revolutionary vanguard of the fight against Capitalism (mainly because criminals are seen to disrupt and threaten the accumulation of capital / profit). Traditional Marxism warns against this type of view (as does Functionalism for that matter), since there appears to be more evidence to support the view that criminals are simply involved in exploiting others through criminal means.
Radical criminology is a branch of Marxism that is termed "instrumental Marxism" because it focuses upon empirical demonstrations of the way in which a ruling class is held together by common class backgrounds, experiences and values.