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Criminology has always been an area of academic imagination, the inability for anyone to make a theory that is so empirically greater than all its counter parts that it gains the allegiance of most scholars. To exemplify this, take Darwin's theory of evolution, it makes a stable ground work for the development of life that almost all serious scientists accept and embrace. Criminology is yet to have a Charles Darwin of its own. The very structure of criminology paves the way for many theories, or "schools of thought" as it is put. The fact that criminologists cannot all mutually agree on the why crime exists is perhaps the biggest constraint, but the fact that there are so many schools of thought only goes to show the complexity of the subject. The two main schools of thought are classical and positivist, classical is the proposal that crime occurs when the benefits outweigh the possible costs, crime is a free choice. Positivist theory is that crime is caused or determined, it was Lombroso who decided to place a great emphasis on biological deficiencies whereas later on scholars would put the emphasis on a sociological front.
The 1960's gave birth to a new form of criminology, they named it critical. It derived from British sociologists who went on to form a group called the national deviancy conference. There concept was that social control itself may lead way to deviance, it was only in the early 70's that the theory was given a major boost thanks to Paul Walton, Ian Taylor and Jock Young who published the book "the new criminology (1973)" which was a critique of the concepts in criminology. It called for a renewal and update of the current criminological analysis. The new criminology proved a critical insight into earlier approaches of deviancy theory and also subculture approaches. It saw earlier approaches as important but limited as it was missing something, which was there was no account for the social relations that occur in capitalism. The subcultures theories where on the right track in the theory that certain subcultures within society have values and that can lead to rises in crime and violence. But they failed to adequately study where the subjection and the estrangement of the youth came from, (it came from the patterns of alienated labour.) The emergence of new criminology is really down to the rethinking of criminology. As times change so does criminology, it is the social context which is responsible for in what ways it will change because as cultures and society grows and evolves, it is likely that our old ways of thinking will be challenged and perhaps even replace by new fresh ways of thinking. This is more or less exactly what occurred during the late 1960's in America, at this point in time the events that took place lead to criminologists questioning what role the government has in the causes of crime, this was then therefore a major turning point in how criminology would develop. There period that followed in America was that of social chaos, the Vietnam war had started and the marches in protest to the war where in full flight wreaking havoc among the country, not to mention the movements for the civil rights where taking place, the conspiracy theories behind the assassination of Kennedy and even the Watergate scandal where all during this time. The writings of Karl Marx reflected the mounting attitudes that the United States was racked with social injustice. The events of the time collectively meant that the citizens of the nation and even the criminologists lost faith and instead where to become distrustful of the USA, criminologists then realised that the schools of thought they had been following had been missing out the role of the state in the causation of criminal activity, this was to give rise to a new way of thinking, which was to be "new criminology"
new criminology was split up, labelling theory was perhaps the earliest of the new perspectives that had formed, rather than the focus being on how social condition are responsible for the causes of crime and misconduct, the concept of crime being caused by "societal reaction" which was caused by the governments labelling of citizens as criminals. Crime was thusly viewed as an experimental stage and if left alone long enough, would simply disappear. But as the government entrapped people into the justice system and routinely sent them to jail, social processes where triggered which would only end up entangling people into crime. To put it simply by disgracing offenders publicly, jailing them and excluding them from social roles, only has the counter effect of enhancing their criminality. New criminology in its truest form is a group of writings which can come under the term "critical criminology" as mainstream criminology at the time was under heavy criticism for being overly pro government, and pro conservative, (law, order and power) entails how the American justice system at the time protected the rich, it documented how the control of the economic and even the political system directly affected the way in which the criminal justice system was administered, even in the (social reality of crime) quinney explains that the criminal law within society only represented those members in the society who had forms of power. The concept is simple, whose with power create laws that would inherently protect them and their needs whilst at the same time try and keep the lower classes and rivals in check. It was only a handful of scholars at the time that embraced the theory that social conflict was a product of inequality within the society and the poor distribution of wealth which in turn lead to causes of crime. The law is as a vital part of society, which is supposed to be designed to help our way of life, and not as an infallible moral code. Crime can therefore be seen as a result of an unavoidable consequence of social conflict which is caused by the relationship between the powerful and the weak. The powerful only lookout for their own way of life and not for others which bring to mind the quote "The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don't understand it." (BERTOLTÂ BRECHT, The Three penny Opera)
today's criminologists follow numerous concepts, the misuse of power and how groups can manipulate the behaviour of others and form public opinion to meet there own personal agendas. As those in power are able to control the context of the law it's unusual that their own actions it's ignored or often overlooked. Those who merit those most stern sanctions (often white colour crime as the actions cost the economy millions of pounds each year) receive the least punishment if any. Whereas the petty crimes which are often committed out of economic necessity such as thieves or even drug dealers for that matter get the brunt end of the laws power, this is especially common if the offender is of a minority group.
Critical criminology also questions the roles of criminologists play in the supporting of the norms and also in the aid of the oppressed. As criminologists may spend there time creating successful methods of curbing crime, but all it will ever result in is the poorer being jailed and the prison populations rising as the laws don't change and neither do the people in power (per say) so the nations upper class and corporate elite remain untouched. To exemplify this only crimes really available to the poor and lower classes are the crimes which are dealt with severely by the law such as murder, theft ect. By no means should the law treat them lightly but the laws should just be as equally severe for the middle class who engage in corporate crime and cheat their taxes etc. Whilst there are laws to prevent what goes on, they are rarely enforced and when they are enforced the punishment is light. The main reason for this is due to capitalism, if the law came down on corporate crime it could crush businesses and in the end it is the economy that suffers. The rich are protected from "street crime" as they tend not to live in poor run down areas where street crime is rife, those in power then use the law as a hammer to maintain control over society. The irony of it all is perhaps the rich stand more to lose from upper classes economic offences than they do from the lower class street crimes, the collapse of northern rock is a prime example of this within the uk yet the fact that the government bailed it out is contradictory to capitalism.
