Sociology Social Construction of Crime
by
Murray Lee
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0190

Introduction

Crime is a term generally used to describe a range of behaviors or acts that a society and/or its lawmakers have deemed fit to criminalize. Indeed, most forms of crime have little in common apart from the fact that they have been labeled as such and thus constitute and infringement of a specific law. This might seem self-evident to sociologists versed in social theory. However, crime is often talked about in contemporary society as if it were a self-evident natural, legal, or moral category. Nowhere is this more evident than in the biological or genetic search for the causes of crime where criminal acts are somehow prescribed within the individual makeup. In fact, crime is a very unstable construction. It is unstable temporally, culturally, and geographically. There are few acts if any that are always deemed crimes in every society. One need only think about homicide, which while broadly condemned, is legal in the theater of war in many contexts, or as an act of the state such as capital punishment in many jurisdictions.

General Overviews

To suggest that crime is socially constructed does not mean there is a singular view of the ways in which this social construction takes place (Burr 2015). Indeed, there are multiple and often competing models as Hahn Rafter 1990 has noted. These vary from positivistic models of social construction where crime is seen to be a functional product of the type of society and culture in which it takes place (see Durkheim 1982 and Merton 1957 in Classic Works), to social constructivist accounts which understand crime as a social process (see Cohen 1972 in Labeling and Constructionism; Goode and Ben-Yehuda 2009) or post-structuralist accounts that see crime as the result of competing discourses of power or strategies of domination (see Foucault 1977 and Garland 2001 in Post-structuralism) (Barak 1995, Downes and Rock 2011). There are a number of works that give sociological overviews of such models and theories.

  • Barak, Greg, ed. 1995. Media, process, and the social construction of crime: Studies in newsmaking criminology. New York: Garland.

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    This seminal collection draws together a number of articles from key contributors who assess the role of the media in constructing the “reality” of crime. The editor notes that perceptions of crime and the crime problem are constructed through shared crime narratives that include experts such as media commentators, politicians, and criminologists. Through evaluations of these narratives the media can be seen as a key tool of social control.

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    • Burr, Vivian. 2015. Social constructionism. East Sussex, UK: Routledge.

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      This book gives an excellent general overview of the elements and history of social constructionism using examples drawn from psychology, medicine, and other disciplines.

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      • Downes, David, and Paul Rock. 2011. Understanding deviance. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

        DOI: 10.1093/he/9780199569830.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        An enduring publication now into its sixth edition, this overview of sociological criminology remains an excellent resource text in this field.

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        • Goode, Erich, and Nachman Ben-Yehuda. 2009. Moral panics: The social construction of deviance. Oxford: Blackwell.

          DOI: 10.1002/9781444307924Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Updated edition of this book first published in 1994. This offers a great overview of how media players and other moral agents construct crime and our fears about it.

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          • Hahn Rafter, Nicole. 1990. The social construction of crime and crime control. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 27 (November): 376–389.

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            This article is a succinct overview of social constructionism in the broad fields of criminology and criminal justice studies. It notes how scholars from outside the correctionist and administrative traditions had impacted upon the fields since the early 1960s in particular.

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            Classic Works

            While the social constructivist turn in sociology and the social sciences that informs work in this field can be traced clearly back to Berger and Luckmann 1967, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, this work was itself informed by earlier scholars who questioned the ontological base of knowledge and ideas—including crime. For example, while Durkheim saw crime as a “social fact” that existed in every society, he also noted how its forms and extent were a function of particular societies. That is there was nothing “natural” about crime other than the particular role it played in maintaining a functional society. Indeed, even further back Adolphe Quetelet (Quetelet 1835, p. 108) had noted, “Society contains the germs of all the crimes that will be committed, as well as the conditions under which they can develop. It is society that, in a sense, prepares the ground for them, and the criminal is the instrument.” For both these scholars there was of course a set of causes of crime that could be explained through a positive science of society or statistical method, so its social construction was based on a clear divide between structure and agency with the form largely constructing the later. The work of the Chicago School in the early 20th century explored the social construction of crime further than any previous theorists. Although their methods and approaches to research were diverse and at times positivistic, they also developed a much more “appreciative” approach to the sociology of crime. That is they were keen to understand and tell offenders’ own stories and to understand how they constructed their own social worlds—for example (Shaw 1930, Shaw and Moore 1931). Such work was contemporaneous with that of George Herbert Mead (Mead 1934) where the seeds of social constructionism were being sewn.

            • Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. 1967. The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Anchor.

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              This publication is broadly acknowledged as being the blueprint for social constructionism in the social sciences. Importantly their work breaks down firm definitions of subject and object contending that humans both create and are created by the external world. Both labeling theory and moral panic theory can be seen as developing out of this general philosophical model.

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              • Durkheim, Émile. 1982. The rules of sociological method. Free Press.

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                Originally pubished 1895. In retrospect Durkheim’s contribution to sociology was nothing short of astonishing. This extended to the sociology of crime and indeed to heavily influencing criminological thought. His pronouncement that crime was a social fact and a normal and indeed functional element of any society was not only counterintuitive at a time when crime was seen as the most obvious of social maladies, it also established crime as being subject to particular social forces that construct its forms.

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                • Mead, George Herbert. 1934. Mind, self, and society. Edited by Charles W. Morris. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                  Mead’s thought and work coalesced over a number of years and though numerous publications. Some key works are collected here where his combination of pragmatism and behaviorism essentially give birth to symbolic interactionism. The active self is constructed through interractions with those they encounter. This means that the actor committing a criminal act is the product of a particular set of social interractions and so too is the society of social groups that understand the act as criminal.

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                  • Merton, Robert K. 1957. Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press.

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                    Originally pubished 1949. Merton further developed Durkheim’s ideas of the way in which social structure produces deviance. His notion of social strain suggested that “the social and cultural structure generates pressure for socially deviant behaviour upon people variously located in that structure” (p. 121). Indeed, it was the social structure, overlayed with the development of unobtainable cultural norms, that was likely to produce an anomic state where crime rates would be high due to a range of deviant adaptions by disenfranchised individuals.

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                    • Quetelet, Adolphe. 1835. Sur l’homme et le developpement de ses facultés, essai d’une physique sociale.

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                      Quetelet’s work on criminal statistics constitutes one of the earliest examples of what would later become positivist criminology. His aim was to be able to make scientifically measurable the ways in which social-demographic and geographic social forces produced certain types of behavior including crime.

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                      • Shaw, C. R. 1930. The Jack roller: A delinquent boy’s own story. Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press.

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                        In The Jack Roller, Shaw clearly demonstrates the argument for using an appreciative approach to understanding offending. Indeed, his case studies show how crime is not the inevitable outcome of individual’s lives, but is the result of complex and contingent social interactions, processes, and individual biographies.

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                        • Shaw, C. R., and M. E. Moore. 1931. The natural history of a delinquent career. Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press.

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                          A classic study in the life history of delinquents, this remains an enduring piece of social scientific research and clearly demonstrates processes of criminalization.

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                          Labeling and Constructionism

                          There is a long history of seeing crime as being the result of, or produced by, particular social forces. While Tannenbaum 1938 has highlighted the process of dramatizing and magnifying crime early in the 20th century, it was not until the 1960s that conceptual thinking about crime came to understand these processes as much more contingent (Lemert 1951, Sykes and Matza 1957). Likewise, institutions themselves were reconceptualized as deviance creating (Goffman 1968). Such thinking began to undermine and notion of there being any natural ontology to crime as a category. Rather, crime as a term began to be questioned as a useful organizing term to describe acts that were subject to legal or social sanction. Indeed, the term “deviancy” was used as a way of getting beyond the limits imposed by narrow definitions or labels of crime (Becker 1963). As Becker noted, “social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those roles to particular people and labeling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by other of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender.’ The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label” (Becker 1963). This social constructionism was perhaps exemplified in Stan Cohen’s famous work on moral panics, where he notes that “More moral panics will be generated and other, as yet nameless folk devils will be created. This is not because such developments have an inexorable inner logic, but because our society as presently structured will continue to generate problems for some of its members . . . and then condemn whatever solution these groups find” (Cohen 1972). Hall, et al. 1978 moved the level analysis from an interactionist model to one more based in hegemonic social structure. On the other hand some crimes resist being constructed as such as Ditton 1996 show us in regards to “the fiddle.”

                          • Becker, Howard S. 1963. Outsiders. New York: Free Press.

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                            A compilation of sorts that dates back to papers written in the early 1950s, The Outsiders is often considered the first piece of work that outlines labeling theory. Put succinctly both what we think of as crime, and how offenders and their audiences think about criminal events and their participants, are the result of complex processes of criminalization.

