Future of Criminology

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The future of Criminology etc.

Criminology is, as John Lea (1998) points out, not so much a discipline as a field, its distinctiveness is not its knowledge base but the form of its focus: theories of crime, criminal law and the relation between the two - in this it is a sub-category of the sociology of deviance. It can, and never should be, conceived of as a separate discipline, its categories and processes are social constructs, they have no separate ontological reality. It cannot, therefore, exist separately from social theory as its concerns are inevitably with the nature of social order and disorder. Not only have all of the major social theorists concerned themselves with order, disorder and regulation, but there has been across the century clear links between the great theorists of modernity and the criminological canon. Witness Durkheim, Merton and the anomie theorists; Marx, Engels, Bonger and Marxist criminology; the influence of Simmel and Wirth on the Chicago School and the conflict theorisation of G B Vold; of Schutz and Mead on Becker and labelling theories. Despite this obvious intimacy of intellectual concern, there has been a constant tendency for criminology, particularly in its more practical and administrative manifestations, to cut itself off from grand theory. Such a situation was paramount in Britain in the post-war period and the turn, or should we say reconnection of criminology to sociology was a major first step out of empiricism. The second phase which Downes traces was the foundation of the NDC in 1968 and the ten years that followed it, this took on the new American sociology of deviance and considerably radicalised it. It is this phase which gave rise to the 'new' or 'critical' criminology. This presented itself as a series of 'ironies' which served to turn establishment criminology on its head. * SELF-FULFILMENT| That illusions and stereotypes of crime can be real in their consequences and self-fulfilling in reality.| * SERIOUSNESS| That crime occurred throughout the social structure and that the crimes of the powerful were more serious in their consequences than the crimes of the poor.| * ONTOLOGY| That crime has no ontological reality and that the 'same' behaviour can be constructed totally differently. Thus, for example, a serial killer could be either a psychopathic monster or a hero if dropping bombs daily in the Afghan War.| * DECENTRING| That the criminal justice system is not the front line defence against crime but a minor part of the system of social control, itself crucially dependent on informal norms of civil society.| * SELECTIVITY| That criminal law, although phrased in a language of formal equality, is targeted in a way that is selective and substantially unequal.| * COUNTER-PRODUCTIVITY| That the prison and the criminal justice system produces criminals rather than defusing criminality.| * SOCIALISATION| That the core values of competitiveness, acquisitiveness, individualism and hedonism are close to the motivations for crime, so that the well socialised person is more likely to offend than the undersocialised.| * CONTRADICTION| That the ideals which legitimate and hold the system together are the very ones which society thwarts and the frustrations generated seem to break the system apart.| * FUNCTION| That 'the criminal', 'the outsider' , 'the other', far from destroying the fabric of society, produce stereotypes which hold the fabric together.| (MalcomRead)

It is argued that this process of 'narcissistic contemplation' has resulted in a confused range of responses to the study of crime and crime control. Since the mid-1970s, critical criminology has been characterised by a range of dramatic and often paradigmatic changes that have taken it from the bounds of social reaction theory and Marxism to its contemporary expression as a project focused on deconstruction and governmentality....
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