The ‘Death of Deviance’ and the Stagnation of Twentieth Century Criminology
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractIn 1994 the British criminologist Colin Sumner published a lengthy obituary for the ‘sociology of deviance’. He claimed that the normative study of ‘crime’ as that which transgressed social values and norms was all but dead, replaced by a more useful and politically aware form of criminological theory. This new direction, he suggested, would benefit from conceptualising ‘crime’ as a form of social censure resulting from social reactions, power imbalances and manipulated public fears. This censure ultimately gives rise to certain acts being defined as ‘criminal’ and punished by formal and informal measures. In this chapter we consider this type of classic ‘social reaction’ theory in the light of Steve Hall’s (2012) assertion that late-twentieth century criminology has been captured, repurposed and impoverished by left and right variants of an underlying libertarian narrative. This has left us struggling to identify and explain persistent forms of criminality appearing throughout the social structure. Since the turn of the millennium, however, there have been significant moves in criminological theory and research back towards criminal motivations, the relationship between criminality and late capitalist culture and the social impact of the more harmful criminal activities. With these new moves in mind this chapter will explore the possibility that the ‘sociology of deviance’ might not be quite as moribund as Sumner’s obituary suggests.
CitationHorsley, M. (2014). The ‘Death of Deviance’ and the Stagnation of Twentieth Century Criminology. In M. Dellwing, J. Kotarba, & N. Pino (Eds.), The Death and Resurrection of Deviance: Current Research and Ideas. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
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