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Government Sites

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Drug Policy



Death Penalty

From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored–indeed, I have struggled–along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the Court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies.

Justice Blackmun dissent, Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141 (1994)

Death Penalty Links


Data Sites

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Crim Dev

Criminology, Deviance, and Justice Links


American Society of Criminology – ASC information, including links to ASC division. Includes another good link list.

ACJS – Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences – ACJS information and a very good list of links.

NCJRS – Justice Information Center – Lots of criminal justice information. NCJRS is a collection of clearinghouses supporting all bureaus of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs: the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Office for Victims of Crime. It also supports the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

ACLU – American Civil Liberties Union – Good alternate source for criminal justice information.


Criminology Today – Commercial site for Frank Schmalleger’s introductory criminology textbook. Well done site (couldn’t we all use some of Prentice-Hall’s money) with wide range of information.

SocioRealm — Criminology on the WWW – Nice site, complete with soundtrack. Unlike many sites, the author of this site recognizes the difference between criminology and criminal justice.

A Different Look At DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)


Very Crazy Productions! – More weird stuff. Remember, deviance can be fun too!

Cultronix – This is a very interesting site. Not a link list, but I wanted to bring this site to your attention. This site illustrates the potential for internet publishing. Issue two has a few deviance related articles. Each of the issues examines, and causes the reader to question, “normal.”

COPS – Catchy theme song!



Courts and Law


American Bar Association:

American Judicature Society:

American Law Institute:

Conference of State Court Administrators:

Innocence Project:

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers:

National Association for Court Management:

National Center for State Courts:

National Legal Aid and Defender Association:


Court Web Sites:

Federal Judicial Center:

NCJRS ­ Courts:

Supreme Court of the United States:

U.S. Courts:

General Information

Center for Court Innovation: ­ Law and Society:

Community Courts:

Federal Courts Finder:

Law and Social Control:

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Oyez Project:

Problem Solving Courts:

What Works ­ Courts:


American Judges Association:

National Association of Woman Judges:


Frontline ­ Real Justice:

What Lawyers Earn:

Legal Education

Beginners Guide to Legal Education:

FindLaw for Students:

Jurist ­ The Legal Education Network:

Legal Research


Hieros Gamos:


Legal Information Institute:


ABA Section on Dispute Resolution:

Association of Family, Court and Community Professionals:

Campus Conflict Resolution Resources:

Victim Offender Mediation Association:

Other issues

Court Interpreters

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators:

Civil Liberties

American Civil Liberties Union:

Anti-Defamation League:

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Freedom of Information

Using the Freedom of Information Act:





American Correctional Association:

AFSCME Corrections United:

American Jail Association:

California Coalition for Women Prisoners:

Families Against Mandatory Minimums:

National Center on Institutions and Alternatives:


Federal Bureau of Prisons:

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Critical Resistance:

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Links to State and Local Agencies:

National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology:

Prisoner Action Coalition:

Prison Activist Resource Center:

Prison Moratorium Project:

Prison Policy Initiative:

The Sentencing Project:

Simon the Cyrene:


American Correctional Association’s online training services:

American Jail Association’s training calendar:


Justice Concepts Inc.:


Bureau of Prison’s library:


Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations:

Cornell Corrections:

Correctional Services Corporation: ­ Privatization Network:

Corrections Corporation of America:

Paul’s Justice Page ­ Private Prisons:

Private Corrections Project:

Safety Net for Sale:


Community Corrections

Center for Community Alternatives:

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice:

Community Resources for Justice:

International Community Corrections Association:

Operation Outward Reach:

Probation and Parole

American Probation and Parole Association:

National Association of Parole Executives:

U.S. Parole Commission:

Behind the Walls

Art Behind Bars:

The Beat Within:

The Cell Door:

Inmate Classified:

Journal of Prisoners on Prisons:

Prison Writing Program:

Prison Zone:

Other issues


Correctional Education Association: ­ Education Network:

Correctional Education Connections:

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Me . . . Teach Criminals?

State Correctional Education Coordinators:

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Correctional Education:

What Works ­ Education in Prison:


American Correctional Health Services Association: – Health Care Network:

National Commission on Correctional Health Care:



Social Construction

What is Social Construction?

Moral Entrepreneurs

Ironies of Social Control

Gary T. Marx

Escalation: Five elements High-speed Chases 


Covert Facilitation – “Lawful Entrapment”


The “Discovery” of Child Abuse

Stephen J. Pfohl

The “House of Refuge” Movement


The Juvenile Court and the Continued Shadow of Abuse

The Discovery: An Opportunity for Advancement within the Medical Community

The Shape of Social Reaction



C.J. Organizations

Academy of Criminal Justice Science (ACJS):

Alpha Phi Sigma:

American Society of Criminology (ASC):

ASC Division on Women and Crime:

American Political Science Association (APSA):

American Psychological Association:

American Sociological Association (ASA):

Association of American Law Schools:

Northeastern Association of Criminal Justice Sciences:

Pacific Sociological Association:

Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP):

Southern Criminal Justice Association:

Western and Pacific Association of Criminal Justice Educators:

Western Social Science Association:


Crime or Act of War? – The Media, 9-11, and Iraq

Crime or Act of War? – The Media, 9-11, and Iraq

Kenneth Mentor J.D., Ph.D.
University of North Carolina Wilmington

This presentation was prepared for the
Annual Meetings of the American Society of Criminology
Chicago, November 2002


The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon can be defined as criminal acts. These events can also be defined as acts of war.  The media and the White House framed their preferred, and shared, definition of events very early in the process of understanding and responding to 9/11. As we know, state response differs depending on how events are defined. In fact, the process of definition is used to prepare the public for a particular response. This paper examines the media’s role in defining 9/11 and the reaction to the attacks. Rhetoric, symbolism, limiting of dissent and narrowing of issues are discussed. The media has repeated similar processes as they encourage support of, and preparation for, war against Iraq. Examples of the media role in regarding to 9/11 and Iraq are used to illustrate the limitations of mainstream media. This presentation concluded with a list of website that present alternate views.

By any measure, the events of September 11, 2001, were a terrible tragedy. This tragedy required an official response from the United States. This response could have taken many forms. One year after 9/11 we are again being asked to consider a response to the situation in Iraq. Again, the response of the United States can take many forms.

Although I am reluctant to follow the administration’s lead in blurring these two events, this presentation discusses each event and examines the media’s role in defining the situations and potential responses. As we know, the United States began a “war on terror” following 9/11. It appears that “war” will also be the response in Iraq. Mainstream media seldom questions whether war is an appropriate response. In fact, mainstream media often provides crucial assistance in the government’s effort to convince the American people that war is the best, and in fact the only, option.

This presentation includes three sections. First, we examine the media’s role regarding 9/11. Next the media’s role regarding the possible war with Iraq is discussed. Finally, links to alternative media sources are included. The extensive list of links is include in the hope that you will look through the websites as you seek alternative sources for information, news, and views.

The Media and 9/11

Was 9/11 a crime or act of war? Hijacking has always been treated as a crime. An obvious difference is that this time, the hijacking ended with the destruction of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon. Instead of a hijacking we saw commercial airlines used as missile that were used to attack buildings. Similarly, Timothy McVeigh used a van loaded with explosives to attack a building in Oklahoma City. This was treated as a crime.

Other commercial airlines have been used in terrorist acts directed against the United State. Pan Am 103 was blown up over Lockerbie Scotland. We now know that the act was carried out by men who were working with the blessing of the Libyan government. Pan Am 103 was not treated as an act of war. This event was defined as an international crime. The men responsible are now in prison and the Libyan government has admitted their role and has expressed a willingness to pay damages to the families of those killed in Flight 103.

We also know that the World Trade Center was attacked in 1993. This attack was treated as crime. Ten militant Islamists, though to have ties to Al-Qaeda, were found guilty of conspiracy.

H. Wayne Elliott, former Chief of the U.S. Army’s International Law Division of the Judge Advocate General School, sums up the crimes associated with the 9/11 attacks: “Of course, U.S. domestic law prohibits what happened. But, even under international law and the law of war, these acts would be prohibited. The initial seizure of the plane would be a violation of the hijacking laws and treaties; holding the people on those planes amounted to taking hostages; crashing the plane into civilian targets was a war crime. And, if this was simply the first (or merely the latest) act of war it amounted to an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.” Click this link for the full story:

International law provides many alternatives when the aggrieved party seeks to control rouge states, organizations, or individuals. The United States ignored international law by using its military to retaliate. Why, in this case, did the United States reject the option of working through the legal system to bring the surviving perpetrators to justice? Why did we abandon the precedent we had followed regarding various hijackings, Pan Am 103, McVeigh, and a previous attack on the World Trade Center? How was this done with virtually no criticism from mainstream media?

International humanitarian law reflects the lessons of the Holocaust and World War II. This law has been codified in the Geneva Conventions and other universally accepted treaties. The events of 9/11 were so far beyond the imagination of those who wrote these laws that it is safe to assume that these laws were not written to address the events of 9/11. In effect, it is very difficult to define 9/11 by reference to international humanitarian law. If we accept the media and government interpretation of events the attacks were not carried out by the state but by an organization that has never claimed responsibility for the acts. Click this link for more on this issue:

Although inadequate to define these events, international law remains important in our efforts to resolve international disputes without violations of accepted humanitarian principles. It would be very difficult to make a case that since the events of 9/11 were hard to define that the Bush Administration suddenly had the right to ignore humanitarian laws that clearly apply to the behavior of the United States. The administration never needed to worry about making this argument since questions were never raised in a manner that was loud and clear enough that they could not be ignored.

Historically, wars have been waged by nation-states. The objective of war has been to control other nation-states or to seize control and/or protect a geographic area. In this case the United States directed the energies of the military to stop an organization. The initial stated objective was to hunt down and kill members of this organization without regard to international borders.  In effect, the administration rushed into a war with no clear enemy. Why? We may never know the true motivation. Vengeance, oil and political strategery (to us a Bushism) are the top candidates but without an open debate of the issues, moderated by a free and unfiltered press, it will be difficult to know the true motivations.

Media Coverage by the Numbers

A Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe search of CNN transcripts between 9/11/2001 and 10/10/2001, using “world trade” and “attack” together as search terms, yields 545 stories.

Note that there are some methodological issues regarding this search. As we know, on 9/11 and the days immediately following the attacks, CNN and all other news media were covering this story 24 hours a day. The number of stories is well below what we would expect so it is clear that either CNN doesn’t transcribe every story or that Lexis-Nexis does not provide full access to every transcript. In addition, several stories run at multiple times throughout the day yet are only counted once during a search of transcripts. Also, this search has been run on several occasions with different results. It is not clear why the same search would yield different results.

Of the 545 stories:
  • 38 aired on September 11, 2001
  • 375 included the word “war”
  • of these 375 stories, 13 aired on 9/11
  • 114 included the word “peace”
  • 66 included the word “trial”
  • of these 66 stories, None aired on 9/11
  • 52 contained the phrase “act of war”
  • 129 included the word “crime”
  • of these 129 stories, 4 were aired on 9/11
  • 9 contained the phrase “criminal act”
  • 8 of these 9 also included “war”
  • 13 contained the phrase “international law”
  • 12 of these 13 also included “war”
  • the first use of “international law” was on 9/16
  • 48 included the term “pearl harbor”

Behind the Numbers

An attempt was made to find articles that debated whether to define the 9/11 events as “act of war” or “criminal act.” A seach of the initial 545 articles yielded 116 that used the terms “war” OR “act of war” AND “crime” OR “criminal act.” Each of these transcripts was reviewed.

The first story that used this combination of word aired at 2:30 on 9/11. By this time CNN had added the “America Under Attack” banner that many of us remember. The theme of their coverage was already established. The following excerpt indicates that CNN reporters had started to consider how the United States would respond.

QUESTION: Do you think there should be any retaliation on the part of the United States for what happened here in this country, both in New York, Washington and other places?

PATAKI: The first step right now is to make sure we do everything to help those people who need our support, whether they’re injured or still trapped in buildings. The second thing is to make sure, at the same time, we’re providing the maximum security against possible additional incidents.

But clearly, this is an attack upon America, it’s an attack upon our freedom and our way of life, and we must retaliate and go after those who perpetuated this heinous crime against the people of America.

QUESTION: This has been compared to Pearl Harbor, do you consider this to be an act of war?

GIULIANI: This is a vicious, unprovoked, horrible attack on innocent men, women and children. It’s one of the most heinous acts, certainly in world history. And as the governor said and I said to the president, we fully and completely support him in any action that he has to take in order to make an example of the people who are responsible for this.

QUESTION: Is it an act of war in your mind?

GIULIANI: I don’t know that I want to use those words. I think the president is the one that has to respond. And I think what he has to know is that all of us in New York support him and support him completely in the efforts that he’s going to have to make over the next couple of days, week, to make a point that people can’t do this. You can’t attack innocent men, women and children. And ultimately, I’m totally confident that American democracy and the American rule of law will prevail, and the people of New York are going to help demonstrate that over the next couple of days.

Governor Pataki initially referred to the events as a heinous crime. The reporter immediately made a Pearl Harbor reference and asked whether this was an act of war. Mayor Guiliani is reluctant to endorse those terms. He talks about a “vicious, unprovoked, horrible attack” on innocents. In response, the reporter again attempts to get someone to say this was an act of war. Guiliani again refuses to take the bait (but refuses to dispute this spin). Instead, he expressed his belief in “democracy and the American rule of law.”

The Pearl Harbor theme was repeated many times over the next few weeks. The only other reference to Pearl Harbor on 9/11 was made by James Kallstrom, former Assistant Director of the FBI. As with the previous example, the reporter initiated the discussion of an “act of war.” Kallstrom took the bait.

KALLSTROM: I think it’s clearly an act of war. I think it’s — in many ways, it’s a different time, but it’s everything that Pearl Harbor was and more. It just puts an exclamation point next to this dangerous world we live in. And the inability to appease people that are this demented with rhetoric, it’s — hasn’t worked, it’s not going to work.

We can see what happened today. All peace-loving people of the world, all people that believe in democracy and freedom, need to stand against this. Any country that harbors or aids this type of activity anywhere in the world needs to declare which side they’re on and we need to seriously do something about this. And I believe we will.

In his emotional response Mr. Kallstrom also introduces several themes that will be repeated many times. First, he labels the attackers as “demented.” Words such as “cowardly” are “sick” were also used to define the attackers. Remember that George W. Bush called these people, and those who support them, “evil doers” and “enemies of peace.” Kallstrom also relies on this imagery as he discusses “peace-loving people” who need to take a stand. Introducing another key theme, Kallstrom suggests that all countries need to “decide which side they’re on.” The good vs. evil dichotomy is now fortified with the suggestion that everyone must choose sides. The “with us or against us” theme became very prevalent and served to quiet many dissenting voices.

Another theme is introduced as Kallstrom refers to what he sees as a failure of “rhetoric.” He suggests that this hasn’t worked and will never work. Kallstrom is clearly not interested in negotiation.  Remember that these comments were made within hours of the attacks. There is no evidence that the government had started to form a response. However, the media had clearly decided on a path of action.

Another major theme that was introduced within hours of the attacks was that Americans may need to give up some liberties in return for security. In an interview with CNN’s Judy Woodruff we heard from Alexander Haig, Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff. Although he claimed to be and advocate of individual liberties, Haig offered the following:

The simple facts are that national leadership has to establish that terrorism is an illegal act of such magnitude now that it overwhelms the issues of social justice which cause us to quibble, and restrain us at times when a crime of this nature has been executed.

As we know, the events of 9/11 have resulted in a loss of civil liberties that may be unparalleled in the history of this country. Rhetoric supporting this loss of liberty began within hours of the attacks.

Discussion of whether the attacks constituted a crime or act of war had not seriously started on the day of the attacks. If anything, it appeared that politicians had not yet been provided with “talking points” that are often provided to politicians in a position to alter the direction of debate. The following exchange includes Dick Armey, the House Majority leader.

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: We had the bipartisan leadership of both the House and Senate. We were of course — obviously, like everybody in America — seeking information, trying to understand exactly what’s happening. Where is it coming from? Who’s responsible, and how do we respond? Measuring the threat to the nation, and preparing ourselves to bring the members of Congress back to work at the appropriate time under the right circumstances and make the point that I made earlier.

You may scar democracy, but you don’t shut it down. We will be back to work tomorrow. We think this is a horrible criminal act. It is just inhumane. It’s insane. And the American House and Senate, the Congress of this nation, as the president of this nation will address that tonight. We will address the nation’s business this week, and we will continue the process of finding the people who are responsible and bringing them to justice.

KARL: Now, I understand that at least four times during the day the vice president briefed those leaders — those members of the leadership that were in that room at that classified location. What did you learn about that fourth plane? The plane that landed in Western Pennsylvania?

ARMEY: Well we learned some things about that. At this point the information is classified. It is clear that we to have had a good investigation going forward. We are gathering information, there is a (AUDIO GAP) confidentiality on what we know, but we do know that this is a serious premeditated crime, and I can say without any doubt or hesitation it’s an international crime. And we will be able to find the people responsible. And America, I believe — with the cooperation of all civilized nations — will bring these people to justice.

Not only is he talking about the attack as a criminal act, in fact an international crime, he suggests that we work with civilized nations to bring these people to justice. This was the first, and only, time Armey talked about the attacks as a crime. As we see in the following excerpt, by 9/16 Armey had changed his tune.

BLITZER: Congressman Armey, based on what you’re hearing, tell the American public right now and the people around the world watching this program what kind of strike, what kind of military action they should be prepared to observe from the United States?

ARMEY: Well, they might be prepared to not observe it at all in the sense that we all watched Desert Storm.

Basically, what you have is these snakes are in their holes scattered around the world, plotting and scheming. We’ve got to find where they are, and we’ve got to kill them before they get out of their holes. And that’s not necessarily going to be something that the American people are going to see as it happens or hear a great deal about it in any kind of detail before it happens. It is something that has to be carried out in the same way they carry out their activities — behind quiet doors and, in a sense, under the cloak of secrecy. We have to do the same. You’ve got to use their tactics to catch them.

BLITZER: But, Congressman Armey, should the American public be prepared for a U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan where the Taliban regime harbors, protects, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization, as we heard from Secretary of State Colin Powell?

ARMEY: I believe that will depend a great deal on the Taliban and how they react. If they react with defiance and arrogance; if they say not only will we harbor these people, we will foster these activities, they could be calling that wrath very clearly and very specifically upon themselves.

On September 12 CNN was reporting that “people see this as far more than a crime or an isolated terrorist incident. That came through loud and clear in four different polls.” CNN reported that in their own poll “86 percent of Americans described yesterday’s attack as an act of war against the United States.” By this time George Bush, John Ashcroft, Colin Powell, Dick Gephardt and others had spoken to the American people and referred to the attacks as an act of war. Other than a brief discussion between two reporters, who quickly discounted the idea of anything but a military response, we had reached the end of the second day with no discussion of any response other than war.

Many commentators stated that it was clear that we were at war although they acknowledged that we did not know who would be the target of this war. The answer to this question first appeared on September 13. Two of the 545 stories included in the initial dataset refered to a “war against terrorism.” The media also began to focus on Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan.

On September 14 CNN was presenting a variety of “talking heads” who discussed war strategy. The pentagon had asked for the mobilization of 50,000 troops. CNN began to present the idea of reinstating the draft. As in other cases where a new topic was introduced, the question first appeared on a CNN poll. The media was following a pattern in which they identified the potential issues, included these issues in a poll, and then used the results of the poll to introduce the issue to the viewers. In addition to introducing the idea of a draft, Wolf Blitzer introduced another theme that was prevalent in subsequent coverage of 9/11 as he talked about the united Congress.

Senator Levin, another question we asked in our CNN/”Time” Magazine poll was this. Should the U.S. reinstate the military draft if a ground war is necessary to fight this war against terror? 66 percent favor it, 28 percent oppose it. Do you think it will be necessary to go back to a draft?

LEVIN: If it is, we should do it. We should not be reluctant to use all of the forces at our command, including our citizen armies and including the draft. So the Reserves today are going to be called up, up to 50,000 of them. Those are our citizen soldiers. And the draft if it’s necessary to prevail, I vote for it absolutely.

This is December 8, 1941. But this time, it’s a war against terrorism. But the people here are so determined. We have that absolutely unified determination. So yes, if we need the draft in order to carry out a successful war, I would vote for it. Again I emphasize, we need a strong coalition. And I believe we’re going to be able to put it together, because that’s important in terms of success.

We need the time to prepare for this effort. We need the time to prevail because we must prevail. And part of that success is going to be achieved because I believe so many nations, some of whom have never participated with us, this time will join against the common scourge of terrorism.

BLITZER: And we only have a few seconds left. Senator Warner, in the many years you’ve been in Congress in Washington, you’re a Republican. Senator Levin is Democrat. Have you ever seen the U.S. Congress as united as it is right now?

WARNER: No, very clearly this is evidence of it. 10 years ago, I helped draft the resolution that George Bush, then president, won the Gulf War with our coalition allies. It was three days and three nights of ferocious debate on the Senate floor and it prevailed by only five votes.

This one is 100 votes. What clear evidence. Senator Levin and I worked on the drafting with our leadership of this. What clear evidence of a unity in the Congress and the Congress speak for the people of the United States.

Late in the day of September 14 CNN changed the banner that appeared on the screen throughout the day. “America Under Attack” became “America’s New War.” The theme of their coverage was changing.

On September 15 Congress passed a resolution authorizing the President to use all necessary and appropriate force to retaliate.

The Media and Iraq

Many Americans are troubled by the suggestion that the United States will engage in a unilateral first-strike to prevent an event that the administration believes may occur in the future. Why would we allow such an extreme departure from decades of foreign policy? Why does this significant and far-reaching policy change without public debate? For more information see:

As mentioned above, the United States had a history of treating terror incidents are criminal acts rather than acts of war. This changed with 9/11 as the Bush Administration abandoned the precedent established through our reaction to previous terror attacks. How was this done with virtually no criticism. Similarly, the Bush Administration now believes we are authorized to use pre-emptive strikes against any country that we believe could pose a risk in the future. How is this major policy shift accomplished with no criticism?

As with 9/11, mainstream media has played a major role in the Bush administration’s efforts to “sell” the war with Iraq. Here are a few points that illustrate the problem. These points apply to the events of 9/11 nearly as well as they apply to an effort to critically evaluate the media’s role regarding the possibility of war with Iraq.

War is Imminent: The prevailing view found in mainstream media is that a war with Iraq is imminent.  For example, MSNBC aired a nightly program called “Countdown to Iraq” (the title has now been changed to “Countdown: Iraq”). Why is the title a statement rather than a question? Many Americans continue to believe there is still a chance to stop this war.

No Dissent: The mainstream media hides dissent. Over 100,000 anti-war protesters marched in Washington on October 26, 2002. Some organizations report the number as high as 200,000. Similar protests took place all over the world. The mainstream media seemed reluctant to reports these protests. When they did, they greatly underestimate the number of protesters and focused on the organizer’s disappointment about the lack of protest. Most importantly, mainstream media reports fail to provide information that would be helpful in understanding the positions of the protesters. The media seems to believe that it is sufficient to say that some people disagree with the administration – the subtext is that such disagreement is unpatriotic.

War Sells: Ratings for CNN, MSNBC, and network news programs are never higher than for war and similar events. Never forget that the mainstream media is in the business of selling. Unfortunately, advertisers that do not flinch at being associated with war footage do not want to be associated with something as unpatriotic as protest.

Tunnel Vision: News events take on a life of their own. We saw this as the media became obsessed with a sniper who was randomly shooting people in the Washington D.C. area. Now that the sniper has been caught we can now go back to “normal.” The media does not question the fact that “normal” is a situation in which dozens of people are killed by guns every day. A theme was established for this story and the media will stick with the theme – whether it is logical or not.

War is Clean: Many of us remember the Vietnam conflict and earlier wars. War is not clean. However, the media amazes and entertains us with “smart bombs” that surgically remove the enemy with a minimum of “collateral damage.” The media has failed to inform us that current war plans involve a massive invasion of Iraq. Up to 500,000 soldiers are expected to invade Baghdad, seize control, and chase the enemy to the borders and beyond. How many body bags will result? Why isn’t this question being asked?

Some Humans are Worth More than Others: We know that many deaths will occur. We might even blow up a wedding, as we did in Afghanistan. The tone of media coverage would lead one to believe that since these are not Americans, it really doesn’t matter. How will we react when the body bags contain American soldiers?

American Soldiers are Safe: The government and mainstream media would have us believe that the biggest risk to our soldiers is “friendly fire.” In contrast, international news sources reported Afghanistan incidents that resulted in the death of 30 or more American soldiers. Did these events not occur, or did the mainstream media hide the facts?

Saddam = Iraq: The government and mainstream media has focused on one man, Saddam Hussein. The mainstream media largely ignores the other 22 million Iraqis, many of whom are starving to death as a result of our efforts to stop one man. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died as a result of our embargo. Amazingly, the Bush administration actually believes that the people of Iraq will rise in support of our efforts once we topple Saddam.

What Do We Do about this Bias?

One solution, on an individual level at least, is to seek out alternative media. And you will need to look for it. Alternative media will not be delivered to your house in the morning paper and will not be displayed on your television. Mainstream media is “pushed” to the public every minute. Alternative views are heard and read only when someone takes the initiative to find alternate news and views.

I encourage each of you to take a few minutes every day, how about taking as much time as it takes to read the newspaper, and seek alternative views. The balance is out there. You just have to take the time to find it.

Speak out against mainstream media bias. Several organizations will help you do this and it works. For example, the Washington Post recently suggested that Bush would have won the election if a recount had been allowed. As we know, this is not true. A letter and phone campaign forced the Post to retract their statement and issue a correction. Efforts to keep the media honest have the potential to change the media. The conservatives clearly agree and are engaged in similar campaigns to stop what they view as “liberal media.”

I teach several policy related courses. I ask my students to think through policy choices and try to imagine the eventual consequences of a particular policy choice. I believe we are smart enough to think through a problem and make some predictions about the end result of our choices.

I even give the government credit for being able to think through a problem in such a manner. Unfortunately, there is no indication that this administration is willing to act in ways that benefit all people. They fully realize the negative impacts of their policies, and examine who will gain and lose, before acting in ways that benefit certain interests. The people pulling Bush’s strings are frighteningly good at what they do.

When given all the information, you are smart enough to know the truth. But do not expect to be given this information. You will have to find it. After reviewing alternative sources for information you will find that you are becoming a more critical, and intelligent, consumer of mainstream media. Seek the truth and act on your convictions.

Alternative Media on the Internet

The following links include alternative media, world media and political sites. The sites include news, opinion, parody and humor. Many of the sites are critical of George W. Bush and his administration. Other sites specifically address 9/11 or Iraq. I encourage you to look through these websites and to seek alternative sources for information, news, and views.

Alternative Media Watch –

AlterNet –

American Friends Service Committee –

American Prospect – –

BBC Americas –

BuzzFlash –

Bookmarks for a Better World –

Center for Investigative Reporting –

Noam Chomsky archive –

Citizens for Legitimate Government –

Common Dreams –

CounterPunch –

Crimes of War Project –

Cursor –

Democracy Now –

FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting –

FAIR: Media Views –

Foreign Policy in Focus –

Free Speech Radio News –

Free Speech TV –

Global Exchange –

Guardian Unlimited –

Guerrilla News Network –

Edward Herman –

IMC: Independent Media Center –

IMC New Mexico –

Institute for Policy Studies –

Institute for Public Accuracy –

International Answer –

In These Times –

Iraq Journal –

Iraq Peace Team –

JournalismNet – –

Robert McChesney –

Media and Peace Institute –

MediaLens –

Media Transparency –

Media Workers Against War –

Michael Moore –

MoveOn –

The Nation – –

Not in Our Name –

One World –

The Onion –

Pacifica Radio –

Peace News –

John Pilger –

PRWatch ­

Poison Kitchen –

Progressive Magazine –

Progressive Media Project –

Progressive Review –

Project Censored –

Ted Rall –

Reporters Without Borders –

Sept. 11 Web Community –

Smirking Chimp –

Stop The War Coalition –

This Modern World – –

True Majority –

Truthout –

United for Peace –

Utne Reader –

Voices in the Wilderness –

VoteNoWar – –

World Newspapers –

Working for Change –

Howard Zinn –

ZNet –

ZMag: Chomsky archive –


The Perils of Publication and the Call to Action


Institute of Psychology, Law, and Public Policy
California School of Professional Psychology – Fresno

It is not easy to publish in peer-reviewed journals. It is particularly difficult for critical scholars who often, through their research, challenge existing political, economic, and social structural dynamics, or otherwise resist prevailing sensibilities about law, crime, and justice.1 Part of our struggle is with dominant ideologies and how they are sustained through various means of communication. All too often I have, with my colleagues at the annual ASC, ACJS, and LSA meetings, exchanged war stories about academic publishing, assessed the psychology of revise and resubmit editorial decisions, and lamented the failure of members of the Division on Critical Criminology of the American Society of Criminology to assume, on a sustained basis, their rightful status among the legions of mainstream criminologists whose work routinely appears in high profile (read prestigious) periodicals.2 In the past, when rejections of this sort have occurred for me, I have been reduced to mumbling my indignation, summed up in the trite but all so apt saying: “Too bad, so sad, oh well.” Back of the bus3 I go with my tail between my legs. So much for critical criminological discontent.

