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An important factor that contributed to the decline of radical perspectives in criminology, including Marxist criminology, is the rise of perspectives on the Right of criminology in the 1970s. These perspectives have been described as ‘the new administrative criminology’ (Young, 1988: 176). They have also been described as ‘neo-conservative’ perspectives or ‘neo-liberal’ criminology.1 This is because they are said to promote ideas about crime and its control that are associated with neo-conservative ideology of the political Right regarding, inter alia, the importance of pursuing economic advancement that benefits a few, preserving traditional values, maintaining order, reinvigorating traditional institutions of control (for example, the family, educational institutions and penal institutions), reducing the role of the state, overlooking socio-economic causes and focusing instead on rationalising penal policies and practice to improve efficiency. Given their commitment to conservative ideals, it is perhaps not surprising that the neo-conservative perspectives of the 1970s and the 1980s went on to have a profound impact on the criminal justice policies of Conservative and Republican governments in the UK and the US, respectively. Rigakos (1996: 76) observes that,‘in the 1970s, neoconservatism enjoyed a dramatic rejuvenation. Since that time, critical criminologists have remained vigilant against a neoconservative onslaught that first materialised in the United States, travelled to England, and has now hit home in Canada.’
According to JockYoung (1988: 176), neo-conservative criminology or the ‘new administrative criminology’ emerged in the 1970s in the midst of an aetiological crisis.2 This occurred because existing explanations about the causes of crime appeared to be invalid for reasons we shall explore later.
Some writers have offered critical perspectives on the study of crime by arguing that societies that are characterised by diversity rather than homogeneity are typically conflict-ridden. The writers trace that the origins of crime to the conflict in these societies. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the writers are described as conflict theorists.
The early conflict theorists drew distinctions between industrial societies (of the modern era) and traditional societies. They argued that traditional societies comprise homogeneous groups with consensual views about cultural issues, norms, values, morals and so forth. By contrast, industrial societies are characterised by conflict. In these societies, there is no consensus on what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable behaviour (norms and values). While the mainstream criminological theories took it for granted that modern industrial societies are characterised by moral consensus or that laws reflect consensually accepted norms and values, the early conflict theorists (and indeed conflict criminologists in general) maintained that these societies are characterised by conflict between diverse groups who differ along social, political, ethnic, religious and other lines. In addition, the conflict theorists argued that some groups are endowed with greater resources compared with other groups. They also possess political, social and economic power. Conflict between the groups manifests itself in the struggle for domination. Ultimately, the group or groups in society that are able to assert their will are also able to create dominant norms, values or culture. They are able to define crime and influence law enforcement in ways that protect their interests, and control the activities of other groups.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when the foundational critical criminological perspectives were making their mark in the field of criminology, additional critical criminological traditions emerged. An important tradition that emerged in that period is the tradition that focuses on studying the crimes of the powerful.1 Criminologists study crimes of the powerful from a range of different perspectives. However, the criminologists who study crimes of the powerful from a critical perspective argue that the powerful (those who possess power and wealth) influence the creation and operation of the law. The law protects their interests and they enjoy considerable impunity when they violate the law.
Indeed, it has been argued that theoretical and empirical studies of crimes of the powerful fall within the ambit of critical criminology rather than mainstream criminology. Lynch (2011: 22) observes that an important difference between critical criminology and mainstream criminology ‘involves the extent to which each addresses the crimes of the powerful. The emphasis on exploring the crimes of the powerful is one of the significant contributions of critical criminology’.
Alvesalo and Tombs echo this view. They point out that research studies that explore crimes of the powerful (such as corporate or business crimes), instead of the conventional crimes associated with the less powerful, are generally perceived to be orientated towards the critical criminological tradition:
From the point of view of critical criminology, almost any form of research into economic crime is critical per se. Such research immediately and inevitably indicates the extent to which criminal justice systems work in a biased fashion, prioritizing some forms of offending – traditional or conventional crimes associated with lower-class offenders – as opposed to the illegalities produced by businesses and business-people.
