A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Studying Criminology

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Ronnie Lippens

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  • Back Matter
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    Dedication

    This book is dedicated to Hans, Greta, Erin, Yoran, Lunar, and Arden Hofman, and to Peter, Mirèse, and Jonas Colle

    Preface

    This book, in its own little way, aims to address the current dearth of philosophical introductions to the study of criminology. It is written for students who have just embarked upon the study of criminology or related fields and disciplines (e.g. law and socio-legal studies, sociology of deviance, criminal justice and justice studies) and who want to familiarize themselves with a number of basic philosophical ideas and insights in order to sharpen and develop their critical abilities. Students who have already progressed into their academic curriculum might also benefit from reading this book. It is my silently cherished hope that even the more advanced criminology student will be able to find, in this little book, reasons to review, adjust and perhaps modify their opinion or position on the issues of crime and crime control.

    An attempt was made to make this book as accessible as possible. The number of notes and references has been limited to a necessary minimum, while a ‘Further Reading’ signpost placed at the end of the book should offer the more inquisitive student an opportunity to expand their philosophical and criminological horizon. Although this is a slightly philosophy-oriented book, great care was taken to avoid as much jargon as possible. Philosophical concepts and ideas are introduced carefully and gradually.

    Students without any prior knowledge of philosophy, or indeed criminology for that matter, should be able to grasp the argument in this book without any trouble. However, readers are advised to read all chapters in sequence. The basic argument should then gradually fall in place. Allow me to phrase this differently: readers could do worse than read the more theoretical and slightly abstract chapters (i.e. Chapters 2 and 3 in particular) before moving on to the more concrete and applied ones (4, 5 and 6).

    Over the years I've had quite a few interesting discussions with fellow criminologists and legal scholars on the topic of undergraduate education in criminology and socio-legal studies. Colleagues at Keele University and elsewhere have always been very keen to discuss such issues with me. Many thanks go to all of them. I would very much like to mention Anette Ballinger, Lieve Gies and Tony Jefferson in particular here. I really enjoyed the many conversations we had on a whole range of teaching related topics. Last but certainly not least I wish to thank undergraduate criminology students at Keele University, especially Rachel Burns, Matthew Condick-Brough, Randhir Jutley and Kade Morton, for keeping me on my toes during tutorial seminars.

    Many thanks to Caroline Porter and Sarah-Jayne Boyd at Sage.

    RonnieLippens, Professor of Criminology, Keele University, June 2008
  • Further Reading

    As I wrote in the Introduction, this book is not an ‘Introduction to Criminology’. It merely provides the reader with a slightly philosophically inspired introduction to the study of criminology. I did, however, promise to place some signposts to further readings. There are a great number and variety of good introductory and advanced criminology textbooks available. Many explore themes and topics pertaining to the three basic criminological questions in quite some detail and depth, and most also include a succinct overview of theoretical models and perspectives which criminologists have used to get to grips with those very questions. Wayne Morrison's Theoretical Criminology: From Modernity to Post-Modernism, however, provides a breathtaking historical survey of such theories and perspectives. Advanced students should also pick up a copy of David Downes and Paul Rock's Understanding Deviance, a highly illuminating analysis of sociological theories, models and perspectives that have been inspiring and continue to inspire generations of criminologists and sociologists of deviance.

    In Chapter 5 we mentioned critical criminology. Students will find an historical overview and intricate analysis of theoretical perspectives as well as policy proposals emanating from this body of thought and literature in René van Swaaningen's Critical Criminology: Visions from Europe. George Pavlich's Critique and Radical Discourses on Crime provides a critical analysis from one of the foremost Nietzsche-inspired scholars in the field of criminology and socio-legal studies.

    The little book you are holding in your hands has, one could argue, a slight philosophical bent to it. There have not been that many books recently in which issues of crime and crime control are approached philosophically, but Bruce Arrigo and Christopher Williams have edited a collection that attempts to do just that: Philosophy, Crime, and Criminology. On the connections between existentialist philosophy and criminological issues and problems, readers should be able to find more in mine and Don Crewe's collection on Existentialist Criminology.

    One idea in this book has taken centre stage, i.e. the idea that at the heart of human existence one finds indeterminacy. Criminologists have of late made serious efforts to think through and apply the issue of existential indeterminacy to issues and problems of crime, crime control and criminal justice. However, many have done so using insights from complexity theory (or ‘chaos theory’) rather than existentialism. Advanced students may want to pick up a copy of Dragan Milovanovic's Chaos, Criminology, and Social Justice, and his and Stuart Henry's Constitutive Criminology.

    References

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    Barak, G. (2005) ‘A Reciprocal Approach to Peacemaking Criminology: Between Adversarialism and Mutualism’, Theoretical Criminology9 (2): 131–152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1362480605051640
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