criminology, critical

Also termed radical criminology, this perspective emerged in the early 1970s, as an explicitly politicized body of work. Drawing on varieties of Marxism (and in some cases anarchism ), it adopted a conflict perspective and placed emphasis upon the oppressive power of the state , its control over the definition and prosecution of crime , and the exploitation of the powerless by capital . Crime was viewed and explained as a product of the social and historical processes related to capitalism itself. The standard treatment is given in, The New Criminology (1973). Critical of both the behaviourism of positivist criminology (see criminology, positivist ) and the apolitical and narrow vision of labelling theory, it was in its turn criticized for being too polemical, neglecting gender and race issues, romanticizing the criminal as someone engaged in political resistance to capital and the state, and concentrating on control and neglecting crime and its victims.
As it developed in the 1970s and 1980s, critical criminology rediscovered its own (lengthy) radical history, hitherto obscured by ‘bourgeois’ criminology (see, for example,, Punishment and Social Structure, 1939). It has allied itself with cultural studies in work around race , racism, and the state, and studies of youth subcultures . It has also strengthened its commitment to the abolition of prisons and greater accountability of the police, with a series of studies of institutions of the criminal justice system, including, for example, prison regimes, deaths in police custody, sexism and racism in the criminal justice process. Despite this, the approach is dismissed by some as Left Idealism, particularly by those involved in the development of realist criminology (see criminology, realist ).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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