I now realize how inadequate my position has been. Moreover, I recognize how I have, unwittingly, allowed the forces of conventional criminology to dictate my behavior. This has been a personal and professional mistake, but one, I think, that can be rectified. If critical criminology amounts to anything, it seriously and persistently debunks victimizing, alienating, and oppressive practices, while, simultaneously, championing the cause of justice, fairness, and equality. This certainly should extend to the “journal-industrial complex.”4 During the past several months, I have discussed with a number of critical criminological scholars, the problem of academic publishing in the leading periodicals of our profession. While I was not surprised to learn that rejection in these quarterlies is a routine occurrence for far too many (notable) colleagues, I was surprised to discover that our Division has not, thus far, addressed the issue in any systematic, organized fashion. This climate of passivity and non-responsiveness must change.

Recently, Dragan Milovanovic, Stuart Henry, and I reviewed this matter over a series of enthusiastic and spirited e-mail discussions.5 Although many ideas and strategies were proposed, one observation was made abundantly clear: the Division needs to assess the “suppressor effect” operating within and throughout the Academy, particularly when critical scholarship is repeatedly denied recognition and, thus, legitimacy in the leading periodicals of our discipline. This is the presence of hegemony in the Academy. What counts as “serious” scholarship and, hence, what is actively engaged in by critical criminologists is, all too often, circumscribed by the “chilling effect” found in the seemingly systematic exclusionary practices enacted and sustained by the more prestigious periodicals of our field. This exclusion must be confronted and it must be addressed on our own terms in a responsible manner. This essay, then, is designed to lay out the dilemma we confront, suggest several avenues for resolution, and invite the Division membership to support the cause that awaits our deliberate and thoughtful attention.6

Academic Imperialism or Questionable Scholarship?

If your personal (and/or academic department’s) budget is similar to mine, you subscribe to any number of professional journals and, as time permits, read the latest developments pertaining to your own instructional and/or research interests. Regrettably, it is painfully apparent how infrequently critically-inspired scholarship appears in the discipline’s highly respected periodicals. How can we account for this? Where is critical race theory analysis? Where are the Marxist-informed commentaries? Where is border criminology and dialogical pedagogy? Where are the intersectional commentaries on race, gender, class, and crime? Where is left realism, anarchist praxis, prophetic criticism, peacemaking criminology, and the like? Where is the postmodern feminist jurisprudential critique? Where are the psychoanalytic and semiotic contributions? Indeed, how are we to interpret the absence of these divergent, though critical, strains of thought in the journals that, presumably, embrace all approaches to the knowledge process? Yes, articles along these and similar lines of inquiry do, on occasion, appear in high profile journals. But what is their frequency and how does it compare with the rate at which non-critically inspired scholarship is published?

Criminology, Law and Society Review, Journal of Research on Crime and Delinquency, and several other notable periodicals representing our profession, include detailed and/or clear statements about their openness to all types of scholarship, regardless of orientation. However, a cursory assessment of any one of these quarterlies reveals that the rate at which critical scholarship is published is far less frequent than its non-critical counterpart.7 This fact raises a number of important and provocative questions for us all. The essential concern, though, is as follows: can it be that what we write about is considerably less meritorious or substantially less well-crafted than our non-critical colleagues? Indeed, are more mainstream types of articles or forms of critical analysis that much more compelling in prose and substantively more enlightening? Or, is the problem one of academic imperialism? Relatedly, is the answer to this latter question, in part, linked to the frequency with which critical versus non-critical articles are submitted to mainstream journals? Or, can a compelling prima facie case be made for the suppressor effect based on a content analysis of what has been published in any one of several leading and mainstream criminological journals during the past 5-10 years? Is the playing field therefor depleted of otherwise possible important contributions because of the chilling effect, the suppressor effect? Do critical criminological scholars eventually give up sending material and, consequently, inadvertently engage in self-marginalization, producing a ghettoization of the discipline? As a result, isn’t the intense, sustained engagement needed among the various critical perspectives greatly circumscribed, and, thus, the movement to a better, more human, society that much more limited? Perusal of several mainstream journals (L&SR, Criminology, etc.) suggests that a prima facie case could be made for exclusionary practices of a broad range of critical scholarship. Of course, prima facie evidence is in need of further statistical support to significantly reach this conclusion. We owe it to ourselves (and to the criminological community), then, to inspect this very profound issue by collecting and assessing the available and appropriate data.

Toward a Strategy of Engagement

Ultimately, what we want is information, engagement, and openness to a diversity of critical scholarship. Information should tell us about what we do as a Division composed of researchers/scholars within the Academy, practitioners of social justice, entering Ph.D. students, and other activists. The data we collect, however, is merely a tool in the service of a larger agenda. My sense is that we will find out just how infrequently critical criminologists publish in the prestigious journals of our profession. Clearly, there will be many explanations for this result and The Critical Criminologist is one forum to debate these accounts. But academic exegeses should not be the end of our inquiry. What we need to do is create a space within which to engage the Editors and the Editorial Board members of the mainstream journals we evaluate. I believe that if we create “us vs. them” dichotomies we undermine our goal of collegiality. Thus, the larger agenda is one of dialogue and engagement in the name of change. We want Criminology, Law and Society Review, the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, etc., to tell us, if at all, why our analysis is flawed or inaccurate. Moreover, if the findings we arrive at are accurate, we want to invite the Editors of these periodicals to rectify the situation with us! We seek greater sensitivity to broad, critical scholarship of all persuasions. If there is hyperbole or avoidance, and I truly hope that this will not occur, we must firmly but supportively insist on a more genuine application of their stated philosophical principles regarding articles accepted for review and publication.8 Indeed, we must appeal to our colleagues’ commitment to intellectual integrity and criminological verstehen.

In my discussions with Dragan and Stuart, several strategies were considered. The clear indication from our informal working group was that the Division membership needs to express their points of view on the general issue I outlined before we proceed much further. This observation notwithstanding, several suggestions for engagement were offered. In what follows, I briefly summarize a number of these recommendations. Collectively, they represent a much needed call for further research initiated by scholars/practitioners/activists committed to this important and timely cause. The recommendations include, in no particular order, the following:

1. Discuss the general issue in greater detail at the ASC Critical Criminology Division meetings for further review, consideration, and recommendations.

2. Conduct a content analysis of several leading mainstream journals (during the past 10 years), and assess the rate at which “critical” versus “non-critical” articles are published. The principal researcher for this study could be: (a) an appointed/elected Division member; (b) a highly regarded critical criminologist; ( c) the Division Chair; (d) an independent third party not affiliated with the Division; or (e) a collective composed equally of several Division members and several Editorial members of various mainstream journals representing our profession (Note: The intent here is not necessarily to establish consensus; rather, the intent is to ensure that majority and minority views are expressed).9

3. Depending on the results of this content analysis, encourage critical scholars to submit to mainstream journals and report back the Division leadership and/or to those who engaged in the initial content analysis for possible follow-up.

4. Petition the various Editors of several notable criminal justice, law and society, and criminological periodicals for information about their review processes, requesting details on any internal evaluation procedures, publication practices, and/or submission/reviewer trends.

5. After substantive discussions within the Division, with, perhaps, inclusion of the content analysis findings, draft a formal document signed by the Division leadership and send it to the Editors of those journals that are subject to our content analysis inquiry. The document should draw attention to the questionable editorial and reviewer practices that culminate in a limited range of critical scholarship being published. Further, our content analysis results should be attached to the memo as an Appendix for perusal by the Editors-in-Chief or Editorial Board members. Finally, the document should make clear that the Division welcomes comments from those Editors who receive the memo, particularly in regard to the research conclusions reached by the Division on Critical Criminology.

6. Develop a Panel (or series of Panels) for the ACJS meetings in March, 2000, exploring the perils and pitfalls of publishing in prominent mainstream journals as a critical criminologist. In addition, develop a strategic action plan to rectify this dilemma.

7. Publish, or attempt to publish, the results of our initial content analysis in The Criminologist, the Law and Society Newsletter, the Journal of Criminal Justice Education, or a related periodical.

8. Consult with the Division of People of Color and the Division of Women and Crime and assess with them whether the marginalization of non-mainstream discourses has been addressed, in any capacity, by their respective Division members. Moreover, build a coalition base, inclusive of these Divisions, and develop a strategy for engaging the Editors and Editorial Boards of Law and Society Review, Criminology, and similar high profile periodicals within the Academy.

9. Request that each Journal considered include a broader range of critical scholars on their various Editorial Boards and as a part of their manuscript reviewer pool.

A Call to Action

There are certainly additional strategies for engagement. I welcome thoughts on these strategies in The Critical Criminologist, the Division website, and at the Division on Critical Criminology business meeting at the upcoming ASC conference in Toronto. Our initial task, however, is to move the constructive dialogue on these matters beyond the private, safe, and supportive confines of the Internet, the coffee houses of our college communities, or the restaurant bars hosting the ASC, ACJS, or L&SA annual meetings. I realize that it is no longer acceptable to tacitly endorse the hegemony we confront in the Academy and that unwittingly governs our respective research decision making practices. We need to move beyond the publication sympathy and support extended to us by critically-inspired periodicals. We need a strategic vision for engaging our non-critical colleagues; one that changes the culture of academic publishing where diversity of intellectual perspectives is genuinely celebrated rather than privately dismissed. We must confront these realities in a planful, humane, and intelligent fashion. Indeed, we have a responsibility to the future generation of bright, enthusiastic, and creative critical criminologists whose scholarly pursuits rest, in a very meaningful way, upon the shoulders of our individual and collective action.

The back of the bus was never a place of comfort or contentment. We need to own this poignant sentiment and, much like Rosa Parks, deliberately embrace our responsibility to repudiate our marginalized status in the Academy. The theme of this essay can be the first step toward much needed transformation within and throughout the Division. We must rectify our felt sense of victimization as a community of talented and compassionate scholars. We must channel our critical criminological discontent into productive social activism. This is the challenge that awaits us all.

1. A good part of the inspiration for this essay developed as a consequence of a recent “rejection” from a co-authored article I submitted to Law & Society Review with Dragan Milovanovic and Rob Schehr. Of course, we have all had our share of rejected manuscripts. Moreover, at times, some of us have even been on the side of the Editor, rejecting a colleague’s manuscript whose contents were found not suitable for publication. However, my engagement with L&SR perhaps epitomizes the experience others of us have had with “prestigious” mainstream journals. The latest rejection did initiate some very pointed reflection about the nature of publishing in the leading periodicals of our profession. In this particular instance with L&SR, one reviewer dismissed the piece and the other referee suggested a revise and resubmit. The Editor, without more substantive comments, simply sent a rejection letter. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that my co-authors and I (as well as others in our Division) have not had a good experience with the reviews offered by Law & Society Review; indeed, in the past there have been some very irrelevant and even “nasty” observations made about our respective critical sociolegal analyses by the journal’s referees. With the recent submission to L&SR, my co-authors and I spent some considerable time in advance discussing the prospects of a rejection from this periodical, given its historically restrictive approach to publishing critical scholarship. We agreed, however, that our concerns should be put aside. We felt that the article represented an opportunity for engaging the readership of the journal, and hoped that it would be reviewed in that spirit. Regrettably, it was not. I have heard many, many similar stories from a wide range of critical scholars who attempt to publish in the leading journals of our profession.

2. One important dimension to assessing the rate at which any version of criminological or sociolegal scholarship is published in our profession’s leading periodicals is to consider the rate at which a given type of research is submitted to a particular prestigious journal for review. Thus, for example, the rate at which critical criminological scholarship is published must, to some significant extent, be evaluated based on the frequency with which it is submitted to Criminology, Law & Society Review, etc. As I subsequently intimate, however, this does not mean that the “playing field” is entirely level for critical criminologists when attempting to publish in the mainstream and leading quarterlies of our discipline.

3. The “back of the bus”reference is a metaphor about oppression. While the academic marginalization described in this article is qualitatively different than apartheid, economic and social inequality, and the denial of basic human rights, the effect is the same: the exercise of power (e.g., symbolic, psychological, physical, political) that results in felt harm.

4. One could fairly question whether critical criminological scholarship– or any type of criminology for that matter– effectively makes a difference in the lives of people. The central issue is whether what we do transforms the political, economic, cultural, psychological, legal, and social conditions in which people find themselves. I would argue that critical criminology, more than any other variant of the discipline, attempts to bring this concern for social justice right into center stage. Indeed, I hope this article, as a statement of transpraxis, moves the Division and its membership to a state of action so that each of us may experience greater inclusiveness and receptiveness in the Academy to which we maintain (some) allegiance.

5. Stuart’s involvement was initiated following the rejection of my co-authored article from Law and Society Review. We turned to Stuart particularly because of his status as a member of the journal’s Editorial Board.

6. To be clear at the outset, the combined involvement of Dragan’s, Stuart’s, and my own (co)editorship of journals and/or newsletters is eight. The point is that each of us, in our own way, has been quite sensitive to and invested in the process of academic publishing. Our e-mail discussions and the comments that follow are based on our collective histories as Editors and our desire to offer some insight into the publishing process for up-and-coming critical scholars.

7. One notable exception to the mainstream trend appears to be Justice Quarterly. Over the last dozen years or so critical scholarship has appeared with more frequency within the pages of this journal and, I would add, these contributions, along with the inclusion of more non-critically oriented articles, have exposed the JQ readership to a wider range of perspectives from which to appreciate issues in law, crime, and justice. Its counterpart, Criminology, has not compared favorably.

8. The Editorial Policy statement for Law & Society Review reads as follows:
The Law & Society Review is a peer-reviewed publication for work bearing on the relationship between society and the legal process, including articles or notes of interest to the research community in general, new theoretical developments, results of empirical studies, and comments on the field or its methods of inquiry. The Review is broadly interdisciplinary and welcomes work from any tradition or scholarship concerned with the cultural, economic, political, psychological, or social aspects of law and legal systems (emphasis added).

9. The Editorial Policy statement for Criminology reads as follows:
The journal is interdisciplinary, devoted to the study of crime, deviant behavior, and related phenomena, as found in the social and behavior sciences and in the fields of law, criminal justice, and history. The major emphases are theory, research, historical issues, policy evaluation, and current controversies concerning crime, law, and justice (emphasis added).

Notwithstanding these Editorial Policies, the issue is whether they (and others that are similar) maintain fidelity to their respective philosophical claims. I note further that there are periodicals (e.g., Humanity & Society) that expressly welcome “critical and humanistic” scholarship. And, consistent with this Editorial Policy, the articles that appear in H&S are only critical and/or humanistic. Again, however, the question is whether the profession’s leading periodicals adhere or fail to adhere to their “broad” and/or “interdisciplinary” Editorial Policy declarations.


Integrative Theories, Integrating Criminologies


The following unedited or draft essay by Gregg Barak, “Integrative Theories,” was published in the Encyclopedia of Crime & Punishment (Sage, 2002).

Over the past couple of decades, theories of crime and punishment have blossomed in their diversity. Not only has the study of crime and punishment broadened throughout the behavioral and social sciences, but, increasingly criminologists have adopted perspectives that are no longer grounded in “classical” versus “positivist” views of human nature and social interaction. In today’s postmodern and multicultural worlds of criminology and criminal justice characterized by post-structuralism, post-Marxism, post-affirmative action, and post-feminism, criminologists from a variety of schools of thought, including but not limited to critical, constitutive, positivist, and integrative, have come to appreciate, in different and in related ways, the numerous limitations of simple or “non-integrative” theories. In short, the traditional or one-dimensional accounts, models, and explanations of crime and/or punishment that have tended to divide human beings and society into biological, cultural, psychological, or sociological entities, at best, are partially correct. At worst, these analyses are very inadequate as they typically ignore more factors than they consider.

In response to the limited range and application of most non-integrative theories of crime and punishment, more and more criminologists, theorists and non-theorists alike, are embracing integrative and/or interdisciplinary frameworks of examination. Like theories in general which have diversified in kind and approach, the same has been true of integrative theories, perhaps more so. What makes integrative theories especially appealing is that the diversification of models is liberating to the extent that they allow for a creative plurality of knowledge based frameworks. This is the case, both within and across disciplinary boundaries, as well as within and across modernist and postmodernist modes of thought. At the same time, some integrative theories focus on criminal behavior and criminal activity, others focus on punishment and crime control, still other focus on crime, justice, and social control. Moreover, some integrative theories are formalistic and consist of propositional statements stemming from two or more theories usually within the same discipline; other integrative models or theories are less formalistic and consist of conceptualizing the reciprocal or interactive relations between various levels of human motivation, social organization, and structural relationships. Hence, when one thinks of integrative models one must realize from the beginning that there are many interpretations of what it means to be “doing” integration.

Ways of Seeing Integration

Just as there are multiple ways of doing theory, or of building simple, one-dimensional models of crime production, there are, even more ways of constructing complex models of criminal behavior or of integrating criminologies. Most integrators of crime and/or punishment agree that integration involves connecting, linking, combining, and/or synthesizing the relations and fragments of other models and theories into formulations of crime and crime control that are more comprehensive than the more traditional and one-dimensional explanations that have been perpetually elaborated on for some forty years. Despite this abstract agreement on the meaning of integration, actual approaches to integration vary significantly. In other words, the ways of seeing or constituting criminological integration differ in both theory and practice. As a consequence, the development of integrative theories and practices has, thus far, “proceeded in a somewhat anomic fashion with no [one] viable framework for synthetic work” having emerged in the study of crime and punishment (Tittle, 1995: 115). Nevertheless, much of the impetus for integration in criminology, at least early on, beginning in the 1970s, was grounded in the disciplines of psychology or sociology, and occasionally from the perspective of social psychology.

For example, the criminological literature on theoretical integration reveals a strong reliance on learning and control theories, a weaker reliance on strain theory, followed closely by subcultural, conflict, and Marxist theories. These sociological biases at work in criminological integration have traditionally marginalized theories and models of biology, evolution, history, gender, communication, economics, and law. In contrast to the more sociologically- and psychologically-based positivist and modern stances toward integration, are the eclectically-based constructivist and postmodern stances toward integration.

Both modernist and postmodernist approaches to integrative theories can be broken down further into a variety of explanations of crime and punishment. Moreover, integrative or integrated theories, may be specific or general. Whereas the specific integrated theories have focused on a single form of criminality, such as rape or battering, the general integrated theories have attempted to make sense out of a relativley broad or inclusive range of harmful activities, including interpersonal, organizational, and structural forms. Whether these attempts at integration have been modernist or postmodernist, some have confined themselves to criminality while others have focused more broadly on deviance and non-conformity. Finally, modernist forms of integration emphasize the centrality of theory in scientific endeavors and in the construction of causal models capable of predicting transgression. Postmodernist forms of integration emphasize the ever-changing voices of plurality that provide meaning for the local sites of crime, justice, law, and community as these are constituted by harmful personal and social relationships (Barak, 1998a and 1998b; Henry and Milovanovic, 1996).

Integrating Bodies of Theory

Whether discussing various forms of delinquency integration that hook theories together sequentially (Cloward and Ohlin, 1960; Colvin and Pauly, 1983; Elliott, Huizinga, and Ageton, 1985; Elliott, Huizinga, and Menard, 1989), of learning or reinforcement forms of integration that bring theories together by focusing on a central causal process (Glaser, 1978; Akers, 1985; Pearson and Weiner, 1985), or of macro- and micro-level forms of integration that link theories together by combinations of interdependencies (Hagan, 1988; Kaplan, 1975; Tatum, 1996), these approaches to integration have engaged in three basic types of positivist integration: structural, conceptual, or assimilative. The structural integrations can be either “end-to-end” or “side-by-side” integrations. Structural integration links existing theories, or at least their main components in some kind of sequence, either by conceiving of the causal variable/s in some theories as outcome variables in other theories, or by theorizing that under certain conditions the causal processes of one theory interlocks in particular ways with those of other theories. End-to-end conceptualizations, such as those of mainline delinquency integration tend to give no preference to the various components involved and assume some kind of linear effect is in operation, so that different theorists might order the elements in different sequences (Elliott, Ageton, andCantor, 1979; Johnson, 1979). By contrast, side-by-side integrations, provide a firmer basis for the sequencing of theoretical ingredients, in that later outcomes are conditional on earlier outcomes (Braithwaite, 1989).

Conceptual and assimilative integrations assume one of two kinds of abstract causal processes. In the conceptual types of “up-and-down” integration, pre-existing theories are brought together that are saying more or less the same types of things, only at different levels of analysis, or related theories are brought together and blended into new theoretical products. By contrast, the assimilative type of “kitchen sink” integrations employ abstract causal processes that do not consume other theories one way or the other, but rather allow different theories to be united into larger, abstract conceptual frameworks without respect to the interactive relationships and conditional effects that these theories may have on each other.

Modernist constructions of integrative theories may also be thought of or described in other related ways. These approaches may be divided up into those that emphasize kinds-of-people (social process-micro models), kinds-of-organization (social structure-macro models), and kinds-of-culture (micro-macro models)explanations of crime and punishment. The following represent a few brief examples of each of these types of modernist integration:

Wilson and Herrnstein (1985:195) in Crime and Human Nature provided a specific micro-social process theory of interpersonal, “aggressive, violent, or larcenous behavior” that focuses exclusively on predatory street behavior while ignoring white-collar, corporate, and governmental misbehavior. Their theory is an eclectic, social learning-behavioral choice formulation that relies on both positivist determinism and classical free will as it claims various linkages between criminality and hereditary factors, impulsivity, low intelligence, family practices, school experiences, and the effects of mass media on the individual. Krohn (1986) bridged together theoretical propositions from the delinquency-enhancing effects of differential association and the delinquency-constraining effects of social bonds, as these interact with social learning and social control. His network theory maintains that the lower the network density in relationship to population density, the weaker the constraints against nonconformity, and the higher rates of delinquency.

In Class, State and Crime, Quinney (1977) provided a general and integrative theory expressed through the contradictions and development of capitalism. His political economy of crime and crime control articulates a class-structural analysis where two interconnected sets of criminality, the crimes of domination and repression are committed by capitalists and agents of control, and the crimes of accommodation and resistance are committed by workers and ordinary people. This social structure- macro model argues that not only are the differential opportunities for crime class specific, but so too are the accompanying motivations for both crime and punishment. Stark (1987) introduced an integrated set of thirty propositions as an approximation of a theory of deviant places. His “kinds-of-place” explanation or ecological theory analyzed the traits of places and groups rather than the traits of individuals. It contends that the deviant behavior of the poor varies in relation to population density, poverty, mixed land use, transience, and dilapidation.

In Power, Crime, and Mystification, Box (1983) provided a conceptual integration of how corporate crime overcomes environmental uncertainties by illegally reducing or eliminating competition through fraud, bribery, manipulation, price-fixing, and so on. Box employed anomie and strain as the motivational sources behind corporate crime. He argues that “motivational strain” is translated into illegal acts through differential associations and corporate subcultures where elites learn to rationalize and neutralize their infractions with social and moral contracts. Pearson and Weiner’s (1985)model of integration is derived from identifying concepts that are common to particular theories and, in turn, structures these concepts within a general framework. This model searches for common vocabulary in which terms from one theory have analogs in other theoretical formulations. The central organizing concept of their model employs a social learning theory of crime, and incorporates micro-social factors, macro-social structural factors, and behavioral consequences or feedback factors.

Two recent integrative theories that can also be described as providing micro-social process and macro-social structural analyses are Tittle’s Control Balance: Toward a General Theory of Deviance and Colvin’s Crime and Coercion: An Integrated Theory of Chronic Criminality. Tittle’s “synthetic approach” is a carefully articulated blending of structural, conceptual, and assimilative methods of integration. His control balance theory contends that the “amount of control to which people are subject relative to the amount of control they can exercise affects their general probability of committing some deviant acts as well as the probability that they will commit specific types of deviance” (Tittle, 1995: 142). It also argues that individuals’ control ratios or that the control balancing process is subject to a host of internal and external contingencies that can vary over time.

Colvin’s (2000) differential coercion theory combines elements from Robert Agnew’s general strain theory, Michael R. Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi’s self-control theory, Ron Akers’ social learning theory, Francis T. Cullen’s social support theory, and Tittle’s control balance theory. His socially and psychologically dynamic theory is relevant to both the production and reduction of crime and punishment as it focuses on four dimensions of control–or degrees of coercion and consistency–that have had profoundly different effects on criminal and non-criminal outcomes, whether applied to chronic street criminals, exploratory offenders, or white-collar rule breakers. His integration at both the inter-personal and macro-social levels reveals how “differential levels of coercion and consistency appear in micro processes of social control and at the macro level involving larger economic and cultural forces in society” (Colvin, 2000: 141). Equally as important, Colvin’s theoretically-driven responses to crime reduction or his policies toward a “non-coercive society” are aimed at preventing and altering the erratic coercive dynamics in the foreground and background of most criminality, especially in its more chronic or habitual forms.

Integrating Bodies of Knowledge

Postmodern integrationists are concerned less about theories per se than they are about knowledges. Rather than pursuing the cause-and-effect predictions of theoretical integration within, or even between disciplines, these criminologists are creating explanatory models of crime and crime control that make connections or linkages through and across the entire range of interdisciplinary knowledges (Barak, 1998a). For example, Vila’s (1994) evolutionary ecological theory presented in “A General Paradigm for Understanding Criminal Behavior: Extending Evolutionary Ecological Theory” is consistent with the spirit of integrating criminologies as it incorporates a multiplicity of disciplinary causal factors and bases of knowledge. Vila reconciles or integrates, at one level of analysis, such theories as strain, control, labeling, and learning primarilly derived from the disciplines of social psychology, and at another level, he examines over time and across disciplines, the changes that are derived in the “resource-acquisition” and “resource-retention” behaviors of social actors, from parental through early adulthood. In a few words, this model of synthesis not only “has its roots in the ‘interdiscipline’ of evolutionary ecology, but [it] uses a problem-oriented, rather than a discipline-oriented approach to understanding criminal behavior” (Vila, 1994: 315).

Whereas modernist integrations focus on linear causality and multiple causality, postmodernist integrations focus on interactive causality or reciprocal causality and on dialectical causality or codetermination causality. The latter forms of causality not only raise questions about whether modernist theorists have correctly ordered their causal variables, but, more fundamentally, they question whether there is a correct ordering of causal variables in the first place. In fact, certain things may happen simultaneously, while other things may not, and these things or relations may not be constant over time.

Some of the synthetic models of integrated knowledges can be classified as “transdisciplinary” or as post-postmodernist integrations that strive to combine principles, facts, and values from both modern empiricism and postmodern reconstructionism. In terms of soft determinist, neopositivist, and post-postmodernist integration, “cause” may refer to the influences and variations that are possible in the context of the multiple interrelations of discourses, ideologies, imaginations, unconsciousnesses, histories, and political economies, all of which are never fully separated from each other (Henry and Milovanovic, 1996). In any case, these models represent a hybrid of the methods of both modernism and postmodernism, or a third way of seeing integration.

A developing means of bridging or integrating knowledges across modernist and postmodernist divides has been established through the use of texts and narratives. As sociologist Richard Harvey Brown (1989: 1) has maintained: “the conflict that exists in our culture between the vocabularies of scientific discourse and of narrative discourse, between positivism and romanticism, objectivism and subjectivism, and between system and lifeworld can be synthesized through a poetics of truth that views social sicence and society as texts.” According to this view, language is neither a reflection of the world or of the mind. It is, instead, a social historical practice where the meaning of words are not taken from things or intentions, but arise from the socially coordinated actions of people.

