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What is Crime?

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Abstract

Since its emergence in the 19th century, orthodox criminology has suffered from the contradiction of claiming, on the one hand, to be a value-neutral, intellectual discipline, and on the other, operating as part of the ideological apparatus of the political state by taking state definitions of what is crime and who are its criminals as the starting points for criminological inquiry. This essay examines the ways in which criminology has suffered from this internal contradiction, with particular attention to how it has been constrained by political, economic, and professional forces to focus primarily on crimes whose collective harm to society falls well below the harms caused by the wrongful, but often legal acts of economic and political elites. It concludes with the recognition that the kind of critical inquiry emblematic of the work of Bill Chambliss is essential if criminology hopes to remain relevant to the challenges of the future.

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Notes

  1. In previously-existing “communist” societies, criminology was constructed in ways that would buttress the hegemonic ideology of socialism as constructed in those societies. (See inter alia Michalowski 1995; Zatz 1994).

  2. I say “perhaps inadvertently” because, given that Sutherland’s first academic position was in “socialism” at Robert Jewell College, he was, in all likelihood, well versed in class analysis.

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Correspondence to Raymond J. Michalowski.

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Michalowski, R.J. What is Crime?. Crit Crim 24, 181–199 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-015-9303-6

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