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An International Journal

v 11 #1: Table of Contents and Abstracts

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Critical Criminology is the official journal of the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Critical Criminology. 

PLEASE NOTE: Paul Leighton's term as editor has ended. The Journal remains active, but these pages will not be updated beyond what occurred during Paul's editorship. Please check the journal's official homepage at Springer (formerly Kluwer) for current information. 

The full text of all articles is available via Critical Criminology's official homepage at Springer (click on the volume/issue, then the article, and login or purchase access)

A Working Class Critique of Criminological Theory

William Selke, Nicholas, Corsaro, Henry Selke

The absence of a thoroughly developed working class critique of criminological theory has allowed for a continued bias in the creation of knowledge regarding crime and deviance. Much as feminist writings have illuminated the unique problems related to gender, and works by those discussing racial and ethnic minorities have highlighted the special concerns related to race and ethnicity, a working class perspective can expose the particular issues having to do with class. A brief discussion will be presented dealing with the portrayal of working class people in the media, and the complicity of academia in allowing working class stereotypes to persist. A sketch of a working class perspective will then be developed, and it will be used to critique fourteen of the major criminological theories today in terms of their relative sensitivities and considerations of the class factor in crime and justice issues. The final section contains the placement of each of the fourteen selected theories on a continuum from those that do not consider the working class experience at all to those that give the working class experience full consideration. [Access full text via SpringerLink]


Stuart Russell

Since the early 1990s the “new directions” in Critical Criminology have consciously excluded Marxism as being “out-dated.” The little Marxist theorising in Critical Criminology is due to the fact that they have been made to feel increasingly unwelcome. This paper critically assesses the fundamental theoretical shifts within Critical Criminology. It argues that Marxism remains as relevant and as potent as ever for analysing crime, criminal justice and the role of the state because political economy remains an important analytical tool. Despite the cynical pronouncements of those who have prematurely buried Marxism, there is great hope for its future in Critical Criminology. There is a great need for Critical Criminologists to redirect their attention back to Marxist theory, by developing and extending its powerful tools of critical theoretical analysis. [Access full text via SpringerLink]


Phillip Chong Ho Shon

In prior police-citizen encounter research, the words that citizens and suspects articulate have been used as the primary representation of their demeanor toward the police. Despite its central role in prior works, language has been presupposed into the analysis as a formalistic assumption, and unanalyzed in its own right. Realizing this deficiency Mastrofski and Parks advocated basic changes in methods of observing police work. In this paper, a discourse analytic method of capturing the neglected details of the encounter between the police and citizens is proffered by using a reality based TV show about police work as data. This paper provides the theoretical and methodological framework for overcoming deficiencies in existing police research. [Access full text via SpringerLink]


Ronald Burns and Lindsey Orrick

The media disproportionately focus on conventional crime while neglecting the impact of corporate misbehavior.  The present research adds to that literature by examining U.S. newspaper coverage of a deadly fire at a dance hall in Goteborg, Sweden. This particular incident facilitates examination of how newspapers treat issues involving culpability of conventional offenders (arsonists) and white collar offenders (the owners of the nightclub and the promoters of the dance). It was found that newspapers disproportionately focused on the direct harm associated with the fire, and generally neglected the role played by the organizers/promoters. Suggestions are offered regarding the need for more complete media coverage of crime, particularly white collar crime. [Access full text via SpringerLink]

Review Essay: Stanley Cohen, States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering

Review by Mark Hamm

Here we have the culmination of a bedrock principle of Marxist theory: Through the “white heat” of media and the wholesale capitulation of the chattering classes, the state is able to accumulate sufficient information capital so as to create an image of suffering that quickly becomes a benign commodity. The commodification of suffering mediates social relations among citizens, serving the needs and obscuring the power of information capital. This resembles what the French Situationalists called the society of the spectacle a condition in which all daily life and everything related to thought–school, entertainment, the arts, and even atrocity and suffering–is mobilized on behalf of commodities, proselytizing consumption to the powerless so that the owners of information capital may prosper and live more fully. It is no surprise, then, that the avuncular Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has become a national celebrity, a media icon, and a distinguished guest of honor at dinner parties from the White House to the King’s Palace in Saudi Arabia--where nobody thinks too much about the dogs of war.

These are the sorts of hard, complex issues that obsesses Stan Cohen in his brilliant new book, States of Denial. Cohen attempts to answer a set of questions that have long tormented researchers concerned with terrorism, war, and genocide: What do we do with our knowledge about the suffering of others, and what does this knowledge do to us? Is “acknowledgment” the opposite of denial? If so, what does it mean to acknowledge atrocity and suffering? Is there more to it than “sympathy, commitment and action.” And, getting even closer to the bone, although liberals are typically disturbed about atrocity and torture, why has there been no enduring and collective social outrage against such widespread human suffering?