For example, the “life-course” criminology of Sampson and Laub in Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life, and their development or “stepping stone” approach to delinquency and crime is located in the narrative data of life histories and in the social (re) construction of crime. Sampson and Laub’s (1993: 18) explanation of crime emphasizes “the role of informal social controls that emerge from the role of reciprocities and structure of interpersonal bonds linking members of society to one another and to wider social institutions such as work, family, and school.” As the authors have informed their readers: “Integrating divergent sources of information on life histories, the qualitative analysis supported the central idea of our theoretical model that there are both stability and change in behavior over the life course, and that these changes are systematically linked to the institutions of work and family relations in adulthood (Sampson and Laub, 1993: 248).

Arrigo (1995) has argued that the key to postmodern integration is in the production of nontotalizing analyses and nonglobalizing assessments. His form of integration does not “presume to understand the conditions or the causes of criminal or legal controversies by offering either a homeostatically based integrative model or a rigidly specialized theory” (Arrigo, 1995: 465). Rather postmodernist integrations like Arrigo’s (1995: 465), prefer to think of synthesis as referring to the “relational, positional, and provisional function to interpret, reinterpret, validate, and repudiate multiple discourses and their expressions of reality construction in divergent social arrangements.” Accordingly, he is able to synthesize a conceptually rich narrative that incorporates such diverse knowledges as psychoanalysis, semiotics, post-structuralism, deconstructionism, human agency, role formation, social change, and more.

Messerschmidt (1997), in Crime as Structured Action: Gender, Race, Class, and Crime in the Making engages in a grounded social constructionism that evolves not only through discourses, but also, more importantly, through the ways in which people actively construct their own identities, masculine and feminine, in relationship to crime and particular social contexts as these are differentiated through time and situation as well as through class, race, gender, and so on. These types of integrative analyses that go beyond postmodernism argue that crimes are recursive productions, routinized activities which are part and parcel of historically- and culturally-specific discourses and structures that have attained a relative stability over time and place. Materialistically rooted, these discourses of structured inequality, for example, “become coordinates of social action whereby ‘criminals’ are no less than ‘excessive investors’ in the accumulation and expression of power and control” (Henry and Milovanovic, 19996: X).

Barak and Henry (1999), for example, in “An Integrative-Constitutive Theory of Crime, Law, and Social Justice,” provided an examination of the co-production of crime and consumption and of crime and justice (both “criminal” and “social”). Their theory “links the study of culture with the study of crime. It is a theory that maintains the diversity of vocabularies through which different people experience violence and different criminal justice organizations exercise their power. It is a theory that integrates each of these points of view into a more complete, more robust regard for law, crime, and deviance” (Arrigo, 1999: 151). In the end, this kind of synthesis attempts to bring the intersections of class, race, and gender together with the dynamics of social identity formation and mass communications (see also Barak, Flavin, and Leighton, 2001).


Integrative theories or integrating criminological perspectives is not a particularly new endeavor. It dates at least as far back as Merton (1938), Sutherland (1947), and Cohen (1955). However, it was not until the 1970s and the 1980s that integrative models began to “take-off” and challenge the non-integrative or one-dimensional theories and models of crime and/or punishment. Throughout this developing period of integration, many criminologists remained skeptical about the merits and potentials of integrative models. Some turned to the “vertical” elaboration of older one-dimensional theories, others abandoned theory altogether in preference for the “horizontal” bits and pieces of knowledge that come from multiple disciplines that study crime and punishment. Nevertheless, by the turn of the 21st century, the integrative paradigm had become the newly emerging paradigm in criminology and penology. As for the future, this integrative paradigm looks strong and holds out the promise that the study of crime and punishment will, sooner than later, become the truly interdisciplinary enterprise that most criminologists have always claimed it to be.


Akers, Ronald L. 1985. Deviant Behavior: A Social Learning Approach. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Arrigo, Bruce A. 1995. Social Justice/Criminal Justice: The Maturation of Critical Theory in Law, Crime, and Deviance. Belmont, CA:West/Wadsworth.

Barak, Gregg. 1998a. Integrating Criminologies. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Barak, Gregg (ed.). 1998b. Integrative Criminology. Aldershot, England: Ashgate/Dartmouth.

Barak, Gregg and Stuart Henry. 1999. “An Integrative-Constitutive Theory of Crime, Law, and Social Justice.” In B. Arrigo’s edited Social Justice/Criminal Justice: The Maturation of Critical Theory in Law, Crime, and Deviance. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth, pp. 152-175.

Barak, Gregg, Jeanne Flavin, and Paul Leighton. 2001. Class, Race, Gender, and Crime: Social Realities of Justice in America. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

Box, Steven. 1983. Power, Crime, and Mystification. London: Tavistock.

Braithwaite, John. 1989. Crime, Shame, and Reintegration. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, Richard Harvey. 1989. “Textuality, Social Science, and Society.” Issues in Integrative Studies 7:1-19.

Cloward, Richard A. and Lloyd E. Ohlin. 1960. Delinquency and Opportunity-A Theory of Delinquent Gangs. New York: Free Press.

Cohen, Albert K. 1955. Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Colvin, Mark. 2000. Crime and Coercion: An Integrated Theory of Chronic Criminality. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Colvin, Mark and John Pauly. 1983. “A Critique of Criminology: Toward an Integrated Structural-Marxist Theory of Delinquency Production.” American Journal of Sociology 89:513-551.

Glaser, Daniel. 1978. Crime in Our Changing Society. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Elliott, Delbert, Susan Ageton, and Rachelle Cantor. 1979. “An Integrated Theoretical Perspective on Delinquent Behavior.” Journal of Research on Crime and Delinquency 16:3-27.

Elliott, Delbert, David Huizinga, and Susan Ageton. 1985. Explaining Delinquency and Drug Use. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Elliott, Delbert, David Huizinga, and Scott Menard. 1989. Multiple Problem Youth. New York: Springer Verlag.

Hagan, John. 1988. “Feminist Scholarship, Relational and Instrumental Control, and a Power-Control Theory of Gender and Delinquency.” British Journal of Sociology 39 (3):301-336.

Henry, Stuart and Dragan Milovanovic. 1996. Constitutive Criminology: Beyond Postmodernism . London: Sage.

Johnson, Richard E. 1979. Juvenile Delinquency and Its Origins. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Kaplan, John B. 1975. Self-Attitudes and Deviant Behavior. Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear.

Krohn, Marvin D. 1986. “The Web of Conformity: A Network Approach to the Explanation of Delinquent Behavior.” Social Problems 33:81-93.

Merton, Robert K. 1938. “Social Structure and Anomie.” American Sociological Review 3:672-682.

Messerschmidt, James W. 1997. Crime as Structured Action: Gender, Race, Class and Crime in the Making. Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage.

Pearson, Frank S. and Neil A. Weiner. 1985. “Toward an Integration of Criminological Theories.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 76:116-150.

Quinney, Richard. 1977. Class, State, and Crime. New York: David McKay.

Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 1993. Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Stark, Rodney. 1987. “Deviant Places: A Theory of the Ecology of Crime.” Criminology 25:893-909.

Sutherland, Edwin H. 1947. Criminology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.

Tatum, Becky. 1996. “The Colonial Model as a Theoretical Explanation of Crime and Delinquency.” In Anne T. Sulton’s edited African-American Perspectives on Crime Causation, Criminal Justice Administration and Crime Prevention. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, pp. 35-52.

Tittle, Charles R. 1995. Control Balance: Toward a General Theory of Deviance. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Vila, Bryan. 1994. “A General Paradigm for Understanding Criminal Behavior: Extending Evolutionary Ecological Theory.” Criminology 32:311-360.

Wilson, James Q. and Richard J. Herrnstein. 1985. Crime and Human Nature. New York: Simon and Schuster.

These recent books provide an excellent overview of integrative approaches to the administration of justice in relation to crime, culture, and production:


Michael L. Benson & Francis T. Cullen, COMBATTING CORPORATE CRIME: LOCAL PROSECUTORS AT WORK (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998).


Drew Humphries, CRACK MOTHERS: PREGNANCY, DRUGS, AND THE MEDIA (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999).

Susan L. Miller, GENDER AND COMMUNITY POLICING: WALKING THE TALK (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999).


Livy A. Visano, CRIME AND CULTURE: REFINING THE TRADITIONS (Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press,1998).


Integrative Approaches to Violence:

Lonnie Athens, Violent Criminal Acts and Actors Revisited (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).

Joel Best, Random Violence: How We Talk about New Crimes and New Victims (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

Henry Brownstein, The Social Reality of Violence and Violent Crime (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000).

James Gilligan, Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic (New York: Vintage, 1997).

Peter Iadicola and Anson Shupe, Violence, Inequality, and Human Freedom (Dix Hills, NY: General Hall, 1998).

Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Childrearing and the Roots of Violence (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990, 3rd ed.).

Laura L. O’Toole and Jessica R. Schiffman, ed., Gender Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (New York: New York University Press, 1997).

Christopher Sharrett, ed., Mythologies of Violence in Postmodern Media (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1999).

Mark D. Totten, Guys, Gangs, & Girlfriend Abuse (Petersborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2000).

Jennifer Turpin and Lester R. Kurtz, eds., The Web of Violence: From Interpersonal to Global (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).


Class, Race, and Gender in Criminology and Criminal Justice: Ways of Seeing Difference

Class, Race, and Gender in Criminology and Criminal Justice: Ways of Seeing Difference

Gregg Barak, Eastern Michigan University

The following is a Symposium Speech delivered at the Second Annual Conference on RACE, GENDER and CLASS Project in New Orleans on October 20, 2000.


In the post-modern and multicultural worlds of criminology and criminal justice characterized by post-structuralism, post-Marxism, post-affirmative action, and post-feminism, the variables of class, race, and gender remain fundamental to both theory and practice. After all, the disciplines of criminology and the fields of criminal justice have always been about the real and imagined differences between “criminals” and “non-criminals.” Theoretically, explanations of crime and crime control, regardless of perspective or school of thought, have sought to make sense out of these differences. In the process of trying to sort out these differences, virtually every theoretical framework has addressed class and race overtly, and gender at least covertly. Up until recently, the problem with this line of inquiry was not only that there had been very little, if any, agreement on the effects of these three critical variables, but worse yet, folks were still debating whether or not these variables matter.

By the turn of the 21st century, however, a growing number of criminologists from several orientations, including but not limited to critical, feminist, Marxist, positivist, and integrative, had come to appreciate, in different yet related ways, that class, race, and gender matter. Today, many inquiries are interested in finding out just how exactly class, race, and gender matter in the production of crime and criminal justice. Some inquiries focus on class, race, and gender as autonomous variables. Some inquiries focus on these three variables as inter-related. Of course, key questions on the complexities of these relations and on the means of exploring them still remain. And even though the ways of seeing difference or of approaching class, race, and gender vary, there is certainly an emerging consensus on the importance of these three variables, and increasingly, on the intersections between them or on their interactive or reciprocal relationships.

In fact, it is my contention that in present-day criminology and criminal justice, there are at least four approaches to the study of class, race, and gender: (1) quantitative studies; (2) time and place studies; (3) ethnographic studies, and (4) social construction studies. These approaches are part and parcel of older and newer traditions in the study of crime and criminal justice. At the same time, they are also reflective or representative, over the last twenty years or so, of larger movements in academia to distance itself from both essentialism and determinism. Finally, each of these approaches is capable, more or less, of studying class and crime, race and crime, or gender and crime as separate or related phenomena. Whether or not class, race, and gender are studied in isolation or in relation to each other, depends to a very large extent on the kinds of questions that are asked by each of these approaches. When class, race, and gender are studied together, the way they are linked or connected will also depend on the questions asked.

Quantitative Studies:

Quantitative studies in crime and criminal justice are concerned with empirically measuring, capturing, or nullifying the “casual relationships” or “differencing effects” of class, race, or gender on crime, delinquency, violence, law enforcement, adjudication, sentencing, and punishment. In the tradition of “functionalism,” crime and crime control are viewed as indexes of misconduct. Typically, class, race, and/or gender become the “independent” variables and crime and crime control become the “dependent” variables. In the tradition of “positivist” social science, these studies normally engage large data sets involving samples that number into the three or four digits. Data, in the case of crime, is generally gathered through responses to “self-reported” questionnaires, that strive to represent as best as possible the real world breakdowns or population demographics. In the case of the administration of criminal justice, data stems mostly from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, the U.S. Department of Justice, and other governmental documents produced locally or at the state level. Inevitably, there are usually some limitations that restrict generalization such as under or over representation of particular socio-economic group/s.

For the purposes of this presentation, I turned to the May (2000) issue of Criminology, the official quarterly publication of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), and discovered that five out of the ten articles dealt with class, race, and/or gender. Four of those were quantitative studies: “Minority Threat and Police Brutality: Determinants of Civil Rights Complaints in U.S. Municipalities”; “Gender, Structural Disadvantage, and Urban Crime: Do Macrosocial Variables also Explain Female Offending Rates?”; “Perceived Sanction Threats, Gender, and Crime: A Test and Elaboration of Power-Control Theory”; and “The Myth of Social Class and Crime Revisited: An Examination of Class and Adult Criminality.” It is interesting to note, though each of these studies was primarily concerned with race, or gender, or class, that three of them addressed all three variables, and the fourth addressed two out of the three.

In order to convey the complexity and sophistication of these and other quantitative studies, permit me to elaborate a bit more from one of these articles. In this way, I hope to illustrate how thematically there is an emerging consensus around the importance of class, race, and gender, even among quantitative researchers whose studies have tended to nullify the importance of these variables. For example, in “The Myth of Social Class and Crime Revisited,” Dunaway et al. (2000: 589) concluded from a sample of 555 adults living in a large, midwestern city that “regardless of how class or crime were measured, social class exerted little direct influence on adult criminality in the general population.” Nevertheless, in their analysis, the authors revealed a number of caveats about their findings, such as: “The lack of both significant class effects and any race effects in our general crime scale may suggest a possible interaction effect between social class and race” (Ibid: 607).

Regarding the contemporary sophistication of quantitative studies, the authors in this study employed 15 individual indicators of social class, broken down into four gradational class measures (e.g., personal income, family income, SES, education), four underclass measures (e.g., unemployed, welfare, foodstamps, public housing), and seven Marxian class measures (i.e., bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, worker, self-employed). True to quantitative form, they conducted multivariate analyses with respect to general crime measures for the year prior to their survey and since their respondents turned 18. In addition, they conducted multiple regressions on the impact of their social class measures on the prevalence of violent crime as a subscale in their analysis. Finally, as would be expected, they controlled for race, sex, and age. They also controlled for being a parent and for being married.

As for the authors’ caveats or qualifications, their study revealed a number of interesting findings that expose the complexities of class, race, and gender. For example, even though the results left a relatively weak overall impression of direct class impact on general crime, the outcomes were able to show which of the three ways of conceptualizing class, fared the best. The study also found that the “respondents’ gender and age were the most important predictors of crime,” and that “family income was the only class measure observed to significantly affect the incidence of crime in the past year,” (Ibid: 600, 602).

In addition, the study found some support for specifying the class-crime relationships by gender and by race. In the case of men and women, personal income negatively and significantly affected crime for males. By contrast, family income, significantly influenced crime for females. In the case of whites and nonwhites, social class was related to criminal involvement for nonwhites. Finally, the study also points to a significant limitation with respect to its general representativeness: the sample undercounted nonwhites. The percent of nonwhites surveyed was 14.1% compared with the community’s percent nonwhites of 35.3%.

In sum, sophisticated studies like that of Dunaway et al., intimate that there is not only a need for further quantitative research to consider the conditions under which social class is criminogenic, but for the importance of doing qualitative studies as well. As the authors, echoing the insights of John Hagan’s 1991 Presidential address to the ASC on “The Poverty of a Classless Criminology,” underscore in their discussion portion of the article, the direct effect of class on crime is also mediated by cultural and contextual factors and, therefore, it is inevitably bound to be weak! Recent work, such as Wright et al. (1999), suggests “that the actual direction of class effects may be dependent on an array of social psychological factors. Thus, the class/crime relationship may be masked by interactive effects” related to a host of other unaccounted for variables (Ibid: 624).

Time and Place Studies:

Unlike quantitative studies in crime and criminal justice, time and place studies are not engaged in the perennial pursuit of a fine-tuned measure of real crime, nor are they as reluctant to reach “definitive” conclusions regarding the relationships among class, race, gender, and crime. Whether these studies are historical or comparative, incorporate long-term or short-term perspectives, they are concerned empirically with explaining the varying levels of criminal punishment. These studies want to account for why some men or women, or some socio-economic classes, or some racial or ethnic groups, have been more likely or less likely to be sanctioned by the criminal justice system for their involvement in non-conforming behavior. These accounts typically relate the differences in crime control to their structural and institutional relations of class, race, and gender, rather than to their individual or interpersonal relations.

Accordingly, focus shifts away from measurement of crime and crime control as responses to individual or group misconduct in micro society. Instead, crime and social control are viewed in relationship to the dominant political, economic, and social interests of macro society. In the tradition of “insiders” versus “outsiders,” time and place studies want to know how the changing institutionalized relations of social control in general, and in the administration of criminal justice in particular, have been used by the more powerful groups to maintain privilege and inequality in the context of “social conflict.” Thus, time and place studies of class, race, and gender change the emphasis of inquiry from “social conduct” to “social standing,” and to the ways in which institutions of social control reproduce relations of the status quo. In these inquiries, the pursuit of data revolves around exposing the real and perceived relationships between the cultural threats of the “dangerous groups” and the mechanisms of individual and group control, all played out within the context of the prevailing political and economic arrangements.

For the purposes of this presentation, allow me to make passing reference to two recently published anthologies in the areas of criminology and criminal justice. The first is Ethnicity, Race, and Crime: Perspectives Across Time and Place (1995), edited by Darnell Hawkins. The second is Race, Gender, and Class in Criminology: The Intersection (1996), edited by Martin Schwartz and Dragan Milovanovic. What both of these edited readers share in common are “sociology of knowledge” approaches to the study of crime and crime control. That is, each text takes a “critical” stance in relationship to the disciplines of criminology and criminal justice. Moreover, both books not only explore the history, but they reflect on the ways in which the disciplines of criminology and criminal justice have studied, viewed, and treated crime and crime control in relation to the politics and/or ideology of race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Time and place, also become analytical constructs for these books as each consciously set out to include a diversity of intellectual perspectives on the conceptualizations of class, race, and gender relations. Finally, both of these anthologies move back and forth in time and space as they examine concrete applications of and practices in social control.

Comparatively speaking, the objectives of these two books vary, yet they are still related. Ethnicity, Race, and Crime wanted to distinguish not only between the physical and social realities of racial difference, but to look beyond the usual white and non-white distinctions, to include comparative complexities of multiple ethnic group experiences in crime and social control over time. Toward this end, ethnic and racial, and class, and to a lesser extent, gender experiences in social control are analyzed with consideration to the changing relations of inequality and the changing conditions of the socioeconomic orders. Hence, labor market inequalities, distribution of jobs, economic disadvantage, isolation, marginality, moral panics, institutionalized racism, poverty, and more, are brought into the time and place discussions. Finally, the interrelationship among ethnicity, race, and crime is examined in the contexts of the United States, France, and Germany. A sampling of the chapter titles from the “contemporary issues and debates” section of Ethnicity, Race, and Crime reads as: “Ethnicity, Labor Markets, and Crime”; “Crime Control and Ethnic Minorities: Legitimizing Racial Oppression by Creating Moral Panics”; “The Contribution of Institutionalized Racism to Minority Crime”; and “Minority Group Threat, Crime, and the Mobilization of Law in France.”

The objectives inRace, Gender, and Class in Criminologyare explicitly to investigate the various intersections of class, race, and gender, to explore how these relations or configurations are more than the sum of their parts, and to examine how these intersections may structure criminal opportunities and shape criminal behavior. Each of the contributions whether addressing theory or practice, do so from the mutual vantage points of class, race, and gender. At the same time, a variety of theoretical perspectives from critical criminology, including neo-Marxism, feminism, left realism, postmodernism, peacemaking, and newsmaking, are heard from. Each of these contributions tries to capture the way that its particular theoretical framework has or could look at these intersections in relationship to the production of crime and crime control. Thus, all kinds of relationships are discussed including: “structured choices,” “life histories,” “unequal power,” “layers of domination,” “psychoanalytic semiotics,” “mass mediations,” “fluid social constructs,” “axes of differences,” and “interpenetrating effects.” Contributors to this volume come from the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. A sampling of the chapter titles from the “applications” section ofRace, Gender, and Class in Criminology reads: “White Collar Crime and the Class-Race-Gender Construct”; “Aboriginal Australia: Current Criminological Themes”; “Controlling Homeless Mothers: The Surveillance of Women in a Homeless Shelter”; and “Adolescence and the Socialization of Gendered Fear.”

Ethnographic Studies:

Ethnographic studies in crime and criminal justice, particularly those that examine the urban underclass and incorporate community ecology approaches to group related behavior and social control, are concerned with documenting the connections between and among the institutional orders of class, race, and gender and the community-level effects of economic, political, and social deprivation. Ethnographic data is typically gathered at the “grass roots” or street level; it is usually up close and personal. Ordinarily, ethnographic studies are based on in-depth interviews of relatively small samples of representative persons, ranging from the low to high double digits. These ethnographic studies want to “get inside the heads” of perpetrators, victims, police, and so on and so forth. These studies want to capture the experiences of the intersections of class, race, and gender that go beyond statistics and into the realms of the familiar and biographical. As the authors of “Voices from the Barrio: Chicano/a Gangs, Families, and Communities,” convey: “Listening to the multiple voices of community members allows for a multifaceted understanding of the complexities and contradictions of gang life, both for the youths and for the larger community” (Zatz and Portillos 2000).

For the purposes of this presentation, I refer to two noteworthy studies in the sociology of crime that have captured the various nuances in the interactions between class, race, and gender, and the ways in which these influence or socialize each other. The first is Esther Madriz’ examination of women’s fear of crime, and the second is Mark Totten’s investigation into adolescent girlfriend abuse. In both of these ethnographies, the authors are able to present the qualitative differences in the life experiences of men and women, boys and girls, majorities and minorities, in relation to socio-economic status, and to crime and crime control. By taking class, race, and gender into their accounts, both studies demonstrate that there is no particular “class” experience, or “race” experience, or “gender” experience, but rather a repertoire of class, race, and gender experiences that have emerged in the context of social groupings or various combinations of two or more of these inseparable ingredients in the formation of personal and social identity.

In Nothing Bad Happens to Good Girls, Madriz (1997) explored the relationship of the fear of crime among young and old, African American, Latina, and white upper, middle, and working class women, living in the Big Apple. In the process, she was able to demonstrate how fear of crime perpetuates gender inequalities and contributes to the differential social control of women by class and race/ethnicity. In Guys, Gangs, and Girlfriend Abuse, Totten (2000) explored the relations between early childhood abuse, ideologies of family and gender, and the construction of masculinity, on the one hand, with the marginal male socialization experiences of straight, gay, white, black, and Asian teenagers, on the other hand. In this integrative study of class, race, gender, sexuality, and abuse in Toronto, Totten was able to make sense out of the patterned differences of girlfriend abuse with respect to the physical, sexual, and emotional violence meted out by boyfriends. He was also able to explain how the reproduction of violence and social control in these young people’s lives was related to or interacted with the abuse of gays and racial minorities.

What these and other ethnographies on crime and social control reveal is an appreciation for the relations of privilege and inequality that cuts across class, race, and gender oppression. They also demonstrate an appreciation for the fact that crime and crime control cannot be separated from the totality of the ordered, structural, and cultural contexts of their productivity. In other words, the inequalities and the biases in the administration of criminal justice or in social control more generally, are part and parcel of the socialization of class, race, and gender differences, as these are experienced in relationship to differential place, order, conflict, and perception.

Social Construction Studies:

Social construction studies in criminology and criminal justice are concerned with documenting and analyzing the ways that mass institutions-political, media, and cultural-help to produce and reproduce public order and social control. Borrowing from the traditions of “symbolic interactionism,” “labeling,” and “cultural studies,” these interdisciplinary inquiries explore the notions, stereotypes, and discourses on class, race, and gender, in the belief that these help to shape and influence common images of crime, criminals, crime-fighters, and criminal justice, and that these are, in turn, inseparable from images associated with both crime and crime control policies. Data bases have consisted of case studies on the presentation and portrayals of various “crime problems” vis-’Þ¬ê’äΠ-vis institutions of mass communication. Typically, but not always, studies in social construction have involved analyses of the representations of class, race, and/or gender.

Certainly, the most prolific contributor to the literature on “social problems” and the criminalization of deviance, has been Philip Jenkins. His books on the topic include, Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Britain(1992); Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide (1994); Pedophiles and Priests (1996); and Molesters: The Cycle of Sex Offender Panics (1998). Other noteworthy books are Helen Benedict’s Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes (1992); Joel Best’s Random Violence: How We Talk about New Crimes and New Victims (1999); and Drew Humphries’ Crack Mothers: Pregnancy, Drugs, and the Media (1999). Three significant anthologies include: Gregg Barak’s Media, Process, and the Social Construction of Crime: Studies in Newsmaking Criminology (1994); Coramae Richey Mann and Marjorie Zatz’Images of Color, Images of Crime (1998); and Gary Potter and Victor Kappeler’s Constructing Crime: Perspectives on Making News and Social Problems (1998).

Finally, reference is made to another edited collection of social construction, my Representing O.J.: Murder, Criminal Justice, and Mass Culture (1996/1999). As editor and contributor, I deliberately set out to use the Simpson case to examine the relationship between mass-mediated representations of class, race, and gender and the administration of criminal law in the United States. For the purposes of this presentation, allow me to reconstruct (and deconstruct) the class, race, and gender relations in the situation of the national preoccupation with the trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995.

One of the most celebrated courtroom dramas of all time was the nine months long televised trial of O.J. for the cold-blooded murder of his ex-wife and her male friend. For more than 18 solid months, the Simpson case was both a media circus and a public obsession, not to mention a small cottage industry of consumer goods, legal pundits, and television specials-the latter still going on at the time of this writing. I am referring to the making of the “mini-series” TV movie of O.J.’s life and trials, scheduled for network broadcasting some time next year. One can certainly psychoanalyze that the interest, appeal, attraction, disgust, or whatever, with this case had much to do with its converging issues of class, race, and gender.

One can also safely say that the O.J. trial, both inside and outside the courtroom, represented the civics lesson of the 1990s, as it socially constructed and reconstructed, over and over, the general workings of the American systems of law enforcement and criminal justice. More particularly, O.J. became a “crash course” for the masses in constitutional and criminal law, and in articulating the rights of the individual versus the rights of the state. Beyond the social realities and legal realisms of whether or not the criminal justice system was “fixed” or “broken,” were the historical experiences and perceptions that whole groups of people, based on the complexities of their class, race, and gender backgrounds, brought to their evaluations of the systems of law and justice in the United States. These real (and imagined) differences in experience of the legal systems undoubtedly shape and influence people’s views of the administration of justice. The evidence is clear that our social experiences based on class, race, and gender were more important than the actual facts of the case.

In other words, for the most part, people’s views of the criminal justice system and of Simpson’s guilt or innocence, remained the same from beginning to end. In short, beliefs and attitudes were consistent before, during, and after the trial. Some commentators have claimed that the case was an exercise in the reification of whatever people believed in the first place. Other commentators claimed that the Simpson case represented a Rorschach test of sorts. Thus, people could make anything they liked out of it. As both an analyst and a radio commentator during the criminal trial, I would say that the first of these two claims is much closer to the truth. After all, in reality there were many more “spinners of” than there were “spins on” the O.J. phenomenon. For me, however, the interesting question has, less to do, with the fact that people’s views of criminal justice and Simpson remained fairly constant throughout the debacle, and more to do, with the ways in which class, race, and gender shaped those views.

Take the question of guilty or innocent. Generally, persons from higher socio-economic groups thought that O.J. did the murders, and it appears that race and gender made no difference. Among blacks, 70 percent thought O.J. was innocent; more African American males than females thought he was guilty. Among whites, 70 percent thought that Simpson was guilty with slightly more affirmative women than men. How did the jury compare to the public at large? The jury officially voted 12-0, not guilty, on the second round of “polling” themselves. On the first round it was different as one Hispanic and eight black women and one black man had voted not guilty, and the two white women had voted guilty. So the breakdowns of the first jury reactions appear similar to those of the general public.