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                            • Cohen, Stanley. 1972. Folk devils and moral panics. London: McGibbon & Kee.

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                              Cohen’s masterwork in the sociology of deviance has achieved cult status. While he may not have coined the term “moral panic” Cohen’s book did more than any other in bringing the term into mainstream use. He uses the example of how conflict between mods and rockers in 1960s Britain was amplified by the ways in which the media and a range of moral entrepreneurs constructed their conflict.

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                              • Ditton, Jason. 1996. Natural criminology: An essay on the fiddle. Glasgow: PressGang.

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                                Essentially a book on the history of words and how they shape contemporary understandings of crime. This sharp essay reminds us of the sometimes hidden meanings in the way we understand and describe crime.

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                                • Goffman, Erving. 1968. Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

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                                  While Goffman’s Aslyums focused on the role of mental patients and their relationship to the hospital staff to which they were subjugated, his analysis of total institutions had far reaching implications for the sociology of crime and offending. In short Goffman provides the tools for analyzing how institutionalization may be counterproductive in treating deviant behaviors and may actually reproduce the very problems which such institutions are meant to alleviate.

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                                  • Hall, Stuart, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and Brian Roberts. 1978. Policing the crisis: Mugging, the state, and law and order. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

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                                    A master work in critical engagement in policing and social control, Hall and colleagues bring a Gramscian cultural studies approach to the construction of mugging as a crime in the United Kingdom. The authors expertly explore the racialization of crime and how this fed into a broader conservative political and media agenda.

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                                    • Lemert, Edwin. 1951. Social pathology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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                                      Lemert’s sociological insights into the processes of labeling and the way in which labels are internalized are central to understanding how criminal behavior is internalized—and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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                                      • Sykes, Gresham, and David Matza. 1957. Techniques of neutralization. American Sociological Review 22:664–670.

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                                        In retrospect Sykes and Matza’s work detailing how those that commit offenses neutralize for themselves feelings or wrongdoing was far ahead of its time. Rather than framing their crimes in opposition to mainstream moral values, the authors show us how offenders actually rationalize their actions with reference to mainstream moral obligations.

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                                        • Tannenbaum, Frank. 1938. Crime and community. London and New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                          Very early on Tannenbaum understood how crime could be dramatized to good effect. He moved our understanding of the nature of crime to something altogether more contingent and unstable. A blueprint for labeling theory.

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                                          • Young, Jock. 1971. The drugtakers: The social meaning of drug use. London: Paladin.

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                                            The Drugtakers demonstrates how the legal and regulatory frameworks around particular practices actually serve to reproduce the deviancy it seeks to reduce. In particular the drugtaker and the cultural milieu in which they operate is pushed underground and a black market assembled around the supply of substances. Even death by overdose is a consequence more of regulatory regimes than the nature of the drug itself.

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                                            Neo-Marxism and the Structure of Crime

                                            While moral panic and labeling theory had accounted for the interactions between social groups that criminalized selective individuals, groups, and behaviors, many of those working in that space believed they needed a full social theory of crime that could explore the ways in which forces related to the social structure led some groups to have the power to label while others were largely powerless to resist having labels applied to them (Taylor, et al. 1973). While there was a long Marxist tradition in thinking about the construction of crime (Bonger 1969) the (re) discovery of Marxist social theory in the early 1970s gave critical sociologists and criminologists the tools to explore processes of criminalization through a critique of capitalism itself (Quinney 1974, Chambliss 1975). Crime was seen as a by-product of the capitalist economy and an individual or group’s relationship to the means of production.

                                            • Bonger, Willem. 1969. Criminality and economic conditions. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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                                              Originally published 1916. Bonger first makes the causal link between the conditions that emerge under capitalism and criminal offending. The selfish competitive nature of emerging systems of exchange are said to lead to alienation and the opportunity for crime enhance one’s wealth.

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                                              • Chambliss, W. 1975. Towards a political economy of crime. Theory and Society 2.1: 149–170.

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                                                While Quinney and Chambliss may have had slightly differing models of the socio-legal structures that produces crime, both agree that capitalism is criminogenic by nature. “The criminal law is thus not a reflection of custom (as other theorists have argued), but is a set of rules laid down by the state in the interests of the ruling class, and resulting from the conflicts that inhere in class structured societies; criminal behavior is, then, the inevitable expression of class conflict resulting from the inherently exploitative nature of the economic relations” (p. 151).

