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General Theory Books and comment about Criminology particularly suitable for weeks 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 18 and 19 but they will deal with most of the theories you will come across
Criminal Justice, punishment and prisons, particularly useful for weeks 3 and 25
This reading list contains many sources to help you find out about important issues that are relevant to this course. The first section contains some readings for the essay that you will be given towards the end of this callendar year. Below this first section you will see that the readings are grouped into subject sections. Many of the readings in these sections are relevant for a number of different weeks, which is why we do not put these in sections related to seminars, as this would be too restrictive.
These links are articles and books that should help you to write your essay. You should try and use a significant number of these in your work. You should be able to access these most electronically, but you may have to log into the university system if you are doing this from home. You also need to be accessing some general books on theory. We have provided you with a few of these in this section, but also look at works such as ‘Thinking seriously about crime’ by Jock Young and Beccaria’s ‘on crime and punishment’, as well as Becker and his work entitled ‘Outsiders’ for things like labelling which is further down the reading list.
The first readings discuss a number of issues that you could relate to the scenario in the essay question. Particularly look at Singh’s work on Criminalising vulnerability. The readings at the bottom of this section include general books on theories and the criminal justice system. They have been chosen as they are mostly electronically available, but if you have other theory books yourself that you would prefer to use (such as Newburn), that will be fine. Your task is to apply appropriate theories that you see in the general theory books to the scenario set in the essay. Most text books discuss a number of different theories, but articles tend to put forward a particular argument or viewpoint, that will be underpinned by some theories, but not others. Most of these will have some relevance to some of the issues created by the scenario, even if they are working as a critique, so don’t hesitate in being creative in applying these and don’t necessarily think that you will all come up with the same ideas! Here are some theory books to inform your ideas, but feel free to use others if you get on with them better.
In this section, there are lots of general theory books about Criminology. This gives you the opportunity to find the ones that you like. It is unlikely that you will find one book that gives you information about the whole course however so it is a good idea to look through a number of these as you go through the course. If you are struggling with the ideas, publications like the Sage dictionary of Criminology are a great help, as they will pull out the basics, but to get a better understanding, you really need to go beyond this, so be ambitious, and give the readings a go!
Positivism advocates the use of Scientific methodologies to research and address the problem of crime, whether that be about preventing crime or treating criminals. Scientific method can be applied not only to biological and psychological influences on the individual, but can relate to social, economic or even ecological circumstances. Although some of the more modern work that is underpinned by positivism has validity, you will find that some of it has methodological flaws. You can find write ups about positivism in the general criminology books. In this section we have given you some examples of using scientific methodology in looking at crime issues, as well as some critiques.
When looking at the issue of gender, and the application of feminist theories, there are a number of issues that you should note. In terms of gender and crime, we can categorically say that men are more criminogenic than women. They tend to commit more crimes and these crimes tend to be more serious. However research suggests that men and women can be treated differently by the criminal justice system, and also experience punishments differently. It is complex however and we find that women are sometimes treated more leniently, the same or more harshly depending on judgements made about them that are directly related to their gender. In terms of Feminism, it is important to note that there are many different ‘feminisms’, and these promote lots of different ideas. There are no feminisms which promote or encourage ‘man hating’. This is a myth disseminated in popular culture, and in some sections of the media. Feminisms are interested in challenging gendered inequality, the oppression of women, celebrating difference,
and making sure that women’s voices are heard.
Mainstream psychology broadly applies positivism in that it applies science to try and understand human behaviour. There is a branch of critical psychology that argues that the criteria set by mainstream psychologists, and the treatment then applied to those defined as problematic actually creates deviance rather than preventing it. Critical criminologists are also likely to take a similar stance, arguing that deviance is socially and politically constructed, and therefore cannot be objectively defined as required by scientific methodology.
Eugenics means ‘Born Good’ or ‘Well Born’. It is the science of improving a population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. This is another ‘application of science’ in potentially preventing crime and deviance, by preventing criminals and deviants being born, or from breeding (or even ‘removing’ them from society). Most notoriously, eugenics was applied by the Nazi’s against various races, criminals, the disabled, and people with particular illnesses in Germany, up to and during the second world war, but other countries including the US and UK did apply eugenics policies at the same period in time. Many so called ‘feeble minded’ people were sterilized as a result. Although today eugenics is overtly seen as a very problematic concept, it is possible to see the influence of eugenics in modern policies and ideas in the UK today.
Public perceptions and media influence has a part to play in both the creation and application of policy on crime and the criminal justice system. Politicians, and criminal justice professionals can be affected by public perceptions, but be careful not to assume that ‘the media’ is a homogeneous entity. There are many different discourses about crime in the media, but power relations and politics may determine which get the most ‘airtime’ or are given the most credibility. Look at Stuart Hall et al’s ideas about the influence of ‘Primary definers’, to get some ideas of power relations, and also see some of the ‘readings for the essay’ for more readings on this area.
Criminology is often called a rendezvous discipline. This means that it is a place where academics from a number of different disciplines work. Critical Criminologists often take a sociological stance, and some of their work also reflects the importance of political and economic theories in our understanding of crime. Some academics however believe that the concept of crime is not a useful starting place. Some feminists for instance would argue that feminist theory is much more relevant in explaining female criminality, in comparison to criminological theory, which has been developed to understand criminal men. You will sometimes see this being described as ‘malestream’ criminology. You will also find that more recently some critical theorists have started to argue that it would be more valid to look at the concept of ‘harm’ rather than ‘crime’. They have called themselves Zemiologists after the Greek word for ‘harm’. Some of their work is also seen in ‘Green Criminology’. Particularly look at work by academics such as Stuart Hall who identify how the ruling/powerful groups in society are able to mobilise popular support, by vilifying unpopular groups, and blaming them for the ills in society. A development of Marxism, from Antonio Gramsci underpins some of these arguments, where he discusses how ‘cultural hegemony’ enables the ruling groups to maintain the existing power relations in capitalist societies.
The management of offenders using ‘measures’ of risk had been a popular realist strategy. With influences from positivism, this has been the main preoccupation of probation service managers during the nineties and the early 21st Century. Debates as to whether it is acceptable to ‘imprison’ people who present a ‘risk’ to others, whether they have committed a crime or not, are important here, but it is important to remember that ‘risk’ is a social, cultural and political construct. You might want to think about what sort of people, or groups are seen as presenting risk, and why others, who may ultimately cause harm to many hundreds if not thousands of people, by their actions are not seen as a risk to others. The concept of corporate or state crime, in comparison street crime might be an example here, but there are others.
Youth crime is a huge area. In this module we have used it as a case study to explain how administrative criminology might be applied in practice. There are lots of other issues however such as the age of criminal responsibility, and the deflection of responsibility onto parents, which has implications for classicist ideas. You can also see positivist underpinnings in the way that we deal with children and young people. Critical criminologists would ask questions about class, race and gender in relation to what sort of young people end up in the criminal justice system.
Some theorists argue that to understand crime and criminality we need to recognise that these concepts are culturally constructed. This is an issue between nation states, because what might be a crime in one country is not necessarily one in another, but also can be applied in terms of so called criminal ‘sub cultures’ within a nation. Some theorists would argue that we need to ‘stand in the shoes’ of the people who we are researching, in order to understand their actions. Others however would argue that this is not possible due to the researchers cultural biases and ethnocentrisms.
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