As meaningful as some of these differences appear, such black and white distinctions were incomplete and misleading to the extent that they failed to poll the reactions of Asians, Hispanics, and other societal groupings. More importantly, these polls in black and white, unlike the more complex and sophisticated polling of the body politic or electorate, failed to breakdown these interpretations by combining age, occupation, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on and so forth. Such data would have helped to shed light on the background similarities and differences, for instance, between the 30% of the blacks who agreed with 70% of the whites that O.J. was guilty, and conversely, with the 30% of whites who agreed with 70% of the blacks that he was not guilty. In future public discussions of crime and punishment, for example, expanded data of other ethnic and racial groups in relation to their socio-economic and gender positions, would help the body politic move beyond simple black and white distinctions and closer to the more complex relations of class, race, and gender.

What was particularly interesting to observe during the O.J. saga were the mass-mediated reconstructions to “normalize” this case within the context of the everyday practices of criminal justice in America. In other words, the Simpson case was an aberration in the administration of criminal justice as it departed from the more traditional images and stereotypes of criminal defendants, trial attorneys, expert witnesses, and juries of one’s peers. For example, criminal prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys are much more often than not white and male, the bailiffs are usually men and more often than not of color, court reporters are invariably women, and juries, as infrequent as they are, are rarely constituted by one’s peers. Typically, juries are from higher socio-economic classes than criminal defendants. Ordinarily, both the behavior of the police and the credibility of expert witnesses, are beyond reproach. That is, they are generally treated with a decorum of deference and respect.

In the circumstances of defendant O.J., the status quo was ripped apart. After all, Simpson was a wealthy African American male accused of murdering his formerly dependent–psychologically and economically–white wife and her white working class male friend in a “sexual triangle” of sorts. Of course, Simpson was also a media celebrity from television and films, and a former all Pro running-back for the Buffalo Bills, who was able to retain a million-dollar “dream team” of well-known criminal attorneys, eventually led by the indefatigable Johnnie Cochran. In fact, unlike 99.9% and higher of criminal defendants, O.J. had “deeper pockets” than the prosecution did. As for the prosecuting team, they were led by the unusual combination of a white woman and an African American man. As for the jury, they were composed of 11 women and one man; nine African Americans, one Hispanic, and two whites; all members of the working classes. Finally, presiding over this trial was an Asian rather than an Anglo or Euro American judge.

These and other differences from the normal relations of class, race, and gender that usually surround a murder trial, accounted for the differential applications of the law, or for the special privileges, that O.J. received during his jailed incarceration period, prior to and pending the outcome of his trial. For example, even before the trial began, Simpson reached an unheard of deal in the annals of American criminal justice history. He was able, through his attorneys, to successfully negotiate a deal with the prosecution that should he be convicted of the double murder, that the state would not execute him. Generally, if such deals are reached, the accused has to, in exchange, plead guilty to some crime or another, saving the state the expenses of a costly trial and eliminating the possibility of a non-conviction. O.J. traded nothing except his incredible popularity.

Similarly, because of the high powered nature of the defense team, Simpson’s attorneys were able to effectively put the motives and competencies of the Los Angeles Police Department and District Attorney’s Office on trial. In the process, they raised what appears to have been the “reasonable doubt” in the minds of the jurors; the key to his acquittal in the criminal trial. In sum, the contradictions in the management of criminal justice between the treatment of O.J. and that of the typical person accused of murder, black or white or whatever, were informed by a novel combination of class, race, and gender relations of crime control.


The four ways of seeing difference in the social relations of class, race, and gender that I have described as characteristic of criminology and criminal justice are, of course, ideal types or social constructs themselves. As a proponent of integrative criminology and as one who has advocated for integrating the different criminologies, there are no hard and fast boundaries between the four approaches (Barak 1998). As most social and behavioral scientists of crime and justice would agree, using a variety of methods to validate any phenomenon is generally better than using only one method. By way of discussion and closure, let me try to share some of the thinking behind Barak, Flavin, and Leighton’s forthcoming book, Class, Race, Gender, and Crime: Social Realities of Justice in America (2001).

To begin with, we regard the criminal justice system as a culturally powerful, label-conferring institution that has evolved in relation to the changing definitions of “crime” over time. Additionally, we view the defining of “crime” and “criminals” as a product of moral agents, social movements, political interests, and media dissemination. In other words, what becomes a “crime” and who becomes a “criminal” are politically, economically, and socially constructed phenomena, reproduced daily through various discussions in the streets, the home, the school, the church, the government, the courts, the airwaves, and the other cultural bodies. Finally, we approach “crime” and “justice” from historically developing standpoints of class, race, and gender as these undergo social construction.

When we specifically examine class, race, and gender in relationship to law, order, and crime control, on the one hand, we appreciate the unique histories of these social groupings both in isolation and in combination, and on the other hand, we appreciate the way these different social attributes and cultural constructions represent interrelated axes of privilege and inequality. At any moment, class, race, and gender may “feel more salient or meaningful in a given person’s life, but they are overlapping and cumulative in their effects on people’s experience (Andersen and Hill Collins 1998: 3). As we historically demonstrate in our book, in terms of the social realities of justice in America, the experiences of diverse groups of people in society have contributed to the shaping of the types of criminals and victims that we have had. Like Andersen and Hill Collins (1998: 4) in their discussion of what they refer to as a “matrix of domination,” we too conceive that class, race, and gender represent “multiple, interlocking levels of domination that stem from the societal configurations of these structural relationships. These patterned actions, in turn, affect [ing] individual consciousness, group interaction, and individual and group access to institutional power and privileges.”

For example, Roberts (1993) in her examination of the intersections of crime, race, and reproduction, discusses the convergence between the racial construction of crime and the use of reproduction as an instrument of punishment. She has argued that the “technology of power” that links crime, race, and reproduction epitomizes how racism and patriarchy function as mutually reinforcing systems of domination that help to determine “who the criminals are, what constitutes a crime, and which crimes society treats most seriously” (Roberts 1993: 1945). More specifically, in terms of abortion, birth control, and social control, Roberts discusses how this domination is meted out through the control of black women’s bodies that discourage procreation, subordinate groups, and regulate fertility. As part of our integrative analysis of class, race, and gender, we similarly attempt to explore how each of these hierarchies helps to sustain the others, and how these reinforce the types of crimes and justice we have in society.

More generally, we bring at least four related assumptions to our study in the social relations of class, race, gender, and crime control:

First, that each of these categories of social difference share similarities and dissimilarities of justice, especially as these relate to power resources and to the allocation and distribution of rewards and punishments in society.

Second, that the systems of privilege and inequality derived from the social statuses of class, race, and gender, share distinct as well as integrative, or overlapping and accumulating, affects on the type of crime control that various groups of people receive.

Third, that there are connections and linkages between these systems of difference, inequality, and privilege as each, separately and together, helps reproduce the social divisions of hierarchy and stratification that dynamically affect people’s life experiences, inside and outside, the criminal justice system.

Fourth, that systems of crime control socially construct selectively enforced and differentially applied norms to social groups, according to relationships of power, status, and authority.

Historically, we know that the legal differences favoring corporations over individuals, workers, and consumers, or the wealthy over the middle, working, and poor classes, have remained fairly constant over time despite efforts to regulate and control monopolies of wealth or to assist poverty’s destitute. During the 20th century, we recognize that, on the one hand, the more blatant forms of discrimination based on alleged differences of race, ethnicity, and gender, have been significantly reduced in the United States. On the other hand, we also recognize that although the legalized and institutionalized forms of bias have been reformed and abolished by law, that, in practice, differential treatment based on race and gender still persists. Hence, in terms of the operations of crime control, poor persons still have fewer resources or less power working for them in negotiating outcomes within and without the criminal justice system than the affluent or middle classes. And, when poor persons are of color or are female too, they usually hold even less power, and if they are all three-poor, of color, and female-then they typically possess lesser power still.

Our study is not an ethnographic study of victims or victimizers, but rather its an analytical investigation into the institutionalized practices and outcomes of crime control. Nevertheless, we share the insights and the desires of Madriz and Totten to unravel the complexities of class, race, and gender as these interact with the cultural production of crime, justice, and inequality. We also share their critical view that crime, justice, and crime control cannot be separated from the totality of the ordered, structural, and cultural contexts of their productivity. Each of our cultural approaches holds that the inequalities in control and justice are part and parcel of the social constructions of class, race, and gender differences, as these are experienced in relationship to place, order, conflict, and perception.

Moreover, social perceptions of what constitutes unacceptable social injuries and acceptable social controls are shaped by the underlying elements of social organization, or by the production and distribution of economic, political, and cultural services (Michalowski 1985). Following Antonio Gramsci (1971), we are not talking about conspiracies of elites and decision-makers here, but rather, we are referring to agreed upon definitions of harms and injuries, pains and sufferings, and crimes and punishments that reflect capitalist political-economic relations and interests. Hence, in the final judgment serious crime defined from above or below, from the suite to the street, and from the official reports of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the cultural media, all become statistically mediated and socially constructed phenomena.

In culturally generated numbers, narratives, and pictures alike, a distorted view and limited perception of harmful behavior emerges. Crimes and criminals are restricted primarily to the tabulations and representations of conventional criminal code violations, such as homicide, rape, burglary, robbery, theft, and less often, assault. From a comparative perspective, whatare traditionally omitted from these images and narratives of justice are two things: from below, the grossly under-reported and/or hidden crimes, such as the trafficking and possession in stolen merchandise, illicit sex, gambling, loan sharking, internal pilferage, and less so, the smuggling of weapons; and from above, the severely ignored and invisible crimes, such as the frauds and embezzlements of white-collar and professional criminals as well as numerous corporate offenses against the environment, workplace, and consumer.

Just as these materially and culturally produced images of crime and criminals leave impressions that reinforce one-dimensional notions that criminality and harmful behavior are exclusively the responsibility of the poor and marginal members of society, the material and cultural images of crime control and the administration of justice leave impressions that reproduce limiting social realities of social control and crime prevention. As mass consumers, for example, we all share a virtual reality of mediated facsimiles of lawbreakers and crime-fighters. Common narratives or stories of crime and criminal justice appear and reappear so often in the news, in films, in television, in literature, and in popular discourse, that most Americans imagine similar renderings of crime, criminals, law enforcement, adjudication, punishment, and so forth.

Is it no wonder that when people try to picture the typical American crime, the common images that emerge are of mostly young victimizers and victims of color? In repetitive news stories, African American and Hispanic male youths in particular, have been encountered in pools of blood lying dead, victims of so-called “random” or “senseless” violence. There are also the numerous police action reenactments that can be viewed regularly on such television programs as Top Cops or America’s Most Wanted, that similarly recycle images of these young men as dangerous drug dealers whose dwellings must be invaded during the early hours of dawn by “storm trooper” police and other law enforcement personnel, in order to secure the “war on crime.” In like fashion, the images of crime control that are constructed throughout the criminal justice system as we move from law enforcement to adjudication and from sentencing to incarceration, again serve to reinforce limited and fairly biased portrayals of the realities of criminal justice in America.

When we imagine a criminal courtroom, for example, images come to mind from relatively long and involved trials, exposed either in feature length films, or from Court Television’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of such celebrated trials as the murder conviction of Sandy Murphy and Rich Tablish for killing multi-millionaire and former Las Vegas casino owner, Ted Binion, in September 1998. The actual trial of these two “sympathetic” murderers did not convene until February, 2000, and ended in May with both of them receiving the minimum sentences for murder that the state of Nevada permits. At the same time, the public is led to believe, based on very succinct and curt shots of highly charged courtroom scenes from various television series like The Practice and Law and Order, that competent attorneys for each side are present and engaged in vigorous battle, always doing their best to secure justice for all. In these fictional and non-fictional dramatizations, the images that do not come to mind are the ones where the rights of defendants have been all but eliminated. Reference is made to the overwhelming majority of criminal cases, 90 percent, that are plea-bargained everyday in courthouses throughout the nation. These negotiated deals in lieu of trials usually take less than a few minutes for judges and courts to process and uphold.

Moving from adjudication to punishment, popular images come to mind of dangerously violent offenders who need to be locked up indefinitely. Such pictures make unimaginable the possibility of ever re-aligning the offender, the victim, and the community. As part of the politics of American punishment and the political economy of incarceration, the languages and images of retribution serve to negate efforts in the “rehabilitation” of people while they reproduce the United States’ 100 billion dollar a year criminal justice-industrial complex (Shelden 1999). Overall, the representations of offenders depict feuding convicts divided into racial and religious cliques doing “scared time,” with young and inexperienced inmates guarding their derrieres from sexual predators, rather than images of residents engaged in school or a vocation, and of former offenders “fitting back” into society.

Lastly, the award winning HBO dramatic series of life in a maximum security prison, OZ, portrays a based-on-facts fictional account of the complexity of one of those “hell on earth” holes or archipelagos. On the one hand, such representation ignores the social realities of some 1500 other state and federal prisons of less severity and pain. On the other hand, OZ does not do justice to the growing apartheid like conditions of crime and punishment that disproportionately affects black and brown Americans. At the same time, commercially successful prison films, like Lock Up (1989) or The Shawshank Redemption (1994), tend to personify a plurality of ethnic and cultural diversity in prison, as they tell stories of mostly white inmate protagonists doing conflict with mostly white correctional antagonists, against a background of “out of control” systems of criminal justice. These narratives are not only dated, but they represent “white-washed” versions of life behind bars in the United States.

In the final analysis, what we try to show in our book is how the social relations of class, race, gender, and crime control as well as the ways of seeing difference, are both related to the inequalities of crime, social justice, and culture production. After reviewing in the first portion of the book, the histories of “class justice,” “race justice,” and “gender justice” in the U.S. states, we then examine class, race, and gender in the administration of criminal justice: first, in terms of the relative uniqueness and isolation of class, race, and gender; and second, in terms of the interactions between class, race, and gender. We then go on to discuss alternative discourses on crime and justice as well as to propose policies that reflect upon crime, marginality, and justice in relationship to the prevention and the reduction of harms and crimes in American society.


Andersen, Margaret L. and Patricia Hill Collins. 1998. Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology, 3rd edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Barak, Gregg. 1994. (ed.). Media, Process, and the Social Construction of Crime: Studies in Newsmaking Criminology. New York: Garland Publishing.

Barak, Gregg. 1996/1999. (ed.). Representing O.J.: Murder, Criminal Justice, and Mass Culture. Albany, NY: Harrow and Heston. Republished with a new preface and new title, Media, Criminal Justice, and Mass Culture. New York: Criminal Justice Press.

Barak, Gregg. 1998. Integrating Criminologies. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Barak, Gregg, Jeanne Flavin, and Paul Leighton. 2001. Class, Race, Gender, and Crime: Social Realities of Justice in America. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing.

Benedict, Helen. 1992. Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes New York: Oxford University Press.

Best, Joel. 1999. Random Violence: How We Talk About New Crimes and New Victims . Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dunaway, R. Gregory, Francis T. Cullen, Velmer S. Burton, and T. David Evans. 2000.“The Myth of Social Class and Crime Revisited: An Examination of Class and Adult Criminality.” Criminology 38 (2): 589-632.

Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International.

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Humphries, Drew. 1999. Crack Mothers: Pregnancy, Drugs, and the Media. Columbus: Ohio University Press.

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Jenkins, Philip. 1994. Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide. Hawthrone, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Jenkins, Philip. 1996. Pedophiles and Priests. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, Philip. 1998.

Molesters: The Cycle of Sex Offender Panics New Haven: Yale University Press.

Madriz, Esther. 1997. Nothing Bad Happens to Good Girls: Fear of Crime in Women’s Lives. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Michalowski, Raymond. 1985. Order, Law and Crime. New York: Random House.

Potter, Gary W. and Victor E. Kappeler. 1998 (eds.). Constructing Crime: Perspectives On Making News and Social Problems . Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.

Roberts, Dorothy E. 1993. “Crime, race, and Reproduction.” Tulane Law Review 67 (6): 1945-1977.

Schwartz, Martin D., and Dragan Milovanovic. 1996. (eds.). Race, Gender, and Class in Criminology: The Intersection. New York: Garland Publishing.

Totten, Mark D. 2000. Guys, Gangs and Girlfriend Abuse. Petersborough, Ontario, Canada: Broadview Press.

Wright, Bradley, R. Entner, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt, Richard A. Miech, and Phil A. Silva. 1999. “Reconsidering the Relationship between SES and Delinquency: Causation but not Correlation.” Criminology 37 (1): 175-194.

Zatz, Marjorie S., and Edwardo L. Portillos. 2000. “Voices from the Barrio: Chicano/a Gangs, Families, and Communities.” Criminology 38 (2):369-402.


Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?

Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?

Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D

Brown is associate professor of Education at Colby College and author of Raising Their Voices: The Politics of Girls’ Anger (Harvard University Press 1998) and the forthcoming Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls (New York University Press, September 2003).

Meda Chesney-Lind, Ph.D

Chesney-Lind is professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and co-author of Girls, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice (Wadsworth, 2003), The Female Offender (Sage, 2003) and Female Gangs in America (Lakeview Press, 1999).


Suddenly the world is filled with nasty girls. “Girls just want to be mean,” the New York Times Magazine announced last year as a slew of new books on girls’ relational aggression told us how “to tame them,” to use the Times‘ own words.

Girls will be (backstabbing, catty) girlsÑthe latest flavor de jour of the American media’s love affair with “bad” girls. Hardly a new idea in a country that grew up reading Longfellow’s poem about his daughter: “when she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.”

Now comes the ultimate girl fight in living color. Full-scale “savagery in the Chicago suburbs,” Newsweek called it. Junior girls from the privileged Glenbrook North High School paid for the right to be hazed by seniors at the annual powder puff football game. After the beatings and humiliations ended, five girls were sent to the hospital, one with a broken ankle, another with a concussion so serious it caused memory loss, another to receive 10 stitches in her scalp.

As authors who write about girls’ anger, aggression and violence, we are troubled, for reasons that are obvious and some that are less so. Violence that girls perpetrate on other girls, whether it’s emotional or physical, is cause for concern. But the media frenzy that greeted the lurid and voyeuristic video of girls fighting other girls is also problematic. In fact, it signals another major issue for those concerned about girls development. Girls grow up in a world that has long encouraged, them to turn their rage against one another and then likes to be in the audience for the fight. Like the Glenbrook parents, they might even supply the beer .

Girls’ anger has a long history of being dismissed (“she’s just a bitch,” “it must be PMS”) and trivialized (“you’re beautiful when you’re angry”). Girls violence is generally either ignored entirely or sensationalized and sexualized. Girlfighting, in particular, is often presented as a spectacle (consider mud or Jello wrestling) enjoyed for its eroticism as much as its entertainment value (think Jerry Springer).

The hazing we watched up-close and personal, over and over again, was horrifying, but questions about how and why the episode gripped the nation are at least as troubling. Who was it watching the events unfold on the field? Why was it caught on videotape to begin with? How was it passed on to cable and network television? Who made the decision to run it repeatedly? Why was it international news?

Girlfighting as spectator sport. Again.

Why, when boys perpetrate 80 percent of serious violence in the U.S., is this the story that captivates us-and helps define a generation of girls?

In the shock and awe, we’ve missed the point. The school principal suggests this is just kids with “old scores to settle.” That doesn’t tell us enough and, worse, it fudges the real issues.

This was girls fighting over boyfriends and popularity. The seniors used words like “bitches,” “wimps,” and “sluts” to shame the juniors into staying on the field. In what many think of as post-feminist America, it’s not popular to raise issues of power and subordination, but the fact that girls are fighting other girls in front of videotaping boys, is hardly insignificant. That girls used sexist and misogynistic language to control other girls during and after the event and that their fights were primarily for boys’ attention and favor is a symptom of deeper cultural problems. As with many girl fights, boys are both the “cause” of girl’s violence and the real audience.

We need to ask harder, more critical questions about why girls are fighting. Why embrace insults that ratify the sexual double standard? Why is strength in women always de-valued as “bitchiness?” Why the endless competition among girls for male approval? And why fight each other instead of against a culture still rife with sexism and violence toward women?

Girlfighting gets acted out horizontally on other girls because this is the safest and easiest outlet for their outrage and frustration. Girls are essentially accessing and mimicking the male violence they sometimes know all too well; and they are choosing victims that are societally approvedÑother girls. This pattern of horizontal aggression has long characterized subordinate groups since it manages the inevitable anger in the group being controlled without jeopardizing the over all structure of male privilege.

Girls’ violence also served one additional purpose. It’s not uncommon for the targets of that violence to, themselves, be the group members that are challenging the rigid norms of girlhood. Why, for example, wouldn’t the girlfighters go after those “girly girls” that the media continuously tells them are weak, vapid, and stupid? From the evil head cheerleaders in the Disney Channel’s Kim Possible and Lizzie McGuire, to The Man Show‘s Juggy Squad on Comedy Central, to Thong Song wannabes, these girls make easy targets.

Girls who take out other girls for being “dykes,” “hos,” and “bitches” can prove they are different, worth taking seriously, a force to contend with. No wimps, wusses, or victims here. But this posturing is short-lived protection at best, because selling out other girls this way only continues a climate of misogyny, and any wrong move can quickly turn the perpetrator into a victim

The problem is not girls; the problem is a culture that denigrates, commodifies and demoralizes women and then gets a – kick out watching the divide and conquer consequences.

There’s an old saying, “men kill their weak, women kill their strong.” If we would give girls legitimate avenues to power, value their minds as much as their bodies, they’d be less likely to go down those nasty, underhanded or openly hostile roads, less likely to take their legitimate rage out on other girls. Let’s face it, “meanness” and other covert aggressions are, in the final analysis, weapons of the weak; horizontal violence ultimately ratifies boy not girl power. When we join with girls to- create real pathways to power and possibility, we’ll have a lot less to video tape and we’d have a lot more to be proud of both in ourselves and in our daughters.


Review of “Mean Girl” Books

Review of “Mean Girl” Books

Meda Chesney-Lind

The Secret Lives of Girls: What Good Girls Really Do-Sex Play, Aggression, and their Guilt, by Sharon Lamb. New York: The Free Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7432-017-8 (cloth), $24.00

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls , by Rachel Simmons. New York: Harcourt, Inc, 2002. ISBN 0-15-100604-0 (cloth), $25.00.

Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and other Realities of Adolescence, by Rosalind Wiseman. New York: Crown Publishers, 2002, ISBN 0-609-60945-9 (cloth), $24.00.


Last spring, the mainstream media was full of articles on a new kind of “bad” girl-the “mean” girl. Suddenly, we were all reading about what had been until then, an often overlooked aspect of growing up female: dealing with backstabbing, sneaky, manipulative, and exploitative “friends.”

For me, the hype about negative aspects of young women was all too familiar; I had spent a good part of the previous decade challenging a similar spate of stories on the “violent” girl, often a gang girl. Here, too, the media had a field day exploring the notion that girls were not simply “sugar and spice and everything nice” and could often be as “bad” or “violent” as boys. Some things about the mean girl media frenzy tracks the same themes, but there are some crucial differences.

Notably, the hype about violent girls was heavily racialized, with almost all the images that accompanied the stories depicting African American or Hispanic girls and the books and articles that developed that hypothesis were written by journalists-virtually all female (see Chesney-Lind 1999). The books exploring the “mean girl”: The Secret Lives of Girl, Odd Girl Out, and Queen Bees and Wannabes have covers featuring white girls and track problems that are more linked to middle class, white femininity than to the economically marginalized communities of the “violent” girl of color. Moreover, two of the three authors of the books (Simmons and Wiseman) are participants in a new cottage industry that has grown up giving adults (both professionals and parents) information about raising their daughters.

But, leaving aside the media hype, what about the books themselves? Do they tell us something important about girlhood? The answer is a resounding yes, but.

Probably the most well known of these books is Rachel Simmons’s best selling Odd Girl Out, for example, does popularize an important new line psychological research, which focuses attention on “relational” or “alternative aggression” which is “aggression that cannot, for one reason or another, be directed (physically or verbally) at its target.” When this is the case, “the perpetrator has to find other channels” (Simmons, p. 20).

To fully understand relational aggression, though, it is important to keep in mind that psychological definitions of aggression include all behaviors that are intended to hurt or harm others. This means that a wide variety of actions fall under the category ranging from rolling one’s eyes and deliberating ignoring people to assault, rape, and murder.

Data on male and female aggression gathered by different studies routinely shows that while boys tend to specialize in physical or overt aggression (either hitting or attacking someone verbally), girls are more likely than boys to use relational aggression, so much so that by the time one includes relational aggression along with the physical, the gender difference in aggression disappears (Crick, 1999). [Crick and her associates contend that the old focus that only males are aggressive has more recently been replaced by a new perspective: “one that posits males and females to be equally aggressive” (Crick, 76).]

Why are girls inclined to alternative aggression? Simmons contends that girls are socialized into an impossible double bind psychologically. They are told that they must be good, nice, and quiet, and they are also told that they should have and value close and intimate relationships. Of course, with intimacy comes conflict, and again according to Simmons girls fear that an expression of conflict will damage their relationships. In short, girls experience anger, but they are not permitted to express it, since they “fear that even everyday acts of conflict would result in the loss of people they most cared about” (p. 69). Trapped in a constraining, stereotypical gender role, some girls begin to craft ways of expressing their anger covertly. These aggressions exist underneath the radar of most parents and virtually all teachers, since teachers and parents have their hands full dealing with the much more obvious physical aggression and violence of boys. As a result, “the day-to-day aggression that persists among girls, a dark underside of their social universe, remains uncharted and explored. We have no language for it” (Simmons, p 69).

Odd Girl Out specifically sets out explore this dark side of girlhood with story after story of girls hurting other girls. Over the course of a year, Simmons talked to girls attending ten schools in three geographic areas: a major middle-Atlantic city, a Northeastern city, and a small town in Mississippi. Simmons argues that she made an effort to seek out schools that serve girls of color as well as a range of social classes, but she never gives us the number of girls she interviewed, nor does she give us any demographic information on these respondents. She also interviewed “approximately fifty” adult women (but again, no demographic information is provided). Also frustrating is that she does not routinely give us social class or ethnic information about the particular girls whose stories she tells. This is particularly problematic since even she notes in her one, brief chapter on girls of color (Hispanic and African American only), that these ethnic groups (particularly working class African American families) do teach their girls how to fight physically, and do not seem as prone to the use of relational aggression, something she would have noticed had she read any of the books available on girls in gangs.

Simmons opens her book on this, the newest female victimization with her own story. In her case, when she was eight a “popular” friend of hers began to whisper to Rachel’s best friend that they should run away from Rachel. One day they did on the way to dance class at a local community theatre, and she spent much of that year trying to make sense of their desertion. As she puts it at the “the sorrow is overwhelming” (p.2) so “now is the time to end the silence” (p. 3).

This seems a little overblown. In fact, the silence on female aggression was broken by two books published a decade earlier than Simmons’: Men, Women and Aggression by Anne Campbell (1991) and Of Mice and Women: Aspects of Female Aggression edited by Kaj Bjorkqvist and Pirkko Niemela in 1992. Simmons does write well, and she provides readers with powerful narratives on the pain girls experience. Finally, she has some very useful suggestions to teachers and parents about teaching girls to be appropriately “aggressive” (being confident, assertive, and competitive) while avoiding mean strategies like vindictive gossip and social exclusion.

Girls’ aggression is also a major theme Sharon Lamb’s The Secret Lives of Girls. Here, the author utilizes a methodology that seems even more haphazard than that used by Simmons. The author reports that she interviewed 122 women and girls in 25 states “using family trips and trips to conferences as opportunities to find women and girls to interview” (p. xv). Ultimately, her efforts (as well as those of two assistants) did result in a sample that is 24% African American and 17% Hispanic (primarily Puerto Rican); only a quarter of her interviewees, though, were girls.

Having grown up working class, Lamb, a clinical psychologist who worked with Carol Gilligan, apparently felt constrained by a construction of girlhood that stressed girl’s and women’s “caring natures” (Lamb, p. xiv). Lamb confesses that her experiences with “anger, wishes for vengeance” and sexuality led her to seek “a perspective that gives girls’ sexuality and aggression their due and doesn’t subsume it under a blanket of carrying nor as a defense against oppression” (Lamb, p. xiv).