Cohen is primarily concerned with the ways in which information about atrocities and suffering is transmitted to a larger human audience. He works with a bounty of data--from public reports, media coverage, and human rights conference proceedings on AIDS, homelessness, and global warming, to dozens of interviews with human rights workers and investigative journalists throughout the Middle East, Europe, North and South America. Cohen then examines this data in light of Sigmund Freud’s seminal work on the psychology of denial. From there, the author submerges himself in Holocaust studies, as well as literatures, photography, and movies on genocide, massacre, and torture.

So, what are we to do with these profound insights on current affairs? For scholars, Cohen argues that the empirical problem is not to uncover more evidence of denial, but to find the conditions under which information is acknowledged and acted upon. Instead of asking why most people deny atrocity and suffering, we must turn time and again to the consistent minority who refuse to do so. Cohen considers the conditions under which ordinary people do pay attention; how they come to recognize the significance of what they know; and when they are motivated to act, even at great personal risk. They demonstrate what Cohen calls a banality of virtue (an ingenious play on Arendt’s classic banality of evil metaphor used to explain the Nazi atrocities), in which people act with a “common-sense decency; not thinking of themselves as doing anything special...helping because this was simply the obvious thing to do.”

Rejecting this moral relativism of post-modern theory, Cohen invites us to retreat with him back to the intellectual roots of Western liberalism, back to Orwell and his most well-known contemporary, Noam Chomsky. In this tradition, “the intellectual responsibility of the writer as a moral agent is obvious: to try to find out and tell the truth as best one can about matters of human significance to the right audience–that is, an audience that can do something about them (his emphasis). That audience includes not only those with the power to directly alleviate suffering and distress, but anyone who has benefited from the recent evolution of a more universal, compassionate and inclusive consciousness brought about by global communications technology. Recognizing that old structures of loyalty and identity (nation, class, religion, trade unions) have lost much of their authority, Cohen is hopeful about this “new” social movement: the globalization of information networks with their sophisticated means to increase public awareness of human suffering. [Access full text via SpringerLink]

Mark Hamm is the author of many book on terrorism and hate crimes; his recent project Teaching and Understanding Sept 11 is freely available on the internet through

Review: Flag Burning: Moral Panic and the Criminalization of Protest by Michael Welch

Review by Christopher R. Williams

As Welch describes with brilliant detail, unpopular expressions have largely neglected sociological significance been subject to various historical forms of social control.

In exploring the criminalization of protest, Welch relies on an effective variety of sociological concepts and theoretical tools. By attending to the semiotic and ontological underpinnings of flag burning, for example, Welch alludes to the significance of underlying and often neglected philosophical elements as they inform flag desecration. Namely, the American A flag sustains a hyperreal existence in that its symbolic reality (e.g., patriotism, liberty, freedom) has transcended its material reality, thus reifying the former. Efforts to criminalize or otherwise control flag desecration, as well as similar demands of submissive respect for the flag, are grounded in the assumption that the A flag has a material basis. Flag Burning is not, however, an exercise in deconstruction. Rather, its principle conceptual underpinnings are to be found in the interplay between civil religion, authoritarian aesthetics, moral enterprises.

Overall, Flag Burning is an accessible analysis of sociological processes related to the social control of protest and, more specifically, to the criminalization of flag desecration.  In examining the elements of such processes, Welch draws from several interrelated and important sociological concepts.  Namely, ample attention is given to the role of civil religion, authoritarian aesthetics, moral enterprises, and the ironies of social control.  Divided into three broad sections, Flag Burning examines: the origin and emergence of flag desecration in historical context, alongside the force of civil religion; authoritarian aesthetics and the formal control of unconventional art, fashion, and lifestyle with specific regard for the Stars and Stripes; and a more systematic examination of the theoretical and conceptual components of the criminalization of protest, including the dynamics of moral enterprises (e.g., A Moral Panic and the Social Construction of Flag Desecration, Ch. 7).Throughout, Flag Burning is rich in case law and example, adding both substance and legitimacy to its conceptual framework. Chapter 8 (A Moral Entrepreneurs and the Criminalization of Protest) and Chapter 9 (A The Media and its Contradictions in the Flag Panic) add an empirical flavor to the historical, legal, and conceptual analysis by presenting deconstructive analyses of political rhetoric and media content as they have appeared over the course of the criminalization movement. [Access full text via SpringerLink]

A portion of this book appears in Critical Criminology v 11 #1 as "Advances In Critical Cultural Criminology: An Analysis Of Reactions To Avant-Garde Flag Art"

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