new criminologists believe that one of the reason for crimes in today's society is corporate capitalism, the profits created by the abuse of the working classes are procured by the upper classes, which only goes to make the rich richer and more powerful and the money procured can they be used to reinvest back in the business which leads to better machinery, which inevitable reduces the jobs that are needed, this new age technology almost replaces humans which makes it ironic that an economic boom is no longer such a great thing for all areas of population as it can lead to similar effects of depression and recession. The poor economic conditions are looked upon to be a breeding ground for rises in crime and the government only ever assumes the worst and more time and effort is devoted to the justice system, which paves the way to new prisons be made to prepare for the upcoming wave of crime that is to be expected. Research has proven that economic rescission do correlate with increased crime rates and also to increased government activity on legislation. This is how the new criminologists and critical criminologists view causes of crime.
It was Cohen and felsons where responsible for the dividing the concept of crime into two, the attractiveness of the target and also the capable guardianship. There proposal was that crime could occur when an potential offender came into contact with something that attracted them, ie cars, jewels etc with the lack of capable guardianship. They went onto say that changes in the average day of Americans, such things like the moving of women into the work force in mass numbers could result in more crime, on two fronts. One the women where in work so there more of a chance of their property being left vacated for the time being, so potential offenders would see the attractiveness of the property and strike, and also as women where seen as being more vulnerable than men, the fact they where out on the streets made them prone to assaults.
cohens and felsons theory are often referred to as "routine activity theory"
this theory was later to be tied in with the rational choice theory, which was a classical school concept that criminals weigh up the benefits before striking. It was Ronald Clarke who tied the two theories together, because they both follow a similar approach to decreasing criminal activity by means of reducing the opportunities available and making them more a more irrational target ( simply making the crime less beneficial) to exemplify this, take for example a car, by placing alarms on it the potential of the car being stolen by a criminal is reduced, as the chance the alarm being triggered would make it a less profitable crime for him and if the criminal is rational he would realise this.
there are many form of critical theory, according to instrumental theory which is a branch of critical, the justice system serves only the powerful in order to enable them to force their morality on society, those who have power are able to encompass those who might be a threat to the norm or interfere with their desire for a never ending stream of profit. The poor are arrested more often an punished more often than the rich. Under a capitalist system the poor are forced into crime because dissatisfaction exists when society promotes wealth and prosperity only for it to be unattainable. This only leads onto greater levels of class conflict within the society. The instrumental theorists always consider is necessary to expose the justice system so that it can unmask the true purpose of its existence, there goal is to show about the law under capitalist ideology only aims to preserve the power of the ruling classes.
the structural criminologists do not agree that the connection between the law and capitalism only works in one direction ( that of it is nothing more than a hammer for the rich to use against the poor) there argument forms along the line that why would there be laws controlling crimes of corporate nature such as false advertising. They argue that the law is designed to keep the system operating efficiently and anyone who gets in the way should receive a sanction. This rings true to a sense, the laws of the monopoly stop anyone owning everything if it was true that the laws only purpose was to keep the poor in check then surely a monopoly would be an absurd law as it prevents the rich from taking over entirely, of course if the law wasn't there then all the newspapers could be owned by one company etc and it could lead to the impression of democracy being reduced. In our system of free enterprise, no single person can become all powerful at the cost of the economic structure.
New criminologists have largely criticised mainstream criminologist in that they are selling themselves out for the sake of government funding by helping to develop state rule over the lives of citizens. At the same time the mainstream criminologists criticise back claiming that they are living in a dream world when they say the poor steal from the rich only so that they can survive most thefts that happen now days are for luxury rather than survival. People of the day live in fear of rapists, murderers, muggers and thieves, not businessmen that have been corrupted.
New criminologist scholars are now looking for new forms that fall outside of the classical school models. Left realism is a new avenue that is being explored; the need for it is due to an increase of power in the right hand conservative. This has lead to the increase in strict law and order and policies that include punishing the youth in adult courts. Left realism follows the approach that street criminals target the poor and thusly making the poor poorer and abused
they argue that crime in all classes must receive protection and that the control of crime should reflect the needs of community. The police and the courts are not viewed upon as evil tools that have been implanted by capitalism whose aims are nothing more than to cripple and beat down the lower classes. They instead accept that they offer public services, to protect and serve the community. There claim is that if police where to reduce the force they use and take a more sensitive approach to the public, such as ending racial profiling etc crime rates would decrease.
in a shell new criminology was a neo Marxist blended with great British sociology by new it was a move from the old traditional classical schools of thought , Taylor and young combined the two, producing what would come to be know as the robin hood theory of criminology. Put simply the criminals where seen as a victim of the current days system and where fighting back in an attempt to share the wealth, crime could almost be seen as a political act. This however was taken to be idealistic, as the criminals where not giving there gains to the poor but rather hoarding it for themselves, Taylor also failed to see that the poor do not tend to rob from the rich, as the rich have the power and the capability to capture them, rather the poor rob from the poor. However it was a move in criminological thinking as it enabled the sociologists to look into why the criminals act as they do and it also enabled them to look into the importance of labelling theory.
although "new" criminology was ahead if its time during the 70's, its was outdated when one of its initial creators, young, introduced a new Marxist theory in the form of new left realism, as this was an even more dramatic shift to a functionalist view. The sociologists only then realised that they where to radical and had lost touch with the very essence of crime.
New Criminology: Continuity in Criminological Theory,
Crime And Punishment The conservative new criminology