In seeking to challenge the caring girl stereotype of the eighties, Lamb’s book offers us a chaotic, choppy, and frequently frustrating set of ruminations about various aspects of girlhood. Chapters, many only four pages in length, attempt to deal with a wild array of topics, and while Lamb, unlike Simmons, appears familiar with a range of research on girl’s development, her citation pattern (for an academic) is inconsistent and occasionally sloppy.

Though Lamb spends considerable time challenging the “tyranny of nice and kind” (Lamb, p. 147), most of the book deals with a topic that seems unfortunate in light of current public concern regarding the sexual abuse of children: the sexual games that girls play with other girls (and occasionally with boys). Certainly, there is a need to document, as careful researchers like Deborah Tolman and Barry Thorne have done, girl’s experience of their sexuality. Lamb’s book is far less systematic and more autobiographical. She admits that she “played sexual games with other girls and was deeply concerned for many years after about what I had done (Lamb, p. xiii).” Like Simmons, this early childhood experience has translated in a discussion that seems almost voyeuristic at times, and certainly unanchored from the growing literature on sexual development in children. [Even more worrisome, though she seems concerned about the sexual abuse of girls, at least one the incidents she describes in her chapter entitled, “I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours,” sounded very much like an incident of sexual abuse, not “playing doctor” despite the author’s trying to label it as such (including the victim opening the story with “one time they [a group of boys] tried to get me” (Lamb, p. 22). ]

Especially exasperating is the section of her book on girls and fashion subtitled: “the pleasures of being objectified.” She contends that few feminists have “analyzed the appeal” that media images of “pretty” have for young girls, and she seems quick to condone the fact that “little girls love this look; they love Britney [Spears].”

In virtually all her analysis of girl’s sexuality and sexual games, Lamb seems reluctant to acknowledge the ways in the sex/gender system has shaped female sexual expression. In a misogynistic world, girls learn to assign low worth to women and hold that women achieve their greatest importance when they command the attention of males. The success of pop icons is that they learned how to capture the male gaze, just as young girls seek to do.

By contrast, Lamb’s treatment of girl’s aggression is actually less problematic and more informed than Simmons’ treatment. She addresses girl’s experiences with direct and indirect aggression, and she does particularly well with the agency of girls of color. She is wrong, though, when she says that “society ignores and accepts aggression in girls from low income neighborhoods” (Lamb, p. 142). In fact, the media hype and subsequent demonization of girls in gangs and violent girls has – led to a 56% increase in the detention of girls in the last decade.

Lamb ends her book, as does Simmons, by talking about the need to acknowledge and even support girl’s participation in direct aggression: “when good girls are aggressive they both conform and resist” (Lamb, p. 228).

Well, how do we raise girls that can both exist and thrive in an imperfect world? Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes offers us all a “passport” from “Planet Parent” into what she calls, “Girl World.” [Wiseman apparently draws her interview data from her work with girls in a school based violence prevention program, the Empower Program, but, again, there’s no clear information on where these girls came or what their demographic characteristics are as a group.]

Reading this book closely, it appears that perhaps Wiseman needs a passport out of Girl World; she is certainly accepting and even enthusiastic about even the most repressive and superficial aspects of girlhood. In her introduction, as an example, she gushes about the “key rights of passage your daughter is likely to experience: getting an invitation to an exclusive party in the sixth grade…; her first breakup with a friend; the first time she dresses up for a party in the latest style (p. 3). What happened to her first play or high school graduation to say nothing of being named a Rhodes Scholar?

In fact, though school is the setting for much of Wiseman’s book, we virtually never hear anything about studying. Instead, there is a steady drumbeat of acquiescence to such Girl World “facts” as “beauty and style are so important to the Girl World that it wouldn’t exist without it (Wiseman, p. 76), “breasts are power,” and that girls “can’t be too overt about their academic or athletic accomplishments” for fear of being called “stuck up” (Wiseman, p. 115). Weisman does hedge these observations sometimes with comments like the feminist movement still has “further to go” (p. 115), but if so this book hardly provides parents or anybody else with much of a road map.

Instead, we see six grade girls “sinking as low as they need to win the boy they want” which translates into them being “off the charts cliquey and mean” (Wiseman, p. 211). The next chapter takes us further down misogyny highway in Girl World where we learn that “pleasing boys” means “betraying girls” (Wiseman, p. 235). Admittedly, Wiseman does talk about date rape and other forms of dating violence as well as sexuality and pregnancy in smart ways at the end of the book, but this is off set by long sections on clique dynamics in girls groups urge parents to accept the fact that girls prestige in such groups is almost totally a product of looks, weight, wearing the right clothes and negotiating a world where the worst thing to be is a “fat, uglyÉslut” (p. 111), and where “mean girls” are the most powerful.

Having said all of this, I have to confess that I’ve recommended Wiseman’s book to colleagues who work with girls. Despite my frustration with the limits of her perspective, there is no doubt that she has really listened to girls, and she includes very powerful quotes from young women who have been in the Empower Program. Take this zinger from Maria, age 15: “There isn’t a lot a girl won’t do to make a boy like her.” (p. 258) Or, “If a girl’s stuck in a degrading clique, it’s the same as when she’s later in a bad relationship. She doesn’t expect to be treated any better” from fifteen year old Ellen (p. 36). Finally, her book contains some extremely useful advice to parents and others on what “works” and what does not work with their daughters in certain tricky situations, like the moment when you discover that your own daughter may be a “mean” girl.

So, these books document the fact that girls can be mean (and that this is a major theme in early, female adolescence). That is good to know, particularly if you are working with or raising girls. But, let’s keep a few facts in mind. First, boys also engage in this behavior (though not as much a girls); and second that the context of any aggressive behavior is important. Alternative aggressions are, fundamentally, weapons of the weak. As such, they are as reflective of girl’s powerlessness as they are of girl’s meanness. Women and other oppressed groups have not, historically, been permitted direct aggression (without terrible consequences). As a result, in certain contexts, and against certain individuals, relational aggressions were ways the powerless punished the bad behavior of the powerful. This was, after all, how slaves and indentured servants-female and male–got back at abusive masters, how women before legal divorce dealt with violent husbands, and how working women today get back at abusive bosses.

More than this, probably everybody needs to know about behaviors that are included in alternative aggression, if only to recognize when they are being deployed against you. The myopic focus of these books on girls doing this to other girls tends to blur the fact that girls exist in a world that basically ignores them and marginalizes them—all the while empowering young boys (whose physical and relational aggression against girls is virtually unmentioned in Simmon’s book and minimized and sexualized in Lamb’s work). Certainly, feminists (and particularly feminist parents and teachers want to change much about girlhood, and we do want to stop girls from hurting other, weaker girls, but even in a perfect world, girls will need to know something about how to “do” relational aggression. [After all, it was Machiavelli who first taught us that while all are supposed to be good, if one wants to be successful politically, and one is forced to make a choice, it is much safer to be feared than loved. The world, even the male world, is not a perfect place, and girls need many and varied skills to survive it.]

Finally, I think that we need to keep in mind that there are some basic problems with a concept of “aggression” that includes such disparate behaviors as rolling your eyes at a stupid remark and murder. Yes, psychologists mean this when they talk about aggression, but the rest of us must remember that the degree of harm is important. Some aggression makes us depressed and sad for a day or six, and some we do not survive. Consider how the media hype surrounding the discovery of girl’s meanness seems to imply that this “new” attribute makes girls about as bad as boys or worse. That is not the case; virtually all girls’ aggression is non-violent. This does not mean that girls are perfect, but lets keep our perspective. Boys are still over 80% of those arrested for serious crimes of violence, and it is boy’s violence, not girls’ gossip, ­that gives the United States the highest rate of firearm-related deaths among youths in the industrialized world.


Bjorkqvist, by Kaj and Pirkko Niemela (eds). 1992. Of Mice and Women: Aspects of Female Aggression. San Diego: Academic Press

Campbell, Anne. 1991 Men, Women and Aggression. New York: Basic Books

Chesney-Lind, Meda. “Media Misogyny: Demonizing ‘Violent’ Girls and Women. Jeffrey Ferrel and Neil Websdale (eds). Making Trouble: Cultural Representations of Crime, Deviance, and Control. Jeff Ferrell and Neil Websdale (eds). New York: Aldine, 1999, pp. 115-141.

Crick, Nicki, et al. 1998. “Childhood Aggression and Gender: A New Look at an Old Problem. In Gender and Motivation, edited by Dan Bernstein. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999, pp. 75-141.


Feminism and Critical Criminology: Toward a Feminist Praxis

Feminism and Critical Criminology: Toward a Feminist Praxis

Meda Chesney-Lind

I been thinking about a the need for a feminist praxis and how this perspective might inform our efforts to move toward a just society. Increasingly, this focus has led me to a consideration of the public role of intellectuals in our society, and the special responsibility that criminologists might face as we exit this century and enter the next.

Crime is increasingly emerging as a code word for race in contemporary US politics. Likewise, “getting tough on crime” has come to mean placing more and more African Americans and other people of color, both female and male to prison–creating what some have called a “new apartheid” in the United States (Davis, Estes, and Schiraldi 1996). Correctional supervision, especially detention and imprisonment, seems increasingly to have replaced other historic systems of racial control (slavery, Jim Crow laws, ghettoization) as ways of keeping women and men of color in their “place” (Schiraldi, Kuyper and Hewitss 1996).

The data on this trend are irrefutable. Mauer and Huling (1995, 3) now estimate that roughly one out of three African American men between the ages of 20-29 are under some form of correctional supervision. One scholar, commenting on this trend observed, “‘prison’ is being re-lexified to become a code word for a terrible place where blacks reside” (Wideman cited in Schiraldi, Kuyper, and Hewitt 1996, 5).

In a related trend, some of us (see Bloom, Chesney-Lind and Owen 1994) have noted that the war on drugs has also become an undeclared war on women. The over-all number of women in prison in the US has quintupled since 1980–a trend explained largely by the implementation of gender blind, get tough policies on drug and other offenders. This new national zeal for imprisoning women has taken a special toll on women of color. Between 1986 and 1991, for example, the number of African American women incarcerated for drug offenses rose by 828 percent. The number of Hispanic women in prison for these offenses increased by 328 percent, and the number of white women imprisoned for drug offenses increased by 241 percent.

The cost to all of us for indulging in such mindless incarceration is only beginning to appear to the general public. The bill that the U.S. is currently paying for imprisonment is staggering. Mauer (1994) estimates that the cost of incarceration in the U.S. is 26.8 billion annually. A conservative estimate is that each new prison cell costs about $100,000 to build and about $22,000 per bed to operate (Donziger 1996, 49). As a direct result of the building boom in corrections, corrections budgets are by far the fastest growing segment of state budgets–increasing by 95% between 1976 and 1989. During this same period, state expenditures for lower education dropped slightly (2%), higher education dropped by 6%, and state expenditures for welfare (excluding Medicare) dropped by 41% (Donziger 1996, 48).

These trends have occurred despite the fact that the U.S. has the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialized world (Donziger 1996, 215). About 46% of African American children and 39 percent of Hispanic children are born in poverty, compared to 16% of white children and 2 percent of children in Sweden. This last figure is particularly important since Sweden has a higher proportion of out of wedlock births than the U.S. (Donziger 1996, 215). Given this, the consequences of the current wave of welfare “reform” are horrifying to contemplate–particularly in the African American, Hispanic, and Native American communities that have relied so heavily on what few resources we were putting toward the support of children born into poverty.

What we are seeing is a mindless and massive budget transfer away from education and welfare into prisons. This means that monies that once went to support low-income women and their children in the community, as well as the dollars to provide her with educational opportunities, are being cut back dramatically at the same time that monies to arrest, detain, and incarcerate women and men on the economic margins are being increased.

How are we as criminologists to respond to the challenge inherent in these trends? Clearly, as professionals who study of the problem of crime, we should be able to claim a certain degree of credibility when it comes to public discussions of crime policy. Yet, when many critical decisions are made about these issues, we are almost never on the guest list. Why?

It has been my experience that most academics, particularly in the Unites States, are wholly unplugged from the world of politics, particularly in their local communities, and are often completely unaware of what it takes to engage in pragmatic political activism. This situation is no accident, of course. Rather, it is the consequence of decades of political domination by conservative political leadership which, among other things, sought to shift the social sciences away from the activism that had characterized our fields in earlier decades.

The conservative bias in the academy makes life extremely uncomfortable for feminist scholars, many of whom came to the field through the door of the women’s movement. Indeed, we, like other progressives, often find ourselves in a constant state of tension within organized academic life. Two modes of accommodation to this ongoing pressure repeatedly crop up, and both are extremely dangerous to clear, feminist thinking, to say nothing of being able to speak to regular folks about crime policy. They are also, while appearing politically neutral, are antithetical to political action informed by solid information.

The first of these demands is the insistence that “good” scientists must use what I call “macho methods” in order to be considered credible. This requirement is backed up by none too subtle pressures from mainstream journals to use such methods or face almost inevitable rejection of your manuscripts and job searches that insist on presentations that reflect his level of “methodological” sophistication.

While I am a great fan of quantitative data, when they are simply presented and appropriate to the subject at hand, more sophisticated methods are generally not accessible to even able and engaged policy makers. Moreover, in my view, these methods are often “over-kill” for the quality of the data used. Finally, they encourage us to stay off the streets, in front of our computers, doing what John Hagedorn has called “courthouse criminology” (Hagedorn 1990, 244) or worse. To change people’s minds about crime will require that we do more than run regressions. We need to tell them, in simple terms, what incarceration is costing them, and we need to reach their hearts as well as their pocket books. Here, qualitative methods will get us the data we need.

The second method of accommodation to the conservative academy has been to seek to emulate the theoretical obscurity of males by developing feminist theories that are so intellectually impenetrable that they both disempower and silence women.

One trend within contemporary feminist theorizing is particularly worrisome to me. This is the notion that we can no longer use terms like “women” because all women are different. Certainly, the critical importance of race or culture has long been neglected by mainstream criminology, but I would contend that this long overdue focus on race should not lead to a “politics of difference” which stresses divides between women to the exclusion of that which they share in common because of their gender or class.

Ultimately, an over-emphasis on difference (or race or culture), while appearing to be race-sensitive, can actually excuse white women’s silence about issues that affect their non-white counterparts. In her essay on this topic, Kathleen Barry observes, ” what I know from growing up poor myself is that the marginal are ultimately left to fend for themselves because no politics of difference intends to include ” (Barry, 1996, 191). No clearer example of that can be found than the current silence about the quintupling of the number of women in prison, particularly from established women’s organizations.

I would contend that our position is not unlike that of the nuclear scientists in the fifties and sixties. These scholars found themselves in a world engaged in a mindless and terrifying arms race, and they rose to speak bluntly about the horrors of nuclear war. We can look to the groups they formed, and the actions they took models for our own work. They certainly, as we must, stepped out of the pages of their journals to educate the world about the devastating consequences of the arms race with publications like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and political organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Committee of 100.

We have a huge job ahead of us. We must challenge the crime myths that are played out in the media every day. We must use the intellectual freedom we have won in the academy to oppose a policy of criminalizing poverty, and we must name the racism, and sexism, that informs current thinking about crime and victimization. We must document the economic consequences of the war on crime which will further bankrupt the US economy, already drained from the mindless spending on the cold war of previous decades. Finally, we must shamelessly seek fora to talk sense about crime–in our own communities as well as across the country.

As to how we should go about such work, I am reminded of one of my favorite Bertold Brecht quotes which ably captures the sort of work we should be doing. “One must have the courage to write the truth when the truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, and although it is everywhere concealed; the still to manipulate it as a weapon; the judgment to select in whose hands it will be effective, and the cunning to spread the truth among such persons.” Fortunately, this is not impossible. Many of the works cited in this article are, in fact, excellent models for the kind of criminology we must do.

The cost of silence in the face of evil is well documented in the pages of world history, so there really is no choice for people of conscience. Despite the odds that seem insurmountable, we should also be encouraged by current developments in nuclear policy which seemed, I’m sure, unimaginable to those few nuclear scientists who first met and began their work. One last quote, on precisely this point, from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world: indeed its the only thing that ever has.”



Barry, Kathleen. 1996. “Deconstructing Deconstructionism (or whatever happened to feminist studies).” In Radically Speaking; Feminism Reclaimed . Melbourne: Spinifex.

Bloom, Barbara, Meda Chesney-Lind, and Barbara Owen. 1994. Women in Prison in California: Hidden Victims of the War on Drugs. San Francisco: Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Davis, Christopher, Richard Estes, and Vincent Schiraldi. 1996, “Three Strikes”: The New Apartheid. San Francisco: Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Donziger, Steven (ed.) The Real War on Crime . New York: Harper Perennial.

Hagedorn, John. “Back in the Field Again: Gang Research in the Nineties.” In Huff, Ron (ed.). 1990. Gangs in America, Second Edition. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 240-259.

Mauer, Marc and Tracy Huling. 1995. Young Black Americans and the Criminal Justice System: Five Years Later. Washington, D.C.: The Sentencing Project.

Mauer, Marc. 1994. American’s Behind Bars: The International Use of Incarceration, 1992-1993. Washington, D.C.: The Sentencing Project (September).

Schiraldi, Vincent, Sue Kuyper, and Sharon Hewitt. 1996. Young African Americans and the Criminal Justice System in California: Five Years Later San Francisco: Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.


Doing Feminist Criminology

Doing Feminist Criminology

Meda Chesney-Lind

I can still vividly recall hearing a male researcher who, reporting on birth rates at a population meeting in Seattle, referred to his subjects using male pronouns throughout his presentation. Since his subjects were female (we are, after all, the only ones who can give birth), I was puzzled. As a graduate student attending my first national meeting and rather daunted by the setting, I waited until the break to ask him about his word choice. Without any embarrassment, he informed me that “I say he or him because to say she or her would trivialize my research.”

For many years criminology was not haunted by this problem. Unlike demography, it was seen as an incontrovertibly male, even “macho” field. Crime has, in fact sometimes been described as an ultimate form of masculinity. In Albert Cohen’s words, “the delinquent is a rogue male” whose behavior, no matter how much it is condemned on moral grounds, “has at least one virtue: It incontestably confirms, in the eyes of all concerned, his essential masculinity.”

The criminological fascination with male deviance and crime is not simply a reflection of the American crime problem. I suspect that it also is explained by Margaret Mead’s observation that whatever men do, even if it is dressing dolls for religious ceremonies, has higher status and is more highly rewarded than whatever women do. For this reason, fields focus on male activities and attributes wherever possible: Studying them confers higher status on the researcher. Hence, the academic rush to understand boys and men and the disinterest, until relatively recently, in all things female.

The question now is whether theories of delinquency and crime, which were admittedly developed to explain male behavior, can be used to understand female crime, delinquency, and victimization. My research experience convinces me that they cannot. About 25 years ago, when I was reading files compiled on youth who had been referred to Honolulu’s family court during the first half of this century, I ran across what I considered to be a bizarre pattern. Over half of the girls had been referred to court for “immorality,” and another one-third were charged with being “wayward.” In reading the files, I discovered that this meant that the young women were suspected of being sexually active. Evidence of this “exposure” was vigorously pursued in all casesÑand this was not subtle. Virtually all girls’ files contained gynecological examinations (sometimes there were stacks of these forms). Doctors, who understood the purpose of such examinations, would routinely note the condition of the hymen on the form: “Admits intercourse, hymen ruptured,” “Hymen ruptured,” and “No laceration,” as well as comments about whether the “laceration” looks new or old, were typical notations.

Later analysis of the data revealed the harsh sanctions imposed on those girls found guilty of these offenses. Thus, despite widespread repetitions about the chivalrous treatment of female offenders, I was finding in the then-skimpy literature on women’s crime that girls referred to court in Honolulu in the 1930s were twice as likely as boys to be detained. They spent, on the average, five times as long as males in detention facilities, and they were three times as likely to be sent to training schools. Later research would confirm that this pattern also was found in other parts of the country and that similar, though less extreme, bias against girls existed well into the 1960s.

Reflecting on this pattern recently, it occurred to me that girls were being treated in this fashion as the field of criminology was developing. So while criminologistsÑmostly maleÑwere paying a lot of attention to the male delinquent, large numbers of girls were being processed, punished, and incarcerated. Indeed, one of the classic excuses for neglecting female offendersÑtheir relatively small numbersÑdid not hold during these years. I found, for example, that girls made up half of those committed to Hawaii training schools well into the 1950s.

One reason for this neglect of girls may have been the inability of researchers to identify with their problems or situations. By contrast, I was not able to distance myself from their lives. At that time, the women’s movement was a major part of my life. For the first time, I was seeing the connections between my life and the lives of other women. I knew, first-hand, about physical examinations, and I knew that even under the best circumstances they were stressful. I imagined what it would have been like to be a 13- or 14-year-old arrested on my family’s orders, taken to a detention center, and forcibly examined by a doctor I didn’t know. Later, I also would read of legal cases where girls in other states were held in solitary confinement for refusing such examinations, and I would talk to women who had undergone this experience as girls. Their comments and experiences confirmed the degradation and personal horror of this experience.

I bring up this particular point simply to demonstrate that the administration of a medical examination, the larger meaning of that medical examination in the girl’s delinquent “career,” and the harsh response to the girl so identified had no place in the delinquency theories I had studied.

Certainly, one can patch together, as I did, notions of stigma, degradation rituals, and labeling, but the job was incomplete and the picture imperfect. I have come increasingly to the conclusion that my own research results, in conjunction with the work of other feminist researchers, argue for a feminist revision of delinquency, crime, and criminal victimizationÑa feminist criminology.

Though I see the need for this, I am keenly aware that professional rewards for such an undertaking may be slow in coming. The work I just described on female delinquency was completed for my master’s thesis. The sociology department where I did this research failed to perceive its import. In order to complete my work for the Ph.D., I was forced to abandon the topic of women and crime and venture into population researchÑthat’s how I got to Seattle to hear that even women’s ability to give birth can be obfuscated.

Despite the professional liabilities, I would argue that an overhaul of criminological theory is essential. The extensive focus on disadvantaged males in public settings has meant that girls’ victimization, the relationship between that experience and girls’ crime, and the relationship between girls’ problems and women’s crime have been systematically ignored. Feminist research has established that many young women who run away from home, for example, are running from sexual and physical abuse in those homes. These backgrounds often lead to a street life, also rigidly stratified by gender, that frequently pushes girls further into the criminal world and, for some, into adult crime.

Also missed has been the central role played by the juvenile justice system then and now in the criminalization of girls’ survival strategies. In a very direct way, the family court’s traditional insistence that girls “obey” their parents has forced young women, on the run from brutal or negligent families, into the lives of escaped convicts.

More recently, girls account for an increasing number of those arrested for delinquency, and they are being brought into the system for a wider variety of offenses (though they are still far more likely than boys to bring the trauma of abuse). Now, one in four of all juvenile arrests are arrests of a girl, and because we still have woefully few programs for girls, the nation’s detention centers are filling up with young women who do not belong there.

We need to re-think our responses to “delinquency” in ways that put the lives of girls at the center, rather than the periphery of delinquency prevention and intervention strategies. Gender matters, in short, in both the problems that bring girls into the juvenile justice system and in the ways in which the system should respond. So, finally, a plea, not more studies of “delinquency” that only include boys, and no more “girls watching boy’s play sports” approaches to youth programming.


Meda Chesney-Lind is professor of women’s studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Author of over Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice (with Randy Shelden), The Female Offender, and Female Gangs in America (with John Hagedorn), she was has been named a Fellow of the American Society in Criminology and she recently received the Bruce Smith Sr. Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Criminal Justice” by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.


Fear and Loathing in an Age of Show Business: Reflections on Televised Executions

Fear and Loathing in an Age of Show Business: Reflections on Televised Executions

Paul Leighton – Eastern Michigan University

Copyright 1999 Paul Leighton. Permission is freely given to distribute paper copies at or below cost. All other rights, including electronic, are reserved. Contact the author regarding all other uses at the Dept of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. Small portions of this paper appeared in “Televising Executions, Primetime ‘Live’?” that appeared in The Justice Professional v 12 #2 (1999).

“The more civilized we become, the more horrendous our entertainments” – Frex in Wicked (Maguire 1995:320)

The idea of televising executions seems like a bad joke – a satiric comment on media values, audience taste or the latest in tougher-than-thou political campaigning. Any media cynic can quickly apply the logic of television to the event and create instant dark humor about summer reruns and slow motion reverse angles. What’s an appropriate commercial to go with them, or is this event more like a World Wrestling Federation pay-per-view program?

Grim humor aside, there is good reason to start examining televised executions: they are more proximate than we might like to believe and human lives are at stake. Televised executions may not be inevitable, but their prohibition rests on dated case law. A suit from the press, or even an Internet entertainment group, may prevail in a court, especially with a maverick tough-on-crime judge. Strange bedfellows like victim rights and open government advocates could form a coalition to broadcast at least one execution or someone could take advantage of miniaturized surveillance equipment to capture a bootlegged movie.

Even if the possibility is more remote than I believe, the stakes are potentially quite high. Politicians suggest that televising executions would be an effective part of a tough on crime agenda that would increase deterrence and save lives. The possibility also exists that the broadcast could propagate a brutalization dynamic that precipitates copy cats or inspires others to depravity that befits the promise of being executed before a worldwide audience. Even though a televised execution would be the first in the United States, the potential effects (good and bad) are international since the broadcast would go out to the global village. Video capture to the internet would ensure the dissemination of this image even further and preserve it for countless others in the future. Also at issue is public opinion and how a televised execution would change support for capital punishment. Would the televised image contribute a ‘reality’ to the taking of a life so that it undermines some of symbolic support for the death penalty, or could it make people complacent with an administrative death that resembles a medical procedure? Can the United States maintain credibility when railing against human rights abuses after broadcasting to the world our use of a sanction that other industrialized democracies renounce?

This paper cannot hope to resolve many of the issues surrounding televised executions, nor does it intend to. The purpose is to incite discussion. My belief is that footage of an execution will more likely than not appear on television or the internet at some point in the not so distant future. If this event really holds the promise of saving lives, then we should enact laws to make a televised execution happen as part of our legislative program to build a better world. If the event is going to touch off further violence, then there needs to be a debate about how to weigh that against a possible First Amendment right to free press or a belief that open government ideals require just such questionable practices to be done before the public. If a televised execution is going to touch off further violence, I think we should try to figure out what kind and how to minimize the harm done the broadcast’s fallout. (The possibility of this state-sponsored ‘snuff film’ being seen by billions and having no effect is both too disturbing and remote to be considered further.)

The following sections present the differing claims, identifying empirical issues and presenting data where possible. Some history of public and private executions starts the paper, followed by an examination of the claims that a televised execution would help deter people from committing homicide and the counterclaim that it might brutalize people or somehow encourage further violence. The next section analyzes the potential effect of televised executions is on public opinion and support for the death penalty – would a televised lethal injection shock our allegedly evolving standards of decency? A final section further engages these issues by imagining the televised execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Pathways to Televised Executions

Historically, executions have been public events attended by tens of thousands of people who had such a good time that our one of the terms for celebration – gala – comes from the word gallows (Johnson 1998). States started to restrict access in the 1830s through ‘private execution’ statutes to reduce unsightly public spectacles and thus undermine growing sentiment to abolish the death penalty (Bessler 1993). Courts accepted paternalistic justifications about the detrimental effects on the public from witnessing executions. One court, in upholding a fine for publishing details of a hanging that took almost 15 minutes to complete, stated that the execution needed to be surrounded “with as much secrecy as possible, in order to avoid exciting an unwholesome effect on the public mind. For that reason it must take place before dawn, while the masses are at rest, and within an enclosure, so as to debar the morbidly curious” (quoted in Bessler 1993: 365). But even denied direct access to the execution, people in places like Mississippi until the 1940s gathered “late at night on the courthouse square with chairs, crackers and children, waiting for the current to be turned on and the street lights to dim” (in Oshinsky 1996: 207).