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                                                • Quinney, R. 1974. Critique of the legal order. Boston: Little Brown.

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                                                  This book argues that the prevailing legal order of American society serves the interests of the ruling class. In doing so it is largely uninterested in reducing harm, suffering, or crime. Rather, it reproduces a capitalist ideology and in doing so constructs as criminal actions that might render the existing order unstable.

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                                                  • Taylor, I., P. Walton, and J. Young. 1973. The new criminology. London: Routledge.

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                                                    In The New Criminology, Taylor, Walton, and Young move away from labeling theory, which they now see as too liberal. Rather, class relations become the focus of analysis in this tour de force of radical criminological thought where the authors use a model of instrumental Marxism to highlight ruling class crime, the illegitimacy of the ruling class, and the relative impotence of criminology to highlight the way in which the working classes were criminalized.

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                                                    Feminist and Gender Theories

                                                    Like neo-Marxists, feminists and gender scholars too had long pointed to the social structural issues that produced some actions as criminal but where other behaviors that caused considerable harm to women were rarely criminalized and often not even rendered illegal (Smart 1976, Naffine 1987). In particular feminist scholars noted how crimes commonly perpetrated against women—sexual assault (rape) and domestic violence in particular—were either not illegal, or went unreported or unpunished. And when such crime did get processed by the criminal justice and legal systems, the attrition rates at each stage of the system were so high as to render that system ineffective. Such crimes were understood as reflective of a patriarchal social order, and this order was itself reinforced through these crimes that subjugated women (Graycar and Morgan 2002). This demonstrates not only how crime is socially constructed, but how its construction is highly selective (Carrington 1994). More recently scholars of masculinity have explored men’s offending and the role of gender identity in the production of criminals (Connell 1995, Messerschmidt 1986).

                                                    • Carrington, Kerry. 1994. Offending girls: Sex, youth and justice. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

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                                                      Carrington’s book dissects the way in which gender and class define the way in which deviant behavior is constructed as a criminal and/or welfare problem. Here she argues that young girls drawn into the welfare system are also often then fast-tracked into the criminal justice/juvenile justice system.

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                                                      • Connell, Raewyn. 1995. Masculinities. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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                                                        While not focused on crime per se, Connell’s important book provided a key starting point for the study of masculinities plural. Here gender identity intersects with particular types of behavior likely to result in criminalization.

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                                                        • Graycar, Regina, and Jenny Morgan. 2002. The hidden gender of the law. Leichhardt, Australia: Federation.

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                                                          The dense book assesses how the law constructs women as victims and offenders. In doing so it deconstructs many central legal categories showing them to be implicitly gendered and sexed.

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                                                          • Messerschmidt, James W. 1986. Capitalism, patriarchy, and crime. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield.

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                                                            Messerschmidt’s work explores the intersection of class and gender. While critiquing Marxism for its failure to address gender the author outlines a model for a socialist critique of the gendered nature of offending.

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                                                            • Naffine, Ngaire. 1987. Female crime: The construction of women in criminology. Sydney, Australia: Allen and Unwin.

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                                                              This book outlines the differing ways in which women’s offending has been constructed in the criminological domain.

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                                                              • Smart, Carol. 1976. Women, crime and criminology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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                                                                Smart’s enduring work illustrates the diverse ways women’s criminality and victimization is constructed within legal and social discourse—to that of men. She demonstrates the “malestream” nature of criminology and related disciplines.

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                                                                Post-structuralism

                                                                The post-structuctural turn in the social sciences in general and sociology in particular had significant implications for the way in which we think about crime and offending. Rather than just seeing crime as constructed around class, gender, or through labels, post-structuralism problematized such categories. Instead it highlighted the instability and floating meaning of language and how power was, rather than held by a category of people or the state, bound up in discourses around which meaning is contingent (Burchell, et al. 1991). For Foucault 1977, for example, the modern prison existed not because it successfully reintegrated, reformed, or deterred criminals, but rather that is was part of a broader pattern of disciplinary power exercised throughout the social body. Indeed, the individual criminal was seen as being constructed by a nexus of knowledge/power that attempted to either discipline the soul of the offender (through training and correction) or govern bodies in time and space (through temporal and spatial arrangements). The prison was justified not because of what it did, but what it meant. The notion of cultures of control in Garland 2001 eloquently captures the way in which the power/knowledge of criminologies construct certain types of subject of control patterns and strategies. Lee 2007 deconstructs the ways in which fear of crime has come to be understood through a range of contingent discourses which make up fearing subjects. Simon 2007 allows us to deconstruct America’s war on crime and instead understand how it is a war on the poor using fear as its key mechanism of control. Likewise Deleuzian theory has allowed us to reinterpret concepts like surveillance (Bauman and Lyon 2013). No longer can they just be seen as totalizing forms of power exercised from above, but rather as an a surveillant assemblage which is both creative and fluid, and interconnected to a range of data producing technologies. Data doubles are constructed which constitute interpretations of human subjects. Central to many of these approaches has been the ways in which risk discourse informs both strategies of control and a range of criminal justice interventions (Hudson 2003).