Critical RaceTheory (CRT) is an interdisciplinary movement that brings together the work of legal scholars and activists who explore how race, class and gender shape the dynamics of societal institutions, including the criminal justice system (Schneider, 2003; Ross, 2010). Critical race theory draws on several theoretical traditions, from radical feminism to Marxism (Matsuda et al, 1993; Schneider, 2003). It is also influenced by liberalism and the idea that individuals should be freed from the straitjackets of the established social order. Furthermore, critical race theorists are influenced by the work of scholars who have contributed quite significantly to understandings of how the social structures that disadvantage the less powerful in society. Key influences include: the Marxist Antonio Gramsci; the French philosopher and deconstructionist Jacques Derrida; radical African-American scholars, such as Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King Junior and the sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois; the black and Chicano civil rights movements of the 1960s; and also as noted above, radical feminism (Delgado and Stefancic, 2012). Early writers in the field set out to develop theories and conduct studies to address insidious forms of racism. These writers include Derrick Bell, who has been described as ‘the movement’s intellectual father figure’ (Delgado and Stefancic, 2012: 5), and one of the CRT movement’s ‘founding fathers’, alongside Mari Matsuda and Richard Delgado. Another prominent early writer is Alan Freeman.
There are several definitions of CRT but Delgado and Stefancic (2012: 3) offer a useful definition. They describe CRT as follows:
The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power.
This chapter introduces readers to cultural criminology, which has been described as ‘one of the newest directions in critical criminology’ (DeKeseredy and Dragiewicz, 2012: 11). It emerged in the mid-1990s and its key proponents include Jack Katz (1988), Jeff Ferrell (1999; 2005), Mike Presdee (2000; 2004) and Keith Hayward and Jock Young (2012). As a field of study, it lacks precise definition. According to Jeff Ferrell (2013), he, and other cultural criminologists, have been reluctant to define cultural criminology, preferring instead a fluid ‘anarchist’ approach that emphasises how culture intersects with crime. Nevertheless, Ferrell provides a description of the field in the following comments:
As I’ve reflected on cultural criminology’s maturation, the critiques of it, and the larger history and nature of critical criminological itself, I’ve found myself more willing to define cultural criminology—at least along the lines of one particular intellectual and political focus. This is its focus on the human construction of meaning. Put differently, cultural criminology increasingly strikes me as an orientation designed especially for critical engagement with the politics of meaning surrounding crime and crime control, and for critical intervention into those politics. (2013: 258)
Similarly, Hayward and Young (2004: 259) describe cultural criminology as:
the placing of crime and its control in the context of culture; that is, viewing both crime and the agencies of control as cultural products – as creative constructs. As such, they must be read in terms of the meanings they carry.
In other words, in its effort to understand crime, cultural criminology looks to the culture or the ideas, values, beliefs and other collectively shared characteristics that infuse crime and crime control activities with meaning, and illuminate the nature of both phenomena.
This chapter explores feminist perspectives in criminology. It is probably impossible to define feminist criminology. This is because it comprises numerous strands. As DeKeseredy (2010: 29) observes: ‘there are at least 12 variants of feminist criminological theory’. Daly and Chesney-Lind (1988: 502) offer a broad definition that appears to capture its key themes. They define feminist criminology as ‘a set of theories about women’s oppression and a set of strategies for change’. Chesney-Lind and Morash (2013: 288) go further to state that at the core of feminist thought in criminology is the theoretical and empirical examination of the gender dimension of crime and crime control.
As the foregoing suggests, there are several feminist criminological perspectives. It has been argued that the perspectives share some explanatory themes in common with other critical criminological perspectives. Daly (2010: 229) observes that ‘there is a good deal of affinity and cross over between feminist perspectives in criminology and those termed critical, anti-racist, multi-ethnic or cultural criminology’. For example, like other critical criminological perspectives, some feminist perspectives emphasise that power defines the dynamics of social interactions in society (see Daly, 2010). Another feature some feminist criminologists share in common with critical criminological perspectives is the view that crime is a social construction,1 and power dynamics shape its construction. Tombs (2013: 236) notes that:
Whilst there are clear differences between the labelling perspective, Marxism and feminism, they share the theoretical commitment to move beyond the narrowest confines of criminology, to deconstruct dominant categories of crime and to view these constructions, and the criminal justice systems based upon them, as an effect of, but also a means of reproducing power.