Now, executions are largely shrouded in secrecy, although they are increasing open to the victim’s family and appear with some frequency as the subject of fictional movies. Although media representatives are official witnesses to an execution, the state statutes or prison media policies prohibit cameras. This exclusion is claimed to violate the First Amendment, but the presence of newsprint and radio reporters suggests the issue is more one of equal protection based on ‘reporting tools’: if a print reporter with a notebook is allowed, then a policy prohibiting a broadcast journalist with a camera is discriminatory. This argument has been rejected in one of the few rulings to date specifically on the question of televised executions. In 1977, Garrett had wanted to televise Texas’ first execution since 1964, but the federal Court of Appeals stated that he was still free to make his report by other means, including “by simulation” (in Bessler 1993: 375, quoting Garrett v Estelle). This precedent is binding only in the Fifth Circuit and could easily be overruled by citing other cases in which courts have noted that transcripts of proceedings are no substitute for television coverage. Indeed, in the two decades since this decision, several channels of CSPAN coverage of Congress supplement the Congressional Record and Court-TV broadcasts judicial proceedings. Further, “with television stations in the United States already broadcasting assassinations and executions in other countries…it is ironic and contrary to the First Amendment principles that executions performed by our own government are deemed inappropriate for television audiences in the United States” (Bessler 1993: 403)

Claims that executions should be televised because of the First Amendment or principles of open government share a basis in the importance of an informed public to participate in democratic self-governance. They differ, however, in that one claims the right of television to show the execution; the other claims a right of the general public to view the workings of government and television is the medium through which the information is carried. Courts have stated that visual impressions add dimensions that print does not and that “the importance of conveying the fullest information possible increases as the importance of the particular news event or news setting increases” (in Bessler 1993: 402 n 273). Because the death penalty is the ultimate act of state power — whether it is the first in many years or one of several dozen a state will do this year – citizens should have the fullest information possible from a televised proceeding. Indeed, Bessler notes that Eighth Amendment jurisprudence requires the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment to be evaluated against the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” ( 1993: 423, quoting Trop v Dulles, 356 US 86 at 101, 1958). He argues that only with public executions can people have ‘full access’ to information regarding capital punishment, and only on this basis can a court divine whether the sanction violates contemporary standards of decency.

Arguments opposing public executions suggest that the spectacle will be harmful and that people can be informed about executions without a broadcast. Many concerns about the harmful nature of public executions are based on paternalistic distaste of crowd behavior in earlier times. The suggestion that ‘harm’ might befall an audience watching a lethal injection is difficult to support given what one media critic describes as “the tube’s day and night splatterings of brutality, grossness, commercialism, exploitation and inanity” (Goodman 1991:C18). The same could be said of the notion that an execution would be ‘shocking’ or ‘offensive’, but these concerns are much weaker and more problematic reasons for not televising executions. The lower court in Garrett noted: “If government officials can prevent the public from witnessing films of governmental proceedings solely because the government subjectively decides that it is not fit for public viewing, then news cameras might be barred from other public facilities where public officials are involved in illegal, immoral, or other improper activities that may be ‘offensive,’ ‘shocking,’ distasteful’ or otherwise disturbing to viewers of television news” (in Bessler 1993: 375)

The larger context to this discussion is the extent to which television is critical to being ‘informed’ in the sense important to a democratic country. Already, there exists what Johnson (1998) calls a ‘cottage industry’ of people viewing executions and writing about them. People can view simulated executions in many movies and television crime dramas. But the argument is that the visual depiction of an actual execution provides additional knowledge and that it is more likely to be seen than a newspaper or book. One media critic even asserts that “for most of the nation, all those beer-and-pretzel people, the picture is the thing and television is the source” (Goodman 1991:C18).

Debate about televising executions thus involves many more values than simple support or dissent about capital punishment. Combined with other arguments about the potential of broadcast executions to deter or abhor, people on different sides of the capital punishment debate can find themselves united on the issue of televising it. For example, in Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead man Walking, one of the condemned decided he would like his electrocution televised because it “would change some minds” when people to “see what they are really doing” (1993: 207). The father of one of his victims believes “what we should do is fry the bastards on prime-time” to “see if that doesn’t give second thoughts to anybody thinking of murder” (1993:235).

Their positions represent others who favor televising executions. For example, now-retired talk show host Phil Donahue expressed his desire to televise a 1994 execution on the assumption that the exposure would be a step towards repealing capital punishment (Goodman 1994: C15). Senator Mark Hatfield proposed public executions for federal death penalty cases because he believed people would turn against it once they saw into the execution chamber (Bessler 1993: 368 n 60). Other legislators, though, suggest televising executions as part of tough on crime public policy (Bowers and Pierce 1980:453; Gugliotta 1994:A13; Varne 1995:B3). More recently, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes suggested coverage of McVeigh’s execution for his part in the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people: “If it’s a public policy to take an individual’s life, why in the world shouldn’t the American public be allowed to see it?” The executive producer – who would later agree to air footage of Dr Jack Kevorkian assisting in a suicide – said it would happen “over my dead body…I don’t see any point except shocking people” (in Turner 1997: 83).

Many of the assumptions underlying the various positions are open to question and explored in subsequent sections, but one important conclusion is that people with opposing views on capital punishment could become strange bedfellows in the politics of televising an execution. They could even have drastically different reasons for supporting it, but still work together to support legislation, a litigation strategy, or a mission to capture an image and distribute it.

Scared Straight

Deterrence is the notion that the pain of punishment is justified because of the larger good it does by preventing other crimes and saving lives. It is premised on a rational choice model in which people weigh the pleasures or gains of a crime against the certainty, severity and swiftness of a possible punishment. Empirical studies have failed to find support for a deterrent effect from capital punishment, but the question here is how publicity affects deterrence. Importantly, though, few people revoke their support for the death penalty if asked to assume that it has no deterrent effect (Ellsworth and Gross 1994:27). Retribution thus drives support for the death penalty, so discussions about promoting public good and crime reduction may mask troublesome questions about our society’s blood lust, its voyeuristic interest in punishment and the specter of racism haunting retributive attitudes (Barkan and Cohn 1994; Cohn, Barkan and Halteman 1991; Ellsworth and Gross 1994:44).

Empirical evidence, derived from a variety of methods in several countries suggests that there is no greater deterrent effect from capital punishment than from imprisonment (Blumstein, Cohen and Nagin 1978; Bailey and Peterson 1994; Camus 1960:192; Kappler, Blumberg and Potter 1996:308-316). The few findings of a deterrent effect are not robust, but fragile artifacts of methodology, assumptions and data construction (Bowers and Pierce 1975, 1980; Kappler, Blumberg and Potter 1996:315; McGahey 1980). The argument about televising the death penalty, though, assumes that deterrence is low because executions occur in secret and capital punishment would deter if only more people knew of its use. Indeed, Camus suggested that if deterrence were a serious argument in favor of capital punishment, then people should be shown more photographs of it or the scaffold should be moved to the town square. “The entire population should be invited,” he said “and the ceremony should be put on television for those who couldn’t attend” (1960:181).

Camus’ sarcastic comment is argued in earnest because part of deterrence is related to communications theory. Punishment needs to be certain, swift and severe — and these attributes need to be made salient to a potential law breaker. Television is ideal to ‘get out the word’ because it is present in 98-99% of households — more than have indoor plumbing or refrigerators (Surette 1992:33). People watch frequently and for a long duration; they regard TV as the most credible ‘complete,’ ‘intelligent,’ and ‘unbiased’ source of news (Bailey 1990:628; see Postman 1985 for an eloquent dissent). However, anecdotal evidence from people with intense exposure to capital punishment does not suggest a deterrent effect. European pickpockets frequently plied their trade at the hanging of other pickpockets (Camus 1960:189); both inmates and law enforcement officers who have been around executions have gone on to commit capital murders (Espy 1980; Senate Judiciary Committee 1968). More controlled and systematic research on publicized executions and deterrence bears out the anecdotal findings. Bailey, for example, examines not just newspaper but also television coverage, and controls for whether the news included graphic details. The correlations for deterrence (and its opposite, brutalization) are not statistically significant — and they do not become significant in any model with lag effects ranging from 1 to 12 months (Bailey 1990).

One flaw in the deterrence argument is that people normally identify with those whom they admire or envy, and the condemned are “characteristically uneducated, impoverished misfits who have committed cruel or cowardly acts without provocation or remorse. They may have strangled small children, killed whole families, dismembered their victims, and the like” (Bowers and Pierce 1980:455). Indeed, the assumption that people may “contrast themselves with these wretches” (ibid) gains currency given the great popularity of police shows. Fox’s show COPS, for example, has many videos people rent and their Internet site ( sells a wide variety of merchandise with the COPS logo that people purchase to be identified with ‘the good guys’, not to be personally deterred from crime.

Another limitation on using publicity to increase deterrence is that the ‘rational choice’ model does not always apply to homicidal situations. Rationality can be short term rather than have a longer time horizon that includes punishments many years down the road after a capture and conviction that may seem unlikely. Decisions also involve irrational elements and situational seductions (Katz 1988, Barak 1998). People kill in the heat of passion; they get drunk and/or drugged up. They can also have brain damage, including from abuse as a child (Lewis 1986). Some people live in the midst of such violence that they — like those in a war zone — plan and think about their own funerals (Brown 1993:A1). Children who say, “if I grow up, Mr. Kemp, I want to be a bus driver” obviously experience other threats to their lives with such salience that they will not be deterred by state ordered execution, whether televised or not (Weisskopf 1996:A1; emphasis supplied). The argument about deterrence further assumes that execution footage would stand out in a medium where violence is more rampant than in the real world. The methods of execution, especially lethal injection, seem tame by comparison to thousands of other televised deaths played to viewers and gruesome mutilation many have performed in video games.

The United States has already experimented with a ‘scared straight’ program in the form of a television documentary based on the Juvenile Awareness Project created by the Lifers’ Group at Rahway Prison (New Jersey). The rap sessions were meant to explain the consequences of crime and “demonstrated the unpleasantness and brutality of prison life by verbal abuse and physical intimidation directed towards the juveniles” (Cavender 1981:433). This program that “scared the hell” out of juveniles received extensive favorable media coverage and widespread calls for replications of its design (ibid:437). One set of inmates replicating the scared straight program even wanted a drama coach for maximum effect (Cavender 1981:438 n 4). Serious evaluation of the program, however, found no deterrent effect from the harassment and threats of violence that included rape. Some research indicated participants did slightly worse in terms of frequency and severity of subsequent offenses than a control group (ibid:434-5).

A replication involving broadcasting an execution raises serious issues about deterrence and the media. At what point does ‘communicating the consequences’ for a crime become an exercise in terrorizing people into submission? What are the ethical issues involved for the media in dramatizing an execution for heightened deterrence and/or ratings? Should the media – the National Entertainment State in the form of a ‘user-friendly’ Big Brother 1 (in Barak 1998:270-71) – help propagate terror to keep the rabble citizens submissive within a social order heavily marked by racial and class inequality?

Backfire Effects & Brutalization

If more publicity creates greater deterrence, then logic would suggest maximum effect from grisly executions that are frequently replayed. The rather obvious flaw is that at some point people may well become desensitized to violence or even brutalized, so a televised execution may result in increased homicides. Although most research finds neither a deterrent or brutalization effect following executions, more research indicates an increase in homicides. The question, as with deterrence, is what potential publicity has to magnify the effect. Brutalization research has not specified a single dynamic at work to explain why there are greater numbers of homicides following an execution. This section explores several possible paths, such as murder-suicide, copycat, imitation and celebrity criminals through which a deterrent effect could undermined or negated.

One of the strongest brutalization findings is from research by Bowers and Pierce, who conclude an overall brutalization effect for non-televised executions to be “two homicides one month later and one homicide two months later,” which they believe to be a minimal estimate (1980:481). Their analysis applied only to New York State, yet publicity about executions may carry a brutalization effect beyond its geographical boundaries and the limits of two months. Televising executions would certainly have this effect by making the image available across the nation – perhaps the world — and for redisplay at unlimited frequency for the indefinite future. The authors suggest the results of their study are “ominous”, and the “cost in innocent lives would be outstanding” if death rows were emptied through execution (1980:483). Even those who do not give full credence to these findings may wish to pause to do further research before televising executions and a brutalization effect for publicized executions seems at least likely enough that media wishing to televise the spectacle have some moral duty to ensure that their actions – however well meaning and within First Amendment rights – will not result in increased slaughter.

While deterrence rests on the notion that executions convey a message ‘crime doesn’t pay,’ it may also tell the audience that “a man’s life ceases to be sacred when it is thought useful to kill him” (quoted in Camus 1960:229). Executions can strengthen social solidarity by “drawing people together in a common posture of anger and indignation” (in Reiman 1998:40). A person who identifies with the state may then associate “the person who has wronged him with the victim of an execution” and see “that death is what his despised offender deserves” (Bowers and Pierce 1980:456). The issue is not simply about devaluing life, but about modeling and imitation, which are most likely when the violence is “presented as (1) rewarded, (2) exciting, (3) real, and (4) justified; when the perpetrator of violence is (5) not criticized for his behavior and is presented as (6) intending to injure his victim” (Phillips 1983: 561). Indeed, Phillips’ work on boxing – another example of acceptable and rewarded violence – is especially disconcerting in finding a greater increase in homicides following a heavily publicized boxing prizefight than a less publicized one, and finding that homicide victims bear at least some resemblance to the loser of the prizefight (Phillips 1983). This research certainly adds another strong reason for caution in approaching a televised execution.

Another chilling possibility is that publicity about an offenders misdeeds that accompanies a televised execution could unleash great harm to family and associates of the condemned – people who have neither done harm nor share guilt. Although the issue is not frequently discussed, hostility targeted at the condemned spills over onto others who act as a proxy for rage that may continue even after the murderer has been executed. Mikal Gilmore writes about the aftermath of his bother Gary’s execution in Utah – the first in the nation after the Supreme Court lifted the death penalty moratorium in 1976:

“I took comment after comment from people who betrayed their own intelligence and grace with the remarks and jokes they made, and each time, something inside me flinched. I felt that nobody would ever forget or forgive me for being the dead fucking killer’s brother. I learned a bit of what it is like to live on in the aftermath of punishment: as a living relative, you have to take on some of the burden and legacy of the punishment. People can no longer insult or hurt Gary Gilmore, but because you are his brother – even if you’re not much like him – they can aim at you” (1994: 357-8).

Mikal notes he received letters from people who told him he had no right to hold a job with Rolling Stone where he had the attention of young people; others wrote that he should be shot alongside his brother (1994: 356). Hours after the bar closed, people would pull up outside of the trailer where Gary’s mom lived: “she would hear voices, whispers, laughs, profanities, threats. Some people would yell horrible things, some people threw bottles or cans at the trailer” (1994: 359).

Sister Helen Prejean notes that her mother “gets angry phone calls about her daughter’s ‘misplaced kindness'” in being spiritual advisor to condemned men (1993: 68). The mother of one condemned man found a dismembered cat on her front porch one morning (1993: 107) and one of the attorneys had garbage dumped all over his yard (1993: 161). The examples make clear that misplaced public retaliation already occurs. Televising an execution has serious potential to expand such behavior by widely publicizing the offender’s misdeeds.

Further, backfire effects can happen when people who identify with the condemned see him as a hero. Indeed, Kooistra’s fascinating work Criminals as Heroes notes that hero status occurs when an audience finds “some symbolic meaning in his criminality” (1989:152), which is most likely under structural conditions that include widespread portions of the public feeling “‘outside the law’ because the law is no longer seen as an instrument of justice but as a tool of oppression wielded by favored interests” (1989:11). At such times, or among groups with this perception, there is a ‘market’ for symbolic representations of justice and “a steady need for the production of celebrities” (Kooistra 1989:162; Barak 1998: Chapter 11). These dynamics suggest that the execution of an African American activist like Mumia Abu-Jamal (1995) could elevate his status among some to a martyr and hero, thus precipitating racial strife reminiscent of what followed the verdict in the Rodney King beating case.

Another mechanism through which televised executions could contribute to violence is through a ‘murder/suicide’ phenomenon. This clinically recognized syndrome applies to killers who figure “the State will execute him and thereby accomplish what he himself cannot bring about by his own hand” (Strafer 1983:863 n 12). In this sense the death penalty “breeds murder” and becomes “a promise, a contract, a covenant between society and certain (by no means rare) warped mentalities who are moved to kill as part of a self-destructive urge” (in Strafer 1983:864 n 13; Bowers and Pierce 1980:458; Parker 1989a). For example, Ted Bundy went to Florida and Gary Gilmore went to Utah; they intentionally chose states that had capital punishment. Jeffrey Dahmer told the judge at his 1992 sentencing, “I wanted death for myself” (quoted in Barak 1998). This dynamic may not have much of an effect at present because of capital punishment’s infrequent and freakish application, but a televised execution would advertise this contract broadly and potentially stimulate the more self-destructive amongst us (Farberow 1980).

Indeed, Sellers suggests that power and attention contribute to capital murder where the murderer’s sense of wrong doing can find assuagement only at the hands of someone greater than himself. His private despair and desirable suicide turn a mean face upon him, he wishes to resolve his puniness and make of his death something grand; all his life’s prospects have drained into the ignoble, and nothing less than mass hatred and execution can vindicate his will (1990:36).

Research on serial killers seems to confirm this dynamic, including his observation that “society gave Ted [Bundy] what he so eagerly sought throughout his life: infamy, notoriety, and the attention of millions of people” (Hickey 1997:162). Bundy, “like some other serial killers” found his fortune in “recognition and celebrity status” (ibid); he was “reveling in the notoriety”, suggests Hickey (1997:164).

Serial killers are in some ways an extreme example, but the potential infamy and attention from a televised execution may have an impact on those whose violence comes out of a sense of powerlessness and need for attention. For severely neglected people, negative attention in the form of mass hatred is better than continued neglect. If part of the ‘contract’ is not just a desired death but nationwide media exposure, might there not be people motivated to kill by the promise of publicity — people who resolve their puniness not just by 15 minutes of fame but a television spectacle that includes the promise of made for TV movies? Might a televised death penalty move people to commit murders so they can be annihilated in the glare of the media lights?3

Seltzer asks many intriguing questions about “death as theater for the living” (Seltzer 1998:22) and argues that the U.S. already has a ‘pathological public sphere’ characterized by a ‘wound culture’: “The public fascination with torn and open bodies and torn and opened persons, a collective gathering around shock, trauma, and the wound” (ibid:2). Such a culture is a breeding ground, he argues, for serial killers like Dennis Nilsen, who dismembered bodies while listening to Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Nilsen described “his final public service as a mass spectacle of pathology and abjection. He was a black hole of violation and pollution about which the contemporary national body gathers, spectates, and discharges itself: in his words, he was ‘a national receptacle into which all the nation will urinate'” (1998: 19). The question, then, is whether televised executions would create more characters like Nilsen. Does the U.S. wants to use television to indulge him – and ourselves – in gathering, spectating, and discharging while under surveillance by the global village?

Television and the ‘evolving standard of decency’

Another possibility is that televising executions will create an unsettling spectacle and adding fuel to the abolitionist movement. In this view, executions are akin to making sausage and law – because being a spectator makes it less palatable. As Johnson (1998) notes, executions are not the hallmarks of civilization so exposure has the potential to increase awareness of capital punishment’s status as a regrettable lapse of civility. Publicity could fuel the abolitionist movement by increasing the salience of premeditated murder being done in our name, especially when the condemned is young, severely mentally retarded or female. If the reality of death in our name is not enough, then perhaps the actual methods when shown on television will be seen as inconsistent with our self-image as a civilized nation and world leader of human rights. A further possibility is that as people become more informed about capital punishment, they support it less.

In the scope of history, current executions are very secret events and the act of hiding executions ‘suppresses the horror’, which Camus said needs to be undone by showing — perhaps forcing — people to look at the executioner’s hands each time. This principle is extended to all those who have responsibility for bringing the executioner into being (1960:187; see also Prejean 1993: 197), and death penalty opponents have used this logic to suggest that judges and juries be required to witness any executions they impose as sentence (Hentoff 1995:A19). Support for the death penalty drops if people are required to be an ‘active participant’ such as juror or executioner (Howells et al 1995:413; Zakhari and Ransom 1999), so the increased awareness of executions could especially undermine support with people who want to “preserve the symbolism of capital punishment without having to witness a bloodbath” (Costanzo and White 1994:7). Publicity “simply makes the reality inescapable, and our role undeniable. If we want it, we should be able to look at it. If we can’t bear to look at it, maybe it’s time to rethink our desires” (in Howells et al 1995:414). Goodman, though, notes that people may have a difficult time with consistency in determining which atrocities to televise in the name of democracy (1991:c18) – an issue he raises with respect to the Gulf war but which is more problematic when applied to abortion.

This argument about television highlighting the reality of the death penalty is independent of the actual method used for the execution. The method is important, but executions are ultimately ugly because people representing the state gang up for the premeditated killing of a helpless person (Amnesty International 1989; Prejean 1993: 216). Those who participate in the process display discomfort and at times acute stress in spite of their efforts to see it as ‘just doing their job’ and trying to do it professionally (Johnson 1998; Prejean 1993). Although their feelings might not come across in a televised execution, people watching have to confront the reason for their distress — a cold-blooded killing.

Further, the methods used for execution may create revulsion, and although lethal injection is tame, television would also expose mistakes or irregularities that might offend the audience’s sense of justice. When Camus suggested that “the man who enjoys his coffee while reading that justice has been done would spit it out at the least detail” [1960:187; also quoted in Glass v Louisiana 471 US 1080, 1086 (1985)], he meant the guillotine in France. Since the 1960s, our methods of execution have involved less frequent dismemberment. Execution mostly involves a pinprick (preceded by an alcohol swab to prevent infection) rather than ‘the sound of a head falling’, although crude depictions of violated bodies have increasingly become part of our public entertainment on television and computer games advertised as “decapitating, spine-crushing fun!” (Interaction Magazine, Holiday 1996, p 46; see generally Bok 1998). The television program The Day After did have a modest impact on social consciousness about the effects of nuclear holocaust, but reactions included at least one person disappointed that “there weren’t a lot of people with their faces melting away” (in Oskamp 1989: 296). Electrocutions would be more intense, but there are few outward signs of pain more extreme than the “gasp or yawn” exhibited by the condemned in a lethal injection (Prejean 1993: 217). Indeed, electrocutions and lethal injections appear to be less painful than they are, which might produce complacency with contemporary methods (Johnson 1998:Chapter 2; Glass v Louisiana 471 US 1080;Trombley 1992).

Complacency can also be generated because the effect of decades on death row is difficult to capture on television, yet it is a crucial part of the pain experienced because of the sanction. Indeed, the stress of this time period is the reason the European Court of Human Rights refused to extradite a person to the U.S. for execution on the ground it was ‘inhuman and degrading punishment’ and violated article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (in Johnson1998:222; Grant 1998: 25).

Research that involves showing depictions of executions is inconclusive. Howells et al (1995) showed subjects seven minutes of footage from the commercial videotape Faces of Death that depicts execution by gas chamber and by electrocution. Twice as many people became less supportive of capital punishment than more supportive (57% and 27%), though the authors note that the condemned were nameless and anonymous people. A televised execution could acquaint viewers with the details of the crime and/or the human qualities of the defendant, and this context may contribute heavily to the net effect. The execution will always be more subdued than the crimes it is punishing, which could diffuse potential abolitionist sentiments. Further, a televised reenactment of the crime is likely to undermine both the potential deterrent or abhorrent effects because there is less reaction to real violence when it follows the viewing of fictional aggression (Howells et al 1995:423).

Abolitionist sentiment may get a boost from mistakes or flaws in the execution process that offend public sensibilities and generate ‘suddenly realized grievances’ (Haines 1992). Modern execution protocols are heavily bureaucratic affairs designed to drain much of the emotion out of the event; they create a certain etiquette of dying that ensures cooperation from the condemned and helps the execution team “face the morning of each new execution day” (in Haines 1992: 126; Johnson 1998). Ruptures in the execution routine that make the procedure more difficult and traumatic both for the participants and spectators include ones: (1) that are technically botched, (2) where condemned do not play the expected calm and noncombative role, (3) where solemnity of the death chamber compromised, and (4) involving irregularities in conviction that come to light (Haines 1992; Weyrich 1990). Haines does note that flaws, especially if only sporadic, may be interpreted as a need for technological improvement or as part of what a subhuman offender ‘had coming’ (1992:127).

Abhorrence also may be generated by spectators’ glee or exuberance at another’s death. For example, the last public execution was in 1936, when the hanging of a nineteen year old black youth named Rainey Bethea attracted an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people. Espy notes the disorderliness of the crowd (and general scathing manner of the press) was one of the reasons for halting public hangings for rape (1980:540). More recent executions have attracted people to the prison gates, where they register sometimes intense support for the sanction, but the involvement of television adds to the possibilities for generating indignities both through its own sensationalism and by allowing new forms of collective celebration. Local football-style tailgate parties could become ‘happy hour’ events at bars with large screen televisions.

Television also shows our use of capital punishment to all of our neighbors in the global village, where the trend has been to renounce use of the death penalty even in cases of mass murder like genocide. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed the view that “the death penalty has no legitimate place in the penal system of modern civilized societies…it application may well be compared with torture” (in Grant 1998:20). Grant exposes the problem in her aptly titled article “A Dialogue of the Deaf?” (1998): the United States already demands exceptions to various international human rights convention to be able to continue not just the death penalty, but also executions of juveniles and the mentally retarded – even as it demands other countries make drastic changes in their legal systems. The claim the U.S. has to leadership in the area of human rights is potentially in jeopardy here as is our dedication to the basic concept of human rights: “The point of human rights language is that it maintains there are no culturally appropriate excuses for cruelty, inhuman and degrading punishment…The political culture of Texas is no less exempt from human rights scrutiny than that of Tehran or Baghdad” (in Grant 1998: 29; see also Prejean 1993: 197).4

Lastly, attitudes may change from exposure to information about the death penalty from commentary and discussions that surround the actual broadcast, but little evidence exists to support the notion that exposure to information has a significant impact on people’s attitudes (Bohm et al 1993). Social scientists have examined what has become known as the Marshall hypothesis, so named after a remark by that Justice in Gregg v Georgia suggesting that the “opinion of an informed citizenry” would oppose the death penalty (in Haney and Logan 1994:81; Bohm et al 1991).

Justice Marshall had in mind certain facts about the arbitrary and unjust administration of the death penalty (Fitzpatric 1995: 1072), though researchers use many methods to measure ‘informed opinion’. Ellsworth and Gross, however, indicate that results are fairly robust: “most people care a great deal about the death penalty but know little about it, and have no particular desire to know” (1994:40). In fact, “a large proportion of the American public already believes the death penalty is unfair, but supports it nonetheless” (ibid, 36). Information is not important because attitudes are “fundamentally noninstrumental symbolic attitudes, based on emotions and ideological self-image” (ibid, 31), including our basic political and social attitudes regarding liberalism, authoritarianism” (Howells et al 1995:413). When exposed to an environment rich in conflicting information – such as what would characterize a televised execution – people assimilate the “evidence that favored the position they already held, and rejected the contrary evidence” (Ellsworth and Gross 1994:34).

Also, television is a commercial enterprise that makes a profit through the audience size. Television is “an institution that exists primarily to translate the phenomenon of simultaneous mass viewing into a commodity that can be sold to advertisers” (in Cummings 1992), so televised executions would be driven by concerns about marketable images and audience share. At a time when 80% of the population supports the death penalty, no network would create a program that would possibly alienate such a substantial segment of its viewers and would be likely to be give viewers what they want – or what the television executives think people want.

McVeigh: Television and Terrorism

Previous sections of this paper have drawn on empirical studies where possible to illustrate the numerous possible outcomes of televising an execution. This section, while remaining necessarily speculative, attempts to further illustrate and engage these issues through a case study: the broadcast execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh committed one of he most flagrant instances of mass murder when he placed a truck bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building and blew the front off it in an explosion that killed 186 and wounded almost 800 others (Hamm 1997). Although many Americans assumed that the terrorist was Middle Eastern or at least foreign, the later discovery that the perpetrator was white and Midwestern did not change the assessment that the explosion was an act of terrorism felt throughout the country.

Feelings ran so deep in Oklahoma City that the judge moved the trial to Denver, where the jury pool would be less prejudiced. Those who suffered substantial loss because of the blast could watch a closed circuit broadcast of the proceedings in an auditorium back in Oklahoma City. A jury first found McVeigh guilty, then sentenced him to death. Public opinion supported the result and people tended to feel that if the US is going to have a death penalty, then McVeigh is just the type of criminal who should be executed. If we are not going to execute someone responsible for a body count that numbers in the hundreds, then who really does deserve capital punishment?

