Chapter 6 – Crime Complex: the Culture of High Crime Societies
Policies that have emerged over the last few decades have their roots in a new collective experience of
crime and insecurity, an experience that is itself structured by the distinctive social, economic and cultural
arrangements of late modernity.
Policies depend on political transformation and representation, and possibility and popularity based off of
extra-political conditions (social routines and cultural sensibilities) which make the policies possible and
Crime-control strategies are developed, argued for, and legislated in the political realm, so commentary
typically focuses on political process and the interests and ideologies involved.
Need to understand the shifts in the extra-political conditions (social context) in order to understand the
policies’context, timing, and popular appeal.
Politics and policies involve choice and decision-making and possibility of acting otherwise.
Background conditions increase probability that policies with possibility will occur.
UK and USA, crime-control field has 2 new, distinct patterns of action:
1. Adaptive strategy: stresses prevention and partnership
2. Sovereign state strategy: stresses enhanced control and expressive punishment
- These strategies differ from preceding penal-welfare policies, which fell into disrepute
- Arose due to new problem of high rates of crime which became a normal social fact
- Seen as CJS had failed to deliver adequate security
- Politicians adapted to problem by focusing on effects, not causes, of crime
- State withdrew as primary security provider; remodeled crime-control as a dispersed, partnership,
where state works through, not upon, civil society and promotes prevention
- Hybrid organizations form and redefining of existing agencies (police, probation, prisons) occurs
Government officials are ambivalent of strategies and retreat from their implications deny problem,
resulting in intense policing and punishment.
Preventative partnership: the effort to share responsibility for crime control and build a crime prevention
infrastructure beyond the state
- Problem = preconditions; not high profile, don’t need electoral support
- Private actors and organizations: appearance of new habits & routines
- State and non-state agencies coordinate their practices to prevent crime and enhance community
safety through reduction of opportunities and extension of crime-consciousness
o Housing, transport, planning, education, and social work o Business Improvement Districts, crime prevention panels, neighborhood watch
- New ways of thinking & acting: criminological assumptions (new criminologist of everyday life);
style of governance: responsibilization, governing-at-a-distance; repertoire of techniques and
Punitive segregation: new reliance upon measures, especially incapacitative imprisonment, designed to
punish and exclude
- Key question relates to cultural and social support
- Highly politicized policy and needs support to operate
- Actual measures (mandatory sentences, mass imprisonment, and penal marking) don’t require
new ways of thinking/acting but require a level of political and public support
- Political actors’form of denial and acting out
Where do these strategies come from? What are their historical conditions of existence? From what
sources do they derive their social support and cultural resonance?
The Strategy of Punitive Segregation
- Harsher sentencing, increased imprisonment, mandatory minimums, parole release restrictions,
retribution in juvenile court, imprisonment of children, corporal punishment, boot camps,
supermax prisons, pedophile registers, zero-tolerance policies
- Today’s punitive policies have distinguishing features which are shaped by the late modern social
context from which they emerge:
1. These measures engage in an expressive mode of actions but evince a simultaneous
instrumental logic – each operates on 2 different registers: an expressive, punitive scale that
uses the symbols of condemnation and suffering to communicate its message; and an
instrumental register attuned to public protection and risk management.
o Policy concern today is neither purely punitive nor purely about public protection –
today: public be protected and its sentiments expressed
o Penal segregation is increasingly the choice
2. Measures are populist and politicized – policies privilege public opinion over experts, who
are increasingly disenfranchised, and are formulated by political committees and advisors,
announced in political settings, and are under-researched
3. Aprivileged place is given to victims, which is politicized rather than focusing on victims’
interests/opinions. New measures utilized idea of ‘victim’for support and legitimacy. Victims
are seen accompanyingAmerican politicians when new laws or measures are imposed. Any
support, compassion, or efforts to humanize punishments for offenders is seen as an insult to
victims and their families. Crime victim is seen as representative character whose experience
is assumed to be common and collective, rather than individual and atypical. Suffering is
presented through the media, from where the public’s fears and anger are raised, effects of
identification are produced, and reinforcement turns them into the political realm. The center
of penal discourse is a political projection of the individual victim and his/her feelings. The Problem of Historical Explanation
For most of 20 century, penal control policies hardly were part of electoral competition, especially
nationally. Prominence of these policies rose in 1960s for the USAand mid-1970s for the UK. Crime
control had been typically left to the experts, but stakes in politics grew as opposing parties began to
respond. Social welfare policies had been designed by experts after World War II, keeping politics out and
driven by empirical research. There are claims that the media is responsible for involving public opinion
in these policies, intersecting them into the political realm. The support is not really present for tough
policies although the media sure portrays it that way. The media is where most people get their
information about crime and policies, although there is a lot of misinformation and myths. Information,
including educations, governs the public’s attitude on these concerns. The policies are costly for both the
USAand UK, increasing taxes and reducing education, health care, and job-creation programs.
Ideological manipulation and political misrepresentation explain somewhat of how the public has become
invested in these policies and ready to vote for tougher policies, but they do not explain this phenomenon
completely. Emergence of policies actually does not occur in relation to crime rates, and have been
introduced and implemented after crime peaked [and fell] long ago (typically decades ago).
ANew Experience of Crime
High crime rates becoming a social fact created a predicament for the governments of countries like the
US and UK, and thus must be a normal daily experience for the populations. This historically situated
experience of crime is that which is constituted for, and lived by, socially situated individuals who inhabit
the complex of practices, knowledge, norms, and subjectivities that make up culture collective cultural
experience: reflected in each encounter, and inflected and revised by thousands of encounters per day.
Experience of crime = what crime means to a culture at a particular time period, and is tied to specific
forms of life resulting in slow change and resistance to change. Despite being a vague concept,
experience allows historical contexts to compared, and the perspective policies take on and what they
claim to resolve. Social groups and individuals are differentially placed so the experience is differentiated
as well. There has been a shift across decades that increased importance of crime as a social and cultural
1970-80s: shifts in economic and social position of working class facilitated class alliances, race relations,
and rise of dominant conservative political regime. There was opposition to policies supporting the poor
and the underclass. Public opinion began to shift towards punitive direction, buthexperts were the ones
who dictated policies and supported penal and social welfare ones for the 20 century.
The Professional Middle Classes and Penal-Welfarism
Liberal elites, educated middle classes, and experts supported welfarism penal policy and insisted upon a
professionalized, technical, expert approach in dispensing criminal justice through new programs and new
sets of occupational groups who staff the large public sector of the welfare state. Penal policy had been
removed from public scrutiny and popular opinion, resulting in disproportionate influence of the experts.
Middle classes were linked to crime control policies by 3 conditions:
1. Political and economic interests tied them to welfare state politics and institutions – had the most
to gain from redistribution of compulsory national insurance, social security, national healthcare,
mortgage subsides, and state funded education children had advantage of opportunity for
upward mobility. These groups filled the new occupations