                                                                • Bauman, Zigmunt, and David Lyon. 2013. Liquid surveillance. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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                                                                  In the late modern world there are few technologies more important to the construction of crime and criminality than the technologies of surveillance. Moreover, many seemingly inert technologies—such as smart phone apps and social media—have become technologies of surveillance. This book explores the surveillant assemblage in a relaxed conversational style.

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                                                                  • Burchell, Graham, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds. 1991. The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality. London: Harvester Whetsheaf.

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                                                                    This edited collection proved an influential collection in encouraging work around Focualt’s later concept of governmentality. It has implications for the ways in which subjectivities are constructed and how governance operates from the level of state to individual. It also contains key chapters in the area by Focuault.

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                                                                    • Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and punish: The birth of the modern prison. London: Penguin.

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                                                                      There are fewer more influential works in understanding many of the modern concepts of crime and punishment than Foucault’s analysis of the persistence of the modern prison. His diagrams of power—and in particular his interpretation of Bentham’s panopticon—are now key concepts within contemporary sociology and critical criminology.

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                                                                      • Garland, David. 2001. The culture of control: Crime and social order in contemporary society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                        While Garland’s book takes its starting point from Foucault’s work, its focus is on emerging patterns of crime control in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In particular its contribution to our understanding of the social construction of crime comes with his evaluations of the criminologies of control in which he articulates the imagining of particular subjects of criminological discourse.

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                                                                        • Hudson, Barbara. 2003. Justice in the risk society. London: SAGE.

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                                                                          Like Garland, Hudson takes Foucault as a starting point. Another influence is the risk society work of Ulrich Beck explicit in the title. Importantly the book takes as its target society’s preoccupation with “risk” in modern liberal democracies and its threat to justice.

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                                                                          • Lee, Murray. 2007. Inventing fear of crime. Criminology and the politics of anxiety. Cullompton, UK: Willan.

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                                                                            This book explores the way in which studies of, and discourse about, fear of crime constructed not only particular images of crime, but also how one should fear it. Indeed, it suggests fear of crime is a recent invention of crime victim surveys rather than a shared emotional response to crime.

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                                                                            • Simon, Jonathan. 2007. Governing through crime: How the war on crime transformed American democracy and created a culture of fear. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                              In this influential book Simon demonstrates how a culture of fear enabled the poor and uneducated to be reconceptualised as criminal.

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                                                                              The Cultural Turn

                                                                              One enduring criticism of post-structuralism in explaining the construction of crime has been its apathy toward culture as a source for crime’s meanings (Ferrell, et al. 2008). The cultural reproduction of crime and its symbols in an era where our social world is multi-mediatized should surely be of great interest to those attempting to understand why we criminalize certain types of behavior and people. Exploring the ways in which cinema, novels (Ferrell, et al. 2008), art (Young 2009), and news (Young 1996) combine to construct meaning about crime and criminals is vitally important in late modern multi-mediated consumer societies. Cultural criminology incorporates elements of post-structuralism but also draws on labeling, cultural studies, and a range of other traditions to explore how the meaning is imbedded in culture. It also explores the role of emotion—particularly excitement—in offending behaviors (Presdee 2000, Lyng 2005, Halsey 2008).

                                                                              • Ferrell, Jeff, Keith Heyward, and Jock Young. 2008. Cultural criminology. London: SAGE.

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                                                                                This book is perhaps more a challenge to prevailing mainstream criminology than an articulation of a new model of analysis. Films and books become texts with as much or more important implications than key works in sociology and criminology. Importantly it attempts to understand the excitement of crime by reinvigorating criminology away from its statistically focused malaise.