If McVeigh’s death sentence stands up on appeal and there is a date set for his execution, all those who watched the trial on the closed circuit television would have a strong argument that they should also be able to witness the execution through the same means. Former Chief Justice Burger outlines the logic, which blends a victim’s rights perspective with open government arguments:

Civilized societies withdraw both from the victim and the vigilante the enforcement of criminal laws, but they cannot erase from people’s consciousness the fundamental, natural yearning to see justice done – or even for retribution. The crucial prophylactic aspects of the administration of justice cannot function in the dark; no community catharsis can occur if justice is ‘done in a corner [or] in any covert manner’ (in Bessler 1993:431)

If it is true that this act of terrorism harmed the entire nation, then everyone should have the opportunity for catharsis by watching the final step in the administration of justice – McVeigh’s execution. Indeed, President Clinton indicated that the immediate casualties were not the only victims because, “this was an attack on the United States, our way of life and everything we believe in” (in Hamm 1997: 71).

The victim’s rights argument, either with respect to McVeigh or in other cases, is problematic to the extent that it is built on the assumption that watching the execution will help put closure on the event and promote healing. ‘Therapeutic vengeance’ seems better as an idea than in reality because people focus on their hatred of the killer rather than moving through the grieving process. Indeed, one grief counselor indicated that watching the execution did not fill a void: “Not too many people will honestly [say] publicly that it didn’t do much, though, because they’ve spent most of their lives trying to get someone to the death chamber” (in Brownlee, McGraw and Vest 1997: 28; see also Minow 1998). Sister Helen Prejean likewise describes the reaction of a father who watched the execution of his daughter’s killer as being like “a very thirsty man who had just had a long drink of salt water” (1995).

Before being sentenced to death, McVeigh uttered only four sentences, the key part of which was a sentence penned by former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis: “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example” (in Thomas 1997: A14, quoting Olmstead v US 277 US 438, 1928). The cryptic remark seems to be a reference to actions of the government in Waco that ended in the deaths of innocent civilians at the Branch Davidian compound – an event occurring exactly two years before the Oklahoma City bombing. Indeed, Justice Brandeis, in dissenting from an opinion permitting a government wiretap wrote about the importance of the “indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty and private property” (277 U.S. at 475) and penned his classic phrase about how the Bill of Rights conferred “the right to be let alone” (277 U.S. at 478).

In this context, the government laying siege to the compound and burning it to the ground not only violated cherished personal rights but also served as an example for McVeigh’s action that leveled the Murrah federal building. The comment, however, also serves to provoke thought about the lessons that are taught through execution. For example, is it a lesson about deterrence and how McVeigh’s violence is intolerable in a civilized society? Or is it a lesson about brutalization and how violence is an acceptable response to violence, so that McVeigh’s execution would invite further violence? Would televising McVeigh’s execution help in the task outlined by a speaker at one of the services in Oklahoma City when he asked, “How do we turn an act of insanity into a gracious act for humanity” (in Hamm 1997: 233).

Broadcasting the execution helps to “correct the wrongdoer’s false message that the victim was less worthy or valuable than the wrongdoer” and “reasserts the truth of the victim’s value by inflicting a publicly visible defeat on the wrongdoer” (Minow 1998: 12). The bombing already had the effect of rallying people around conventional values. People who had emphatically denounced government as corrupt found they had more in common with those they were debating about government reform than anti-government ‘patriots’ like McVeigh. Even many militias that were fearful of government tyranny ended up disbanding or moderating their militant rhetoric. McVeigh’s televised execution thus holds the potential to create further social solidarity and the widespread support for his execution means it would fulfill Camus’ dictum that “one must kill publicly or confess that one does not feel authorized to kill” (1960:187). International reaction, however is still a question, especially because countries are increasingly renouncing capital punishment for mass violence including genocide (Grant 1998). Indeed, how would other countries respond to criticism by the U.S. that they were not treating political prisoners with appropriate respect for their human rights?

In spite of potential for strengthening the collective conscience against violence, McVeigh’s broadcast execution has serious potential for backlash by those on the survivalist right who see McVeigh as embodying Jefferson’s quote about how the tree of liberty must be renewed by the blood of patriots. They fulfill the conditions identified by Kooistra for heroic criminals because they see symbolic meaning in McVeigh’s actions against the government and the tyranny they see in it. These self-proclaimed patriots see themselves as outside the law, which they see as a tool wielded by people so corrupt as to have lost any claim to legitimate power. McVeigh would be the latest and perhaps greatest hero among many who have died for the cause or become a ‘prisoner of war’ (see Hamm 1998; Dyer 1997; Stern 1996; Ridgeway 1995).

The remarks of Justice Brandeis that precede the ones McVeigh quoted at his sentencing are potentially disturbing in this respect. Justice Brandeis wrote that “crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites everyman to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy” (277 US at 485). He stated quite strongly that if in the administration of criminal law the end is held to justify the means or that the government may commit crimes “would bring terrible retribution” (ibid). For many in the survivalist right, the government does not have the moral authority to rule, so McVeigh’s death sentence is invalid and can be seen as a state crime. In this context, McVeigh’s words about his execution are a warning and a call to arms. Televising his execution furnishes an image of the event that will be a symbol of injustice to some and an incitement to “terrible retribution”. Replays of the execution could easily fan the flames of rage and continue a cycle of violence that started with government wrongdoing in Waco, which was countered by McVeigh’s bombing, which is responded to with his execution – which will invite what forms of government contempt, anarchy and retribution?


The origins of this paper lie in a time when I was doing work for Robert Johnson on the first edition of Deathwork and happened across Postman’s provocative Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show Business (1985). Although my more serious research on this issue did not start until later, I had many discussions about televising executions. A surprising number of people thought it was a good idea and articulated a single reason – abhorrence or deterrence – that aligned with their stance on the death penalty. Few people considered other possible effects or that there might be multiple effects. In short, I was bothered by the casualness with which people seemed to advocate televised executions and my hope in writing this article is to expose the complexity of the issue. Indeed, most people who have not studied the death penalty are not aware of brutalization dynamics, but the very real possibility that a televised execution would precipitate further violence means society should take the issue seriously. Further research should be done to inform public policy, especially to the extent that lives are at stake.

Further, in making sense of the issue, more explicit attention needs to be paid to what it means to be a civilized society and how that relates to what Seltzer calls ‘death as theater for the living’ (1998:22).5 I am reminded of a story about a sailor who is shipwrecked alone on an uncharted island. His apprehension about the inhabitants, though, is relieved when he sees a gallows: “At last, I’ve reached civilization!” (Johnson 1996, 1998). The story highlights that only people who were well settled would build an apparatus for punishment, but the assumption of ‘civilization’ is simultaneously undermined by the suggestion of deliberate and ceremonious cruelty. Does this theater of punishment attract large numbers of ‘civilized’ people, and how do they react to the spectacle of suffering?

The story can be updated because televising executions requires sophisticated technology that suggests an advanced society, but the content of the broadcast serves to question how civilized the society is. One can imagine, for example, the sailor at the dawn of the new millennium returning from a tour of duty dictated by a temporary employment agency and checking on e-mail from friends washed up on other corners of the globe. S/He navigates the Internet to check out the latest promotional spin-offs from the COPS television show, then follows a link to information about an imminent execution. After reading a description of the crime and some statements from the victim’s family, the cybernaut clicks on a button that turns the computer screen into a high definition television set and programs the VCR to record the event. The monitor tunes in to the Criminal Justice Network (channel 237), and s/he sits back to watch the televised execution.

Earlier practices included quartering the body and sending hunks to places where the condemned had committed crimes, or alternatively hanging the body in chains “there to remain so long as one piece might stick to another” to serve as testament and deterrent (in Hartshorne 1893:15). The current idea is to capture the image of the execution and broadcast the virtual body far and wide, to exist in perpetuity. Previous practices of publicly dissecting the body in an anatomy hall (Richardson 1987) are replaced by deconstructing the spectacle in discussions over lattes or in Internet chat groups (

‘Ah, civilization!’?

And what would the postmodern spectator think if the condemned’s final words to the executioner were, “Hey, man, you shouldn’t be killing people for no four hundred dollars” (in Prejean 1993: 182).


1 McKenna discusses ‘electronic drugs’ in a chapter entitled ‘Heroin, Cocaine and Television’ (1992). He argues it is a high-technology drug that creates an “alternative reality by acting directly on the user’s sensorium, without chemicals being introduced into the nervous system” (1992:218). He continues: “No epidemic or addictive craze or religious hysteria has ever moved faster or made as many converts in so short a time… no drug in history has so quickly or completely isolated the entire culture of its users from contact with reality. And no drug in history has so completely succeeded in remaking in its own image the values of the culture that it has infected. Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence” (ibid:218-220).

2 The execution of serial killer Ted Bundy, for example, attracted many people with T-shirts reading ‘The Bundy BBQ’, ‘Toast Ted’, and ‘Burn Bundy Burn’; one person passed out electric chair lapel pins while another held a sign saying “Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue. Good Morning, Ted. We’re Going to Kill You’; and state officials approved a vanity license plate reading ‘FRY TED’ (Parker 1989a; 1989b). Perhaps Bundy and others are like the protagonist in Camus’ novel The Stranger: “For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they greet me with howls of execration” (in Montague and Matson 1983:36).

3 Similarly, a televised execution may encourage self-destructive behavior and the abandonment of legitimate appeals by the condemned who already see death as an escape from the bleak conditions on death row (Johnson 1998; Strafer 1983).

4 I already received a cartoon of Secretary of State Albright in China being introduced: “The emissary from the country with the world’s largest prison population wishes to criticize our justice system, sir.” (Signe Wilkinson/ Philadelphia Daily News). But then the world has already heard an Alabama Department of Corrections official say of the state’s chain gang that “[i]t became real humane on my part to put these inmates out there in leg irons because they have virtually no chance of escaping. Therefore, they’re not going to get shot… It’s not that I’m a softie. It’s expensive” (in Gorman 1997: 455). More on the international view of US and capital punishment can be found in the United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions (

5 Certainly violence, suffering and death are subjects that historically capture our attention, so some of this inquiry needs to focus on television as a medium for mass communication. In his brilliant work, Postman argues that entertainment is the super-ideology of television (1985). Not all programming will be entertaining, but what television does best is show dramatic pictures – such as sex and/or violence – that are visually stimulating to keep the viewer tuned in for the commercial. Television is not completely bereft of information; Postman suggests, however, that the ever-changing, almost hyper-active pace of images creates decontextualized and fragmented information. It is like a game of peek-a-boo with subjects appearing then vanishing, and its foundation in show business means that good television seeks “applause, not reflection” (Postman 1985: 77, 91). Television amuses but cannot challenge the viewer the way a book can challenge a reader who makes a commitment to sit down by herself in a state of intellectual readiness to “be confronted by the cold abstractions of printed sentences” (ibid, 50). Less charitably, Charren and Sandler (1983:38) state: “What speaks in the great tragedies speaks through the word, speaks to the imagination, speaks for the understanding of human life – its misery – its wonder. But in television, the word is void and the violence is there as violence – like raw sewage in a river.”


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On Arrigo – Listserv Discussion

On Arrigo – Listserv Discussion

The following comments were offered on the crit-L listserv in response to Bruce Arrigo’s “Call to Action.”

From: on behalf of Marty Schwartz []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 1:39 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: On Arrigo

I have been asked to go more public with a version of comments I have previously made privately. Here are some.


1. One can take a rather broad perspective on this problem. This is not a criminology problem, but one that affects sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history, etc. One exception is English literature, which has had a slightly different history with postmodernism. One of the reasons for this is that academics from Duke, NYU, Berkeley, Chicago, etc. were doing the publishing. Like it or not, that will color the decision of many editors.

2. Although Bruce is clear, others have not been as clear in dealing with JQ. Be careful, this is the best journal so far in crim to publish critical works. I have an obvious vested interest in saying this, having served as deputy editor to Victor Kappeler, but the point remains that under both Edna Erez and Victor feminist works were being published, and Victor published postmodern work.

3. One of the harder things to do is to differentiate between excellent pieces that don’t get published, and crap that doesn’t get published. Bruce and Dragan are well aware of this, having been editors of journals that had a lot of lefty crap submitted. I believe that Dragan once told me that he was rejecting 75% of submissions to Humanity & Society, which means a lot of lefty stuff was being rejected. But it wasn’t because it was too far to the left.

One problem is that we are dealing here with journals with acceptance rates along the lines of 8%. Under ANY circumstances getting accepted will be difficult. There doesn’t have to be an all out conspiracy against non-empirical work to get rejected, but just a slight prejudice. If you consistently rate in the top 15% of submissions, but not in the top 8%, you will get rejected. Top journals get 200 to 300 submissions a year. Regional sociology journals can get 125 a year. It is very important to differentiate between articles that are rejected because they aren’t good enough, from articles rejected because they don’t fit pre-conceived molds.

Dragan, Bruce and Stuart between them have more articles and books than the entire faculty of several medium sized colleges. So, it is obvious that they can get things published. Why can’t they publish in the most prestigious journals?

4. I am intrigued by Bruce’s suggestion that we do an empirical study and determine rates of publishing critical articles. One problem, of course, is to determine the rates of submission of critical articles.

More important, though, is to fight through the tough questions. What IS critical criminology? The journal Criminology, for example, published as a lead article a piece by Jody Miller, who I consider the best junior feminist criminologist in the U.S. Does that count? Do the publications of Elliot Currie as a left realist count? How do we decide who is and is not a critical criminologist. Then you get people like me — not everything I have ever done in my life should be counted as critical.

There are ways to deal with this in standard sociological research methodology. Have more than one “coder,” check to see the level at which they agree with each other on the coding, etc. Still, all you can come up with is the percentage of all articles published that could be considered critical. No doubt the editors would just claim that they get few submissions, or that the submissions are not good enough. How can we respond to this?

Well, that is enough bandwidth for me. See you all in Toronto. If you say hello to me you are chairing a division committee. If you pick up a round of drinks, you don’t have to.



From: on behalf of Steve Russell []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 8:57 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Abstract for Critical Criminology’s Disconent

Since this is the critcrim list, may I speak heresy?

The rise of the electronic data base as a research tool has changed the shape of the playing field. It now matters more what the title of your article is than where it is published in terms of influencing other researchers, which of course is why we publish.

Let me talk about law, which I know best, but there are similar stories in the social sciences and, probably, natural sciences.

It used to be that how many people would read your article was determined by the circulation of the law review where it published. Here in my home state, the biggie was Texas Law Review, and the second highest circulation would probably be Harvard Law Review even though last time I looked Harvard was not in Texas. The other law reviews in Texas had high circulation spots defined by location of alums, but their support was library subscriptions and law school subsidies.

Now, meatspace subscription numbers are pretty irrelevant. They have gone down for all journals.

One researches a topic on Lexis or Westlaw or the Index to Legal Periodicals on line. If a title is snappy enough, the researcher will open your document. If your writing is compelling, the researcher will read your document, perhaps cite you, and you have just become part of the national policy conversation through an article published in the Podunk City College Journal of Antique Streetcar Law.

One case in point among many. In 1992, I published a (very postmodern) article about family violence (as a vehicle for discussing legal rhetoric) in South Texas Law Review, which I later learned had the lowest circulation among the law reviews in Texas (no longer true).

Within a month, I had a call from a publisher in New York who wanted to pay me for a reprint (I let him) and the article continues to be cited in the legal literature almost ten years later, most recently in an appellate opinion this year.

When people get their scholarly input from electronic data bases, it is the same number of key strokes to access one journal as another. What motivates those key strokes is sometimes author, sometimes the title of the journal, but most often the title of the article.

Now, there’s a subject for investigation for you number-crunchers!

To sum up my heresy: I think we are entirely too concerned about getting into the big kids’ sand box. We should be putting prettier toys in our own, so they will want to play with us.

Steve Russell


From: on behalf of Jeff Walker []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 9:48 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Abstract for Critical Criminology’s Disconent

Steve Russell is correct, I believe, about electronic databases changing the way research is read and cited. I think there are two limitations/issues for critical criminology that militate against this effect though.

First, it is my assumption (although I don’t know first hand) that many of the crit. crim. publications are not indexed in the major computerized indexes (Wilson Omnifile, Sociofile, etc.). Unlike the Index to Legal Periodicals, which I believe indexes almost all of the law journals; it is somewhat difficult to get social science journals included in the major indexes. This is something that we probably need to explore as an action item for having our work included among the mainstream journals.

A larger issue, though, is who would read the material. It is my feeling that much of our material is marginalized by mainstream researchers regardless of whether or not they have access to it (exemplified by the number of “mainstream” criminology instructors who use nothing past Class, State and Crime as their readings for crit. crim.). If that is true, then even getting our material indexed may not create the effect we are looking for because, to many, if it is not in one of the prestigious journals, it doesn’t matter.



From: on behalf of Steve Russell []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 11:33 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Abstract for Critical Criminology’s Disconent

On Thu, 7 Oct 1999, Jeff Walker wrote:

> First, it is my assumption (although I don’t know first hand) that
> many of the crit. crim. publications are not indexed in the major
> computerized indexes (Wilson Omnifile, Sociofile, etc.). Unlike the
> Index to Legal Periodicals, which I believe indexes almost all of the
> law journals; it is somewhat difficult to get social science journals
> included in the major indexes. This is something that we probably
> need to explore as an action item for having our work included
> among the mainstream journals.

If Jeff’s assumption above is correct, it is a major problem. I am not sure how to attack it, but it must be attacked.

The larger issue stated below is important but…(speaking here as an Indian who has had Indian policy marginalized on my own campus)…the only thing that overcomes prejudice is results. Prejudice is not vulnerable to argumentation, however eloquent.

The reason for critcrim is I hope to show that more humane policies can make our living space more liveable. If we have a better description of reality than the mainstream we will become the mainstream provided policy wonks have access to our description. If we do not have a better description of reality, we deserve to be marginalized. (It may be apparent from the above that I pick the ideas from post-modernism that suit me. I have not swallowed it whole. I do recognize that to describe is to create, but I maintain that here was already something there to be described.)

Steve Russell


From: on behalf of Raymond Michalowski [Raymond.Michalowski@NAU.EDU]

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 1:00 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo

I want to thank Bruce for, not only his article on publishing critical work, but for helping energize this discussion. I also want to thank Marty for his comments, and to add a few thought to them.

1. Yes, we have to be careful to distinguish what problems are specific to critical criminology, and what problems are inevitable for any work that cuts against the grain of a dominant paradigm. Reviewers and/or editors do not have to be hostile toward “critical” work in criminology, or part of a plan to keep it out of high profile journals, for little of it to appear. All they have to do is not understand the epistemology and the language of critical work to find it “simply not argued at the appropriate level” (a quote from a review I received a few years ago).

Possible route to some amelioration: It can be useful to suggest a list of potential reviewers to the editor when submitting to a journal that does not normally publish work of the type being submitted. Sometimes this works – if the editor is open to multple perpsective. If the editor does not, then they will, of course not listen, and may even actively seek reviewers known to be hostile to your work (don’t ask how I know this). I and my co-authors have had experience in both directions, but clearly we have benefited from having directed editors toward people who might be knowlegable about the epistemological and theoretical framework our work is based in.

2. Regarding quality: I have been reviewing manuscripts for both high profile journals and what I would consider often, equally good, but less sanctified ones for more years than I care to count. This has led me to the following observations regarding the matter of the relationship between quality and publication.

a. most manuscripts I have reviewed are not ready for publication at the time of submission.

b. manuscripts written from a critical criminology perspective are typically further away from being ready for publication than manuscripts written from more mainstream perspectives and/or based on quantitative models of inquiry. The reasons for this I suspect are:

(1) there is less of an agreed upon standard for how to do critical work as compared to the highly developed and relatively rigid format for quantitative work. This openness is good from the standpoint of allowing for creative critical exploration. On the down side, when standards are unclear, it is easier for people to believe they have met them. I think this is why I have reviewed a number of critical articles whose intellectual rigor is less than we would expect of a paper ready for publication.

(2) some critical work relies on historical analysis and social scientists tend to do bad history by relying primarily, and often uncritically on secondary sources.

(3) the journal article format is often a bad fit for critical work. Historical, theoretical, and qualitative analyses done well often requires more space than the standard theory, methods, data, findings conclusion “success model” for quantitative work. The forced truncation of the development/presentation of critical ideas and analyses hurts the apparent quality of critical work in some cases.

c. editors seem more likely to give outright rejections, rather than R&Rs to underdeveloped critical manuscripts than equally underdeveloped manuscripts that fit the quant model. This too, I think is related to the lack of clear models for evaluating critical work. Without a clear model it becomes harder to see just how it could be “fixed.” I find that my reviews of quantitative manuscripts, for instance, tend to be 1–2 pages, while my reviews of critical manuscripts are often in the 2-5 page range. My own experience submitting work is that few mainstream reviewers devote this much time to manuscript evaluation, meaning that an editor receives reviews that recommend less than outright publication, but little guidance as to what to tell the author to do. In that case rejection becomes the path of least resistance.

d. In my reviewing experience critical work that is revised and resubmitted is less likely to cross the threshold to publication than revised quantitative work. This is just an extension of the reason above: without clear directions of how to improve the work, it is harder to gratify reviewers on the second go around. It is also harder to revise critical work. It is much easier to be add another statistical test, or respond to criticisms of potential multicollinearity than to rethink an entire theoretical argument so as to make it more logical and/or clearer to the potential audience.

There’s a theme here. Quantitative work is more likely to get published in higher profile journals than qualitative work because: there quantitative work can appear to be “proven” according to a pardigmatically established standard, and quantitative work (regardless of how critical the substantive implications) does not challenge the orthodox assumption of the nature of “fact.” Which brings me to another point.

I think part of the strategy is for critical criminologists to become more proactive as reviewers in the mainstream journals. Offer our services.

– Ask to be a reviewer on critical crim articles in our areas of expertise.

– Talk to editors. The more people who understand critical work, the more of it will be published.

– But we also have to be sure that we don’t confuse solidarity with critical criminologists with being uncritical of their work. But being a critical analyst of the work of others carries a serious responsibility. We must actively help one another make our work better, rather than merely taking pleasure in pointing out what’s wrong with each others scholarship.

Marty suggests we have a serious discussion about what constitutes “critical” work. The discussion going on here, so far, seems to imply that quantitative work is, by definintion, is not critical. Or am I misreading things? If quantitative work is excluded from the idea of critical crim, it puts the kind of political-economic analyses done by people like Susan Carlson and me outside the scope of “critical criminology.” Is “critical” a code word for qualitative and post-modernist modes of analysis only? Or does it refer to forms of criminology that challenge the taken-for-granteds of orothodox criminology from alternative prespectives that are not conservative/right-wing?

See y’all in Toronto. Let’s keep the discussion going.

Ray Michalowski


From: on behalf of Ellen Leichtman []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 2:32 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo

I too was asked to go more public with my comments and post something on the list-serve. I would also like to comment on some of the points made by Marty.

While I agree with Marty that one needs to “differentiate between excellent pieces that don’t get published, and crap that doesn’t get published,” this seems to be true only with regard to critical criminologists. It seems to me that a lot of statistical crap does get published, and by mainstreamjournals. This means that it depends on the type of crap you are submitting.

Job descriptions regularly make the ability to bring in external funding a condition of hiring. This dictates that statistical methods are the sought after approach. Why shouldn’t the discipline’s journals reflect this bias?

After all, this is where the field actually is. I think that is Marty’s first point. This means that we need to change the bias in the field itself in order to change the bias in the journals. I personally don’t have a problem with the scientific method if it can be considered as one approach within many. I am waiting for the day the gov’t give out grants for a hermeneutical study on crime in the inner city.

There are also academic fields that don’t subscribe to this religion of science. Of course, these aren’t fields that are considered “related” to criminal justice and sociology. I am talking about the fields of anthropology and ethnomusicology (the latter is usually sluffed off as being a humanity by those in criminal justice because the degree is often in the music dept.). I would also include the fields of literary criticism and philosophy, but they are actually humanities and as such considered unimportant to c.j.. (I can’t believe the narrowness of some in this field.)

I like your Bruce’s idea #7, (trying to) publish the results of the poll in the respective journals. Use their own methodology against them. If it’s “scientific”, it must be true. However, it brings up all those “problems” that statistical studies have. Would it account for all those “lost” articles that were never sent, because of the climate against critical criminology? How would published articles be rated against those that were rejected? Perhaps it would also be interesting to apply Marxist theory to a study of who gets published. The numbers don’t tell it all.

Ellen Leichtman


From: on behalf of Steve Russell []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 3:30 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo

Of course quantitative work can be critical criminology.

I agree with the comment that a lot of quantitative crap seems to find its way into mainstream journals. I say this not because I am capable of evaluating the numbers but because I take the numbers at face value and can find many, many reasons to say “So what?”

The methods of literary criticism can and should inform our enterprise. I am not sure why the “humanities” label is so deadly.

Seems to me like the anthropologists who think Indian elders are ignorant. There are different ways of knowing. Is that so complicated?

Steve Russell


From: on behalf of Raymond Michalowski [Raymond.Michalowski@NAU.EDU]

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 4:18 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo


Thanks for the observations. Putting on my political-economist hat for a moment, I’d like to suggest that the emphasis on the grant-getting capacity of faculty is a reflection of the desperation of many university administrations in the face of the on-going, right-wing campaign to defund universities in order to punish them for being sites of where some critical inquiry into the operations of the society still goes on.



From: on behalf of Marty Schwartz []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 4:59 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: On Ray and Steve

Well, the level of conversation on this issue is higher than I thought it would be. Great contributions.

In general, having been a reviewer in my career for over 30 academic journals and having had about 60 acceptances and 30 rejections of my own, I think that I am at least qualified to agree with Ray virtually point for point. An excellent commentary.

I was just writing privately to someone else suggesting that one of the many problems is that few of us are rigorously trained, or have rigorous colleagues. As Ray suggests, in an field with unclear boundaries, there are many who feel that they are sharp and clear when they are not (I don’t mean this to apply to Dragan and Bruce, by the way). My students who have been successful at publishing in top journals are the ones who have gone to the very best graduate schools, and have learned top rigor. They work in departments with very top senior scholars who critique their work before it goes out. Despite being radical feminists or socialist feminists, they still publish, get grants, etc. It is a bit harder than if they were mainstream, but it is being done. Most crim people (myself included) went to secondary schools and work in departments without rigorous scholars. We suffer at a great disadvantage as compared to many abstract empiricists.

Lately, I have been doing a lot of grant reviewing for the National Institute of Justice, and while I have vows of confidentiality about specifics, I can say that the overwhelming majority of grant applications have terrible theoretical bases and abysmal statistical proposals. I think that if a crit person had a very clear theoretical model, with a plan for action that was crisp and sound, it would be received enough to be read carefully, if not by all reviewers then certainly by the NIJ staff. Of course, the debilitating thing is that a certain amount of the money goes out to whatever the agency thinks is hot and needs to be done, even if the methodology is not very good. Of course, it could be worse. I write from Australia, where the conservative federal government (confusingly named the Liberal Party) has decided to fund the Lone Fathers Association to set up shelter houses for battered men, because they are tired of funding women and want to even up the score a bit.

Two more things:

Ray asks whether the definition of critical is presumed to be non-statistical. I agree with his basic presumption, since that also would not apply to me. Although I have written or co-authored a number of theoretical pieces, including several on postmodernism, I also use statistical work heavily, including publishing pieces using logistic regression, etc. Like Ray, I think that it is your theory and intent that informs whether you are critical, not your methodology.

Steve wants to be heretical in suggesting that people will read stuff in smaller journals. I agree that law is a very different field — judges for example actually read the material clerks gather, unlike many sociologists. But, if I can be even more heretical, I might suggest that very few people in this field get promoted to full professor, get invited to lecture at top conferences, get awards for ASC and ASA, etc. on the basis of publishing in Humanity & Society. I know in my own case that when I publish in Sex Roles, Criminology, JQ, etc. I am inundated with requests for reprints, my articles appear in readers, I am invited to give lectures, etc. When I publish in Deviant Behavior, H&S, Sociological Focus, etc., the work disappears into a black hole, never to be mentioned or cited again. I think that is why Bruce and Dragan would like to break into some top journals now and then. It isn’t because they can’t publish — they already have more publications than any 10 people should be allowed to jointly have. It is because their work is marginalized.



