Unlikely partners in crime

Crime in Modern Britain. First edition
February 28, 2003

The Oxford Modern Britain series comprises introductory books on aspects of the social structure of contemporary Britain. They promise to be lively and accessible and to constitute an invaluable source for students across the range of the social sciences.

Crime in Modern Britain fulfils this promise while delivering more than an introductory overview of the subject matter. Its original structure, for example, signals an implicit critical approach to the issues of crime, its perception and control.

Setting off with a discussion of "definitions and knowledge", the authors address the problem that some human conducts are viewed as criminal and others, though harmful, are not. They also question the very basis of our knowledge of crime and its increase by stressing the importance of hidden (unreported or unrecorded) offences, and highlighting the effect of institutional agencies or social groups "playing the crime card".

The chapters flow nicely, engage with literature from the fields of sociology, criminology and history, and display a critical understanding of feminist and postmodern perspectives.

A chapter on the history of crime deals with the notions of the dangerous classes and the underclass, while engaging with the debate on masculinity and youth. The chapters that follow address conventional forms of crime in Britain and organisational criminality. This crucial section gives the book its distinctive character, as forms of organised crime are analysed along with forms of white collar, corporate and state criminality, thus linking, at least in dynamics, "the crimes in the street and the crimes of the elite".

The chapter "Crime and popular culture" examines how crime news is represented in a range of media. It emphasises that crime stories in newspapers tend to be composed of brief accounts of discrete events, with few details on background context. Because news production is built on information given by "primary definers", namely institutional experts, it may end up reflecting the ideologies and professional interests of those definers.

Finally, addressing the issue of crime and the future, the authors suggest that business organisations are likely to be increasingly targets for, and perpetrators of, criminality. As for conventional street crime, the yawning gap between the socially included and the excluded leaves no doubt as to who the perpetrators and the main targets of institutional responses are destined to be.

Vincenzo Ruggiero is professor of sociology, University of Middlesex.

Crime in Modern Britain. First edition

Author - Eamonn Carrabine, Pamela Cox, Maggy Lee and Nigel South
ISBN - 0 19 924611 4
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £14.99
Pages - 185

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