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1 Introduction In the 1970s a new school of criminological thought, known variously as "new," "critical," "radical," or Marxist, came on the scene.l It challenged the paradigms that then dominated criminology, and drew on the insights of New Left social criticism in developing a host of new and controversial ideas about crime. Ours, of course, is not the first generation to have drawn on radical critiques of existing social arrangements in writing about crime. Nineteenth-century utopian socialists, anarchists, and Marxists all discussed crime and punishment in terms that foreshadow some of today's discussions. Radical Jacksonians in the early nineteenth century campaigned against prison construction, arguing that public education and the redistribution of income would eliminate most crime and make new prisons unnecessary. Some late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century criminologists on both sides of the Atlantic were socialists or anarchists, or were influenced in their thinking by these social movements. They wrote about the role of capitalism in causing crime, and the repressive activities of the state. From the mid-1920s on, however, radical perspectives virtually disappeared from the criminology literature, at least in the English language.2 After the First World War, radical scholarship in all the social sciences was repressed. Many radical scholars lost university positions, and research funding went primarily to work that posed no intellectual threat to the government or the capitalist economy. In addition, the orthodoxy that the 2 Introduction international communist movement imposed on its members was not conducive to creative scholarship. This orthodoxy did not entirely sweep the field in Western Europe, where a tradition of independent Marxist scholarship survived; but with two world wars and the rise of fascism, European Marxists had more pressing problems on their minds than explaining conventional crime. It has become conventional to describe the sort of criminology that has been carried on in universities and research institutes ever since the voices of radicalism were stilled as "positivist." Positivist criminology is usually traced to the research on the biological causes of crime carried out by Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician. Although he and his disciples soon broadened the focus of their work to include psychological and social variables , they continued to explain crime in terms of the individual attributes of criminal-law violators. Today the term "positivist" is bandied about quite loosely, usually in a derogatory tone. It generally refers to criminology characterized by one or more of the following assumptions: (1) The causes of crime are deterministic (i.e., accurately predictable from its initial causes) and pathological. (2) Criminal behavior can be explained without reference to the meaning that the behavior has for the criminal actor. (3) Crime and criminals exist as phenomena independently of whether the behavior and the persons in question are regarded as criminal by the government or the public at large. (4) Crime can be studied through the same methods (quantitative statistical techniques) and with the same goals (the formulation of historically invariant laws) as the natural sciences. (5) The government can and should take steps to eliminate the causes of crime, drawing on scientific knowledge provided by criminologists. Since many criminologists have abandoned at least some of these assumptions in recent decades, the term "positivist" has lost a good deal of its usefulness. It is fair to say, though, that most criminologists have seen crime as something that was not inherent in the organization of a capitalist society . Either it was seen as intrinsic to all societies, so that nothing could be done about it; or it was seen as contingent on arrangements that a benign and enlightened government could eliminate without fundamental social change. Only in the last decade has this view come under sustained attack from the Left. In fact, virtually every tenet of positivist criminology has been criticized by radicals. THE ORIGINS OF RADICAL CRIMINOLOGY Several developments in mainstream criminology, though not radical in themselves, helped to prepare the way for radical criminology by casting doubt on some taken-for-granted ideas. For example, to avoid using the long-suspect official statistics on crime and criminals, some criminologists in the 1960s carried out studies in which subjects (usually school children) Introduction . 3 were asked to report on the crimes or delinquent acts they had committed. A number of these studies found a weak or vanishing relationship between involvement in crime or delinquency on the one hand, and race or socioeconomic status on the other. Crime seemed to be spread much more evenly through the class structure...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781439905647
MARC Record
OCLC
646067919
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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