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                                                                                • Halsey, Mark J. 2008. Narrating the chase: Edgework and young peoples’ experiences of crime. In The critical criminology companion. Edited by Thalia Anthony and Chris Cunneen, 105–117. Sydney, Australia: Hawkins.

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                                                                                  Halsey’s chapter explores the ways in which young men experience excitement in the context of the police pursuit. This is important as it reveals that pursuing young offenders at high speed in motor vehicles will more likely than not escalate rather than mitigate the risk of injury or death in the course of apprehension or arrest.

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                                                                                  • Lyng, Stephen. 2005. Edgework: The sociology of risk taking. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                    Lyng’s concept of edgework—the excitement of placing oneself at great risk in the pursuit of leisure—has become central to appreciative cultural understandings of offending. It also provides another dimension to the sociology of risk. Edgework provides a challenge to routines of daily life. It is a key influence in cultural criminology.

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                                                                                    • Presdee, Mike. 2000. Cultural criminology and the carnival of crime. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                      Presdee’s book incorporates ideas of the carnivalesque demonstrating both the role of emotion in offending and our reactions to it. Extreme behavior (criminal and otherwise), Presdee suggests, has broken free of the constraints of the carnival to become “a second life.” Crime is one mode of the willfull disrespect for the powerful.

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                                                                                      • Young, Alison. 1996. Imagining crime: Textual outlaws and criminal conversations. London: SAGE.

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                                                                                        Difficult to categorize, this book is at once a work of post-structural feminist criminology and an early example of cultural criminology. Imagining Crime asks us to rethink our assumed knowledge of crime by understanding its deep-seated cultural value.

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                                                                                        • Young, Alison. 2009. The scene of violence: Crime, cinema, affect. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                          Young’s work asks us to consider how visceral cultural representations of crime and violence connect up to criminal justice practice. It attempts to explain our cultural attraction to the illicit through an exploration of violence in crime cinema in particular.

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                                                                                          Media, Police, and the Construction of Crime

                                                                                          While theory has provided multiple explanations as to how crime is socially constructed there is also a growing body of work discussing the institutions of social control and how they have increasing capacity to influence the ways in which the public interprets crime (Surette 1992). The media obviously has a significant role in this (Jewkes 2015) but the police in particular offer the media increasingly structured access to information contributed to very particular versions of crime and criminal justice (Mawby 2002). Indeed, the ways in which police involvement in reality television, social media, and multimedia are combining to produce “official” images of crime are cause for concern in a world increasingly governed through image (Lee and McGovern 2014).

                                                                                          • Jewkes, Yvonne. 2015. Media and crime. London: SAGE.

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                                                                                            Jewkes’s key text gives an excellent overview of the various ways in which the media and related institutions construct news and images of crime and criminals.

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                                                                                            • Lee, Murray, and Alyce McGovern. 2014. Policing and media: Public relations, simulations and communications. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                              This book uses empirical material to explore how police image work is operating in the social media age. It suggests that policing has become a “simulated” project where policing on the information superhighway has become as important as policing on the terrestrial highway.

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                                                                                              • Mawby, Rob C. 2002. Policing images: Policing, communication and legitimacy. Cullompton, UK: Willan.

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                                                                                                This book is an in-depth study of the ways in which police organizations us image in their attempts to construct their own legitimacy. This “image work” is seen as central to modern public relations–driven policing.

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                                                                                                • Surette, Ray. 1992. Media, crime and criminal justice: Images and realities. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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                                                                                                  This book, now into its fifth edition, gives an in-depth general overview into how media constructs crime and the need to be a critical viewer of crime news.

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                                                                                                  Risk and Crime

                                                                                                  It has been said that we live in a risk society (Beck 1992). Much recent literature and research has explored the ways in which risk technologies and risk thinking construct contemporary crime problems (Lupton 1999, O’Malley 2010). Indeed, risk thinking has permeated every level of systems of criminal justice to the point that it is a key determinant of the allocation of resources. Much crime prevention is based around reducing risky situations, or the assessment of crime risk to various facilities, policing is often directed to risky hotspots or at individuals or groups at risk of offending, courts decide on sentences based on the risk of offenders to the public, and prison systems classify inmates based on risk assessment (Hudson 2003, cited under Post-structuralism). Increasingly risk is quantified making assessment a relatively straightforward mathematical process. Anti-terrorism strategies too are governed through risk (Walklate and Mythen 2015). Many of the articles cited under the Cultural Turn and Media, Police, and the Construction of Crime also explore risk to some extent.

