Inside crime's many guises

Theoretical Criminology
October 16, 1998

Theoretical Criminology aims to "create an international forum for the advancement of the theoretical aspects of criminology"; a "broad and inclusive" space that could accommodate the "wide diversity of thinking within criminology" and the range of disciplines upon which criminological research and reflection draws. Against the backdrop of a predominantly "applied" discipline that has sometimes remained intellectually parochial and evinced a rather limited understanding of what "theory" might mean, this is a laudable aim. On the evidence thus far, this journal looks set to become a valuable addition to the criminological scene.

A number of features support this conclusion. First, the journal has largely lived up to its promise to be genuinely international in scope. My (simple) quantitative analysis of the first seven issues counted contributions from the United Kingdom (11), the United States (10), mainland Europe (5), Australia/New Zealand (4), Canada (4) and South America (1).

Second, it has, notwithstanding some inevitable unevenness, published material of a high quality, with a number of articles standing out as original and challenging: my own personal highlight is Steve Hall's cogent analysis of post-industrial (male) violence.

More promising still is the fact that there are few signs of hijack by any single theoretical perspective or style of work. Far from it. The first few issues offer a plurality of approaches and show some encouraging signs that the journal will be a place where one encounters the diverse ways of thinking about and doing "theory" that are current within criminology across the globe. Thus, in addition to some more or less conventional (and almost exclusively US-based) accounts of the causes of crime(s) and violence, one finds various contributions from feminist theory; assorted attempts to theorise the routine practices or current transformations of criminal justice agencies; a smattering of historical criminology; a couple of examples of fashionable Foucault-inspired work on "governmentality"; some bold attempts to draw upon and put to critical criminological use aspects of European social theory, and some reflections on the production and uses of criminological knowledge itself. All in all, it is an enticing brew.

It is often said - though only partly true - that journals are but as good as the papers they attract. Good social science journals usually also have something - a distinct identity, a theoretical or political mission, a lively format, an energetic editor - that makes people want to read them and to write for them. In this, Theoretical Criminology has displayed much promise. The editors have a clear willingness to encourage direct debate between contributors - most constructively in the discussion of Charles Tittle's "control balance" theory; less so in a tetchy and somewhat insular exchange about the merits or otherwise of "cultural deviance" theories. There has also been a special issue on the important emerging field of "green criminology" -Jand even a letter to the editor.

Ian Loader is lecturer in criminology, Keele University.

Theoretical Criminology

Editor - Piers Beirne and Colin Sumner
ISBN - ISSN 1362 4806
Publisher - Sage
Price - £32.00 (individuals); £115.00 (institutions)

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