                                                                                                  • Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk society: Towards a new modernity. New Delhi: SAGE.

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                                                                                                    Beck’s provocation to explore risk might be more polemic than empirical but it set in motion a rich vein of sociological and criminological scholarship that critically assessed recursive risk thinking.

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                                                                                                    • Lupton, Deborah. 1999. Risk. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                      Lupton’s book nicely explores the variety or ways risk has been discussed within the sciences and social sciences. While not taking crime as its central topic it’s still a fine introductory text for understanding how risk thinking constructs a variety of social problems.

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                                                                                                      • O’Malley, P. 2010. Crime and risk. London: SAGE.

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                                                                                                        A concise book exploring risk technologies, crime, and criminal justice. O’Malley commandingly critiques many constructionist models of risk, adopting a broadly post-Foucaultian governmentality position. Crime risk, for O’Malley, has no ontological stability, rather it is a construction of risk logics and risk discourse.

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                                                                                                        • Walklate, Sandra, and Gabe Mythen. 2015. Contradictions of terrorism: Security, risk, resilience. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                                          Mythen and Walklate have explored elements of risk and criminal justice across a range of crime and justice topics. In this book they look at the construction of terrorist risks and show how risk thinking can actually create the very terrorist problem it seeks to contain.

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                                                                                                          The Construction of the Criminal “Other” in Global Contexts

                                                                                                          Criminology has been late to move from a focus on the streets to a focus on the construction of crime in a global context. While scholars have for some time focused on the construction of the criminal other in neocolonial contexts (Blagg 2008) and participated in decolonizing projects, understanding the ways in which the global production of knowledge contributes to the ongoing subjugation and criminalization of large numbers of people has only recently been articulated into a project of Southern Theory (Connell 2007) and subsequently Southern Criminology (Carrington, et al. 2016). Such projects ask us to question whether our accepted frames of understanding crime—born out of the project of Western modernity—can be usefully applied to criminalizing processes (neocolonial and otherwise) in the Global South. Global geopolitics also informs the projects of border criminology which takes as its focus questions of citizenship, human rights, sovereign borders, and the movement of peoples around the globe (Pickering and Ham 2015).

                                                                                                          • Blagg, Harry. 2008. Crime, aboriginality and the decolonisation of justice. Annandale, Australia: Hawkins.

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                                                                                                            Blagg’s work takes the context of neocolonialism as key to the criminalization of indigenous Australians. His project includes working with communities on strategies of decolonization that empower Aboriginal people and problematize the application of Western justice.

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                                                                                                            • Carrington, Kerry, Russell Hogg, and Máximo Sozzo. 2016. Southern criminology. British Journal of Criminology 56.1: 1–20.

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                                                                                                              Taking Connell’s work as a starting point, Carrington and colleagues make the argument for criminology (particularly in the Global South) to reposition itself. It is in a sense a manifesto on how to begin a project of southern theorizing. In doing so it problematizes construction of crime borrowed from the Western Global North.

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                                                                                                              • Connell, Raewyn. 2007. Southern theory: The global dynamics of knowledge in the social sciences. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen and Unwin.

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                                                                                                                Connell offers a critique of theory developed in the Global North being applied to diverse social contexts in the Global South, and also explores a range of underutilized theory developed in the Global South.

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                                                                                                                • Pickering, Sharon, and Julie Ham. 2015. The Routledge handbook on crime and international migration. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                  The collection includes chapters by key authors who explore the dynamics of borders and the international movement, migration, and trafficking of people. It offers key insights into how global movement is freely available to some, yet impeded and criminalized for others.

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                                                                                                                  Journals

                                                                                                                  There are no journals specifically orientated to the social construction of crime. Nonetheless there are a broad range of journals that publish articles exploring such issues. In particular those journals exploring theoretical approaches to criminology and orientated away from purely quantitative empirical work are key to innovations in this general field (Theoretical Criminology; Crime, Media, Culture). More generalist journals also contribute to such debates—particularly the broad focus in such journals as Punishment & Society, Journal of Law and Society, and British Journal of Criminology. Critically focused journals such as Critical Criminology and Current Issues in Criminal Justice are also highly relevant while journals focused on policing (Policing and Society) and surveillance (Surveillance and Society) are also highly relevant.

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