From: on behalf of Ellen Leichtman []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 5:05 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo


I didn’t know that. I appreciate your bringing that up. It puts another dimension on the issue. I do know, however, that c.j. grants are often given to people who know people in gov’t, for studies that don’t rock the boat, to continue government policies. If the government pays, the government dictates. I had a problem with that in gov’t funding of the arts when I work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now there is a problem with the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Giuliani. It also brings in more money for professors and depts. to supplement their income.



From: on behalf of Steve Russell []

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 5:10 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo

On Thu, 7 Oct 1999, Raymond Michalowski wrote:

> I’d like to suggest that the emphasis on the grant-getting capacity
> of faculty is a reflection of the desperation of many university
> administrations in the face of the on-going, right-wing campaign to defund
> universities in order to punish them for being sites of where some critical
> inquiry into the operations of the society still goes on.

Isn’t this true not only of most academic disciplines but also most cultures at any given time?

It is the proper function of a university to generate critical thought. To those who benefit from established wisdom, that is more often than not unwelcome.. See, e.g., the fate of Socrates. That is the romance of our profession, and I for one would have it no other way.

In support of your remarks, see Ronnie Dugger’s book, Our Invaded Universities. You are absolutely right. But it seems to me that is the way it is, has been, always will be and always should be.

People will not pay for the privilege of getting their asses kicked but that is no reason to quit kicking. I know you do not suggest we quit kicking, but you seem to suggest that the kickees ought to start liking it.

Steve Russell


From: on behalf of rjm [Raymond.Michalowski@NAU.EDU]

Sent: Thursday, October 07, 1999 9:33 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: RE: On Arrigo

Ellen and all,

I think the matter regarding insider trading on Federal grants is generally correct, but maybe a little bit less sinister than just funding non-boat rockers. Marty is right that (up to a point) a critically oriented study that was theoretically and methodologically sound and (here’s the kicker) about the next hot topic, would not be denied funding just for being critical. Many of the reviewers are people not so dissimilar from us on the review panels. BUT…the key is that insiders know what’s going to be coming down the line and can begin to prepare long before the rest of us see the RFPs. Nothing more sinister than networks among the good ole boys and girls. But it does put those of us in the hinterlands, or my case the last outpost of civilization in the Southwest, at a serious disadvantage even if we wanted to do that kind of funded work.

All of this discussion can seem a little dispiriting at times, but I want to add a note of joy. For me it is a delight to see so many people doing critical work in criminology, to see a division within the ASC where we can meet and exchange, to have outlets of our own, to have panels devoted to critical work at meetings. I can remember the days in the 70s when we were far fewer and when the majority of the orthodox crim folk were pretty convinced we had no right to even exist in academia. The progress is too slow for sure, but the intellectual movement survived, grew, and continues to grow.

If it were not a struggle there would be no reason for us to be critical. If we enjoyed the mainstream limelight in a criminology situated in center of the world capitalist, neo-imperialist, and globalized empire, something would be wrong. Of course there are systemic pressures to keep us at the margins. That’s our struggle. That’s the point. So let’s struggle on together.




Sent: Friday, October 08, 1999 4:14 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo


Amend! and I never use this word…but gang Ray is right on target here. What has developed over the past 30 years is really something… but you already said it beautifully.

Gregg Barak


From: on behalf of Raymond Michalowski [raymond.michalowski@NAU.EDU]

Sent: Friday, October 08, 1999 1:19 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo

Steve and all,

Thanks for comment on quantitative work. I think the real problem with any methodology is that people forget it is nothing more than a tool to understanding, not an end in itself. I think of a lot of orthodox quantoids who seem to fit the saying that “If you give a child of three a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” As someone who has done quantiative work, theoretical work, and ethnographic work it seems to me that the real issue is does the strategy being used to create understanding fit the question at hand. Its hard to do political-economy without numbers, it is had to do ethnography with them.

I think Steve’s “so what” point is the key one. It is not whether work is “quantiative crap,” or “post-modern crap,” or “theoretical crap,” it is whether the work helps us build an understanding that moves us, however limitedly, down a path toward an undistorted discourse on human justice.



From: on behalf of Raymond Michalowski [raymond.michalowski@NAU.EDU]

Sent: Friday, October 08, 1999 1:24 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: On Arrigo


No, you are right. I don’t think the kickees will start liking it. But I do believe that some infiltration is possible. I have also had the experience that sometimes the kickees get the message, begin to changer their minds and find themselves tempted to want to join the kickers. Some of the most radical people ever to exit my classes were high placed police officials who began to question the logic they had lived by. I don’t think like many of my good liberal friends do that we can educate away the problems of power and domination, but I do think we can and should reach out to those we think oppose liberationist approaches to social life. Sometimes they are less organized in their thought, and less immovable in their beliefs than we like to think. Don’t give the powerful too much credit. They may have power, but they often lack wisdom.



From: on behalf of Bruce Arrigo []

Sent: Thursday, October 14, 1999 11:10 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Response to Critical Criminology’s Discontent

Dear Colleagues:

I have deliberately waited some time before responding to the several e-mails addressing various points I raised in the essay, “Critical Criminology’s Discontent: On the Perils of Publishing and the Call to Action.” Let me first say how delighted I am to read the various comments generated from the essay. Sifting through the comments, it is abundantly clear to me that many of us do feel and live the profound difficulty of making a connection to a larger academic audience in which peace activism, praxis, social justice and humanism are at the center of criminological work.

Having said this, I do want to comment on a few points. First, I think our struggle is not about defining what is “critical.” Although a very useful philosophical exercise in its own right, I believe that this question puts the Division on the defensive and, unfortunately, diverts our attention from the matter at hand. Further, this is the kind of question I would anticipate from our non-critical colleagues. In other words, if we move to respond to our dilemma by first addressing the question: “what does it mean to engage in critical scholarship?” we, unknowingly and benignly, I think, endorse the “power” that our non-critical counterparts have to set the agenda for US in regard to potential dialogue, engagement, information, and social change. I wish to be clear that answering this question IS something we could (and over time should) refine, tweak, and massage; however, the “real” agenda is about acknowledging the breadth and depth of exclusion we confront and the corrosive and debilitating impact this has on our Division membership, future critical crim scholars/activists/students, and the overall relationship we have with the general criminological academic community.

There is something of a fluid continuum of critical crim thought. Several of us have written about it; indeed, in the anthology, “Social Justice/Criminal Justice” I describe my take on the continuum in the book’s Introduction. Rather than investing too much time massaging this point, I recommend that we embrace and celebrate the various intellectual strains of thought that constitute critical analysis. Granted, different people will disagree on what “exactly” is critical; however, I believe we also can say, with some confidence, that what tends to get published in prestigious criminological journals, regrettably fails to represent our divergent critical perspectives on crime, law, justice, society.

Relatedly, as criminology settles into a sustained period of manipulating large data sets, it is not surprising that the discipline’s mainstream journals would prefer studies endorsing the methodological assumptions of quantitative inquiry. We also know that many talented critical criminologists (e.g., Marty Schwartz, Meda Chesney Lind, Brian MacLean, Walter DeKeseredy) employ statistical analysis in several of their research investigations. I applaud their efforts. We need to be careful, however, in how we frame the relationship between research methodology and critical criminology. Part of the problem many critical criminologists confront is that method is very intimately linked to a series of epistemological assumptions about agency, society, social change, sense-making, identity and the like. But this IS our strength. Here, too, we want our non-critical colleagues to understand how a diversity of methods, anchored in different critical crim perspectives, reveals new and different insights about law, punishment, victimization, policing, judicial decision making, etc., in relation to agency, sense-making, society, identity, and the like.

As a division, if we understand and embrace our diversity (in terms of the continuum that represents critical thought, and in terms of research methods that inform our theoretical perspectives), I think we present a very potent “force,” if you will, to our non-critical colleagues symbolizing our strength at the discussion table. It is in this spirit that, I submit, we must invite mainstream criminologists to explore with us how our Division’s diversity advances ALL of our interests in furthering our regard for criminological/sociolegal knowledge.



From: on behalf of Steve Russell []

Sent: Thursday, October 14, 1999 11:30 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Response to Critical Criminology’s Discontent


Thank you for provoking a valuable series of exchanges.

Steve Russell


From: on behalf of Bruce Arrigo []

Sent: Thursday, October 14, 1999 11:53 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Response to Critical Criminology’s Discontent -Reply

Steve: Thanks to you too. Let’s keep the discussion alive. Let’s change the culture in which we write, teach, work, and live.



From: on behalf of Marty Schwartz []

Sent: Saturday, October 16, 1999 4:43 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: journal issues

Folks —

I have been arguing privately and publicly that the problem we as critical criminologists is much broader than the actions of a couple of journal editors or journals. This piece, published by the president of the American Sociological Association in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, takes on the identical issue to the one we have been discussing.


>> > Soul-Searching in Sociology: Is the Discipline in Crisis?

>> >


>> >

>> > Most members of the American Sociological Association are
>> > proud of their discipline’s intellectual diversity. However, a
>> > recent controversy over the editorship of the American
>> > Sociological Review, the A.S.A.’s flagship journal, indicates
>> > that the majority of the association’s leadership lags
>> > somewhat behind the membership in progressing toward goals of
>> > greater intellectual diversity and democracy in the A.S.A.’s
>> > operations.
>> >
>> > Viewed narrowly, the A.S.R. debate is over which editors
>> > should be at the helm of the nation’s leading sociology
>> > journal, which is also the association’s official journal. The
>> > controversy, however, reflects much broader, long-simmering
>> > tensions within the discipline that parallel frictions within
>> > other social sciences and society at large.
>> >
>> > Most sociologists who do qualitative and theoretical research
>> > — particularly those who study issues regarding race,
>> > ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality — oppose the heavy
>> > emphasis that the A.S.A.’s establishment puts on
>> > quantitatively analyzed survey research. That opposition is
>> > only in part about the dominance of a certain research method.
>> > It is also fueled by a recognition that much mainstream
>> > research has drifted away from the urgent moral and practical
>> > concerns voiced by critical sociologists since the first
>> > decades of this century.
>> >
>> > At first sight, the latest A.S.A. flap has to do with
>> > questionable procedures by its governing council, the clout of
>> > an elected publications committee, the qualifications and
>> > visions of proposed editors, and the association leadership’s
>> > receptivity to criticism and reform. But, fundamentally, the
>> > issues that the A.S.A. is facing are the same ones facing the
>> > nation as a whole. Will we continue to allow traditional
>> > elites in large institutions to control important discourse
>> > and decisions? Or will we take our democratic traditions
>> > seriously, and significantly open up that dialogue and
>> > decision making to the larger population? However the
>> > immediate questions regarding a single sociology journal are
>> > resolved, both the narrow and the broader debates, I believe,
>> > are necessary and constructive.
>> >
>> > The strength of sociology has long resided in its intellectual
>> > diversity. Sociology was the first discipline in the United
>> > States to undertake serious studies of racial and gender
>> > inequality, and one of the first to include serious research
>> > on a range of other issues, such as class inequality, bias
>> > against gays and lesbians, and age discrimination.
>> > Sociologists have been among the sharpest analysts and critics
>> > of U.S. society, from the early commentaries of W.E.B. Du Bois
>> > on racism to the analyses of gender relations by Charlotte
>> > Perkins Gilman, and from recent assessments of the American
>> > ruling class by G. William Domhoff to Arlie R. Hochschild’s
>> > explorations of worker alienation and the management of
>> > emotions.
>> >
>> > From the beginning, sociology has included a rich variety of
>> > qualitative and quantitative research methods. However, since
>> > World War II, many leading sociologists have stressed the need
>> > for sociology to standardize and develop more methodological
>> > rigor. They have called for the use of advanced statistical
>> > techniques, survey and demographic methods, and positivistic
>> > generalization — the testing of rigidly framed, deductive
>> > propositions by quantitative data and methods.
>> >
>> > Many sociologists have taken the command for statistical rigor
>> > to heart. Indeed, one reason why sociology does not currently
>> > have more social impact is its over-emphasis on advanced
>> > statistical methods and a neutrality toward society’s marked
>> > inequalities. Like other social scientists, too many
>> > sociologists have lost touch with the moral and practical
>> > concerns from which our field emanated.
>> >
>> > How did the shift away from broader concerns come about? In
>> > tour-de-force articles in the book A Critique of Contemporary
>> > American Sociology (General Hall, 1993), Gideon Sjoberg, of
>> > the University of Texas, and Ted R. Vaughan, now retired from
> > the University of Missouri, demonstrated that, since World War
>> > II, sociology has been reshaped into a discipline whose most
>> > prestigious members are often linked to government agencies,
>> > foundations, or other bureaucracies that supply much of the
>> > money for social research. In the past several decades,
>> > members of major Ph.D.-granting sociology departments — such
>> > as the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and
>> > Pennsylvania State University, among numerous others — have
>> > become heavily dependent on research grants provided by those
> > bureaucracies.
>> >
>> > Before World War II, the majority of sociologists conducted
>> > research projects — usually with little outside financing —
>> > that primarily used qualitative techniques or
>> > descriptive-statistical measures, such as percentages and
>> > medians, that were understandable to the educated layperson.
>> > The discipline’s primary concern was with addressing specific
>> > societal problems and working toward an understanding of their
>> > causes and development. After the war, federal agencies and
>> > foundations began backing social-science research on a large
>> > scale. Partly because survey and other research projects using
>> > advanced statistical methods enjoyed the respectable patina of
>> > “hard science,” and partly because those projects rarely
>> > raised fundamental questions about major institutions, they
>> > were favored by the large underwriters of social research.
>> > Although regularly challenged, the quantitative orientation
>> > gained a central position within U.S. sociology.
>> >
>> > Many sociologists and other social scientists fashioned
>> > themselves into grant-seeking entrepreneurs, with their own
>> > narrow professional networks and readily identifiable niches
>> > of inquiry. Often their research goals have coincided with the
>> > establishment-oriented interests of the bureaucratic
>> > benefactors. Concurrently, there has been relatively little
>> > large-scale backing of qualitative projects, especially those
>> > of researchers who question mainstream institutions.
>> >
>> > Large-scale federal and corporate financing brought the major
>> > Ph.D.-granting departments into prominence. Today, those
>> > powerful research departments attract well-published
>> > sociologists and many graduate students, control major
>> > publications such as the A.S.R., and act as gatekeepers for
>> > much sociological research and debate.
>> >
>> > There are, of course, many quantitative researchers who are
>> > reflective and critical. The problem is not quantification per
>> > se, but the all too frequently unreflective use of
>> > quantitative methods without consideration of the research’s
>> > social context, societal relevance, or uncritical assumptions.
>> >
>> > In other words, the postwar accommodation of money sources
>> > that prefer to support only certain research topics and
>> > quantitative methods has often bred superficiality in
>> > sociology — as well as in some other social sciences, such as
>> > political science. The social survey, a prevailing research
>> > technique, typically involves surface-level readings of human
>> > behavior. A great deal of of what sociologists and other
>> > social scientists know is from these short survey questions,
>> > framed by researchers who have no direct contact with their
>> > research subjects.
>> >
>> > For example, much survey research suggests that white people’s
>> > attitudes toward African Americans have become much more
>> > liberal in recent decades. Yet the brief survey questions
>> > typically used in such research are problematic as an
>> > indication of the real views of white Americans.
>> >
>> > Recent research by the Texas A&M sociologist Eduardo
>> > Bonilla-Silva on white students at three major universities
>> > found that racial attitudes expressed on short-answer survey
>> > items were often different from those expressed by respondents
>> > in interviews allowing more-detailed commentary. On a short
>> > survey item, eight in 10 of the 400-plus students said they
>> > approved of marriages between black people and white people.
>> > When a smaller, representative group from the same
>> > institutions was interviewed in depth, fewer than one-third
>> > still approved of racial intermarriage. Given the time to
>> > explain, the majority expressed reservations about marriage
>> > across the color line. Respondents might indicate in a survey
>> > question that they didn’t have a problem with intermarriage,
>> > but in a longer interview would back off from that view and
>> > say they wouldn’t want it to happen in their families. That
>> > kind of in-depth interviewing, a traditional qualitative
>> > approach, often reveals the deep realities of social life that
>> > quantitative survey research alone cannot measure.
>> >
>> > The control of mainstream journals by quantitatively oriented
>> > sociologists has driven those who primarily use other methods
>> > to publish their innovative work in books or in specialty
>> > journals. Today, as a result, there is a mainstream “article
>> > sociology” and a “book sociology,” with strikingdifferences
>> > in style, methods, and subject matter. Such bifurcation is
>> > also evident in political science and economics.
>> >
>> > The discourses of the two sociologies are, to a remarkable
>> > degree, non-overlapping. In mainstream journals like the
>> > A.S.R., establishment editors rarely publish qualitative or
>> > theoretical research, especially research involving critical
>> > approaches. Those approaches are often used by scholars who
>> > have been marginalized — including many female, black,
>> > Latino, Asian, gay, Marxist, and working-class sociologists.
>> > For decades, those researchers have capably and critically
>> > dissected the dominant society — and the sociological
>> > profession as well. Examples include the brilliant black
>> > sociologist Oliver C. Cox, whose groundbreaking book on racial
>> > conflict, Caste, Class, & Race: A Study in Social Dynamics
>> > (Doubleday, 1948), has only lately received attention from
>> > U.S. sociologists. A more recent example is the work of
>> > Dorothy E. Smith, whose critical feminist analyses are
>> > presented in her book The Everyday World As Problematic: A
>> > Feminist Sociology (Northeastern University Press, 1987).
>> >
>> > Interestingly, even mainstream introductory sociology
>> > textbooks draw heavily on the book-sociology research for much
>> > of their content, because book sociology often provides
>> > more-interesting data on, and analyses of, the day-to-day
>> > quandaries of contemporary society.
>> >
>> > Until the mid-1960s, the American Sociology Review was a more
>> > intellectually and methodologically diverse journal than it
>> > has been since. As late as summer 1964, one large issue of the
>> > journal featured five major conceptual articles on social
>> > evolution and historical change, including essays by leading
>> > theorists such as Talcott Parsons and Robert Bellah, both of
>> > whom were on the faculty of Harvard University. Not one of
>> > those essays had any quantitative apparatus, and not one would
>> > probably have been published in the A.S.R. in recent decades.
>> >
>> > Since the 1970s, numerous sociologists have complained about
>> > the dominance of hyper-quantitative research in the major
>> > journals, and several esteemed sociologists have organized
>> > informal boycotts of A.S.R. subscriptions among their
>> > colleagues. The recent conflict over the journal’s editorship
>> > should be seen against that background, not as a professional
>> > clash out of the blue.
>> >
>> > In January, Walter Allen — a distinguished sociologist at the
>> > University of California at Los Angeles, recent nominee for
>> > president of the American Sociological Association, recent
>> > member of the A.S.A. council, and an African American — was
>> > nominated by the A.S.A. publications committee’s eight voting
>> > members for the editorship of the A.S.R. In a close vote, that
>> > nomination was rejected by the council’s 19 voting members,
>> > who also rejected the committee’s second choice, Jerry Jacobs,
>> > of the University of Pennsylvania, in favor of two candidates
>> > the committee had not recommended. The council majority chose
>> > two co-editors from the University of Wisconsin at Madison —
>> > Charles Camic and Franklin D. Wilson — and thereby returned
>> > the A.S.R. to a leading quantitative department, the only one
>> > to control the journal three times since the 1960s. While no
>> > one questions Camic’s or Wilson’s academic credentials, for
>> > many sociologists, the journal’s return to Wisconsin indicated
>> > an elitist and establishment mindset among the association’s
>> > leaders (The Chronicle, September 3).
>> >
>> > In council discussions, a major argument made against Allen
>> > was that he had not published articles in the A.S.R. or the
>> > American Journal of Sociology, another major journal of the
>> > discipline. Yet Allen — whom I supported for the editorship
>> > in the council discussions — has published six dozen research
>> > chapters and articles in important books and distinguished
>> > journals, including the Harvard Educational Review and Signs.
>> > A researcher whose work often deals with education, family,
>> > and racial relations, Allen has spent his entire career in
>> > top-10 departments (Michigan, North Carolina, U.C.L.A.). He
>> > has served on the editorial boards of many journals and has
>> > extensive administrative experience with journals and large
>> > research grants.
>> >
>> > Even though several council members sought more time to review
>> > the new candidates properly, the council majority pushed
>> > through a decision on the editorship much too rapidly.
>> >
>> > Walter Allen was the best candidate for the editorship, in my
>> > opinion, because he offered a well-devised strategy for
>> > diversifying the A.S.R.’s content and for democratizing its
>> > editorial operations. Envisioning a dynamic and reinvigorated
>> > journal, Allen proposed the creation of an intellectually
>> > diverse team of six deputy editors with expertise in a range
>> > of qualitative, quantitative, and theoretical research. Those
>> > editors would have included sociologists who are female,
>> > black, Asian, or Latino. The strong deputy-editor structure
>> > would have resembled that of the Administrative Science
>> > Quarterly, one of the best-run journals in social science. The
>> > proposed editors were to have substantial authority in
>> > handling reviews of papers — including selection of reviewers
>> > and correspondence with authors — all in consultation with
>> > the editor. Such a system would very likely have insured that
>> > papers submitted by scholars doing research into currently
>> > underrepresented topics would be evaluated by respected peers,
>> > well-informed in those specialties.
>> >
>> > One of the proposed deputy editors was Patricia Hill Collins,
>> > of the University of Cincinnati, a leading scholar in critical
>> > theory. In her perceptive new book, Fighting Words: Black
>> > Women and the Search for Justice (University of Minnesota
>> > Press, 1998), Collins argues that intellectuals who break with
>> > conventional wisdom are more of a threat to the establishment
>> > than their numbers might suggest. Allen and his proposed
>> > deputy editors apparently were such a threat.
>> >
>> > In addition to being hasty and, I think, unwise, the council’s
>> > rejection of the publications-committee recommendations was
>> > unprecedented. It triggered months of controversy, resulting
>> > in an intense business meeting at the association’s annual
>> > conference in August, in Chicago. As many as 400 sociologists
>> > turned out at the 7 a.m. meeting to debate the issue. Many
>> > A.S.A. members indicated that they were upset that a leading
>> > sociologist with impeccable credentials was not considered
>> > qualified by the council majority to be the A.S.R.’s editor.
>> > The members passed, overwhelmingly, a resolution calling for a
>> > reconsideration and reversal of the council’s decision. In
>> > addition, Judith Auerbach, of the National Institutes of
>> > Health — president of Sociologists for Women in Society —
>> > called for more democracy in A.S.A. operations, recommending a
>> > task force to re-examine the elimination of the association’s
>> > elected committee on committees and suggesting the
>> > reinstitution of regional representation on the committee on
>> > nominations. That motion passed nearly unanimously.
>> >
>> > At a subsequent council meeting, a majority of council members
>> > voted to stick with their original decision on the A.S.R.
>> > editorship and supported the membership’s motion for a task
>> > force on restoring the committee on committees. Concerned
>> > about the membership’s strong criticism, the council did pass
>> > several resolutions acknowledging the need for greater
>> > intellectual diversity in the A.S.R., and called on the new
>> > co-editors to take that need into consideration. The council
>> > also called for a conference to study the journal’s future
>> > direction.
>> >
>> > Today, the debate continues, with some A.S.A. members coming
>> > to the support of the council majority’s decisions, and others
>> > pressing for more changes in the direction of greater
>> > diversity and democracy. Last month, for example, the
>> > executive committee of the Association of Black Sociologists
>> > issued a statement condemning the editorial decisions of the
>> > A.S.A. council’s majority. The statement concluded that the
>> > council’s failure to take remedial action in response to the
>> > business meeting has caused many sociologists to have little
>> > confidence in future actions of the council on issues of
>> > diversity and inclusion.
>> >
>> > As unnerving as the discord is, the debate over diversity and
>> > democracy at the A.S.R. — and in the association and the
>> > profession generally — is healthy, and would be so in any
>> > social science. It indicates growing input from the membership
>> > as to how the discipline should be organized and governed. It
>> > also reflects the profession’s soul-searching attempts to
>> > evaluate and, if necessary, to correct its course, a
>> > self-reflective tradition that is one of sociology’s recurring
>> > virtues.
>> >
>> > One of the attractions of being in a discipline that includes
>> > the study of such subjects as justice, equality, and freedom
>> > is that the societal issues we probe as researchers also are
>> > relevant to our professional deliberations. We can practice
>> > what we preach — try to encourage new intellectual voices and
>> > to structure our associations democratically. Sometimes we
>> > succeed; sometimes we fail. But if we look in the mirror and
>> > find that the reflection is sometimes a little ungainly, we
>> > should remember that we are, or can be, models for a more
>> > diverse and democratic society.
>> >
>> > It is in that light — even as we may flinch at the heat and
>> > untidiness of our current disputes — that we also can pause,
>> > just briefly, to congratulate ourselves on having them.
>> >
>> > Joe R. Feagin is a professor of sociology at the University of
>> > Florida and president of the American Sociological
>> > Association.



Sent: Sunday, October 17, 1999 5:17 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: journal issues

Thanks for sharing Joe R. Feagin’s essay on journals and democracy very much putting our recent/current discussion into a larger context. As for criminology, there also is the bifurcation of article criminology and book criminology.


******************************************* on behalf of Steve Russell []

Sent: Sunday, October 17, 1999 7:37 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: journal issues


Could you explain the distinction briefly?

Steve Russell



Sent: Monday, October 18, 1999 4:39 AM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: journal issues

As Feagin’s essay discussed there have become two ways of publishing; one in the elite or status journals (i.e Criminology) which are pretty much dominated by but not exclusively quantitatively driven work or otherwise publish the qualitatively and/or theoretically driven work in marginal journals or in book form. Exposure comes as Marty says from the elite journals in the field or as Feagin was saying from doing qualitative/theoretical type books. I couldn’t agree more.



From: on behalf of Jeff Walker []

Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 12:42 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Publication of Crit Crim Material

Getting back to something Marty said before the conference about different opinions not being readily accepted in other organizations, below is an excerpt from a message from the discussion list on complex systems science. I thought it was interesting and relevant to our discussion since this line of research relates to Division member’s work in post modernism and chaos theory.

But on the general point about apparent censorship, I was trying to make the point re publication, that the argument used by editors that ‘most of our readers do not think that way, so we will not publish anything that exposes a different way of doing things, send it to a minority group’s journal instead’, is indeed a form of censorship. It is very difficult when things are in a state of metatheoretical flux to know what is nonsense and what is not.

Take care


Jeffery T. Walker
Department of Criminal Justice
University of Arkansas at Little Rock


From: on behalf of Raymond Michalowski [Raymond.Michalowski@NAU.EDU]

Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 2:33 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Publication of Crit Crim Material

Jeff and all,

Very interesting excerpt…particularly the notion about metatheoretical flux. I think the problem is that often established gatekeepers of what is and is not “nonsense” are typically unaware that metatheoretical debates are afoot. The line between sense and nonsense is as stable and bright for them as it is shifting and hazy for those caught up in the tides of metatheoretical change.

Toward the end of mainstreaming critical work, I would like to once again reiterate an offer I made about two years ago but got very few takers. When I was first put on the editorial board of Criminology Bob Bursik agreed that it would be an appropriate use of my role to develop good critical submissions for the journal. If you have critical work you would like to submit to Criminology let me know, and I’ll see what I can do to help facilitate appropriate reivews. Or if you want a preliminary pre-submission critique, I will be willing to do that as well.

I think that one of the problems with more orthordox journals is getting our work reviewed by people who have a solid familiarity with the conceptual framework and the literature we are working from. Susan Carlson and I once had an article rejected from Criminology because we were using a methodology “of our own making” – when in fact we were building on a research strategy that had been set forth by two sociologists in a highly praised lead article in the ASR – but neither the editor nor the reviewers apparently every read anything outside of the narrowest criminological orthodoxy, and so they assumed we were talking non-sense. Others have told me similar stupid-reviewer horror stories. This suggerst that Criminology might benefit from an expanded pool of reviewers who are more familiar with critical criminology. So, if you are not currently on Criminology’s reviewer list, or do not know if you are, let me know your specific areas of review interest, and I’ll put together a package of proposed reviewers and submit it to Bob. Also, I want to suggest to anyone who does not already do this, that it can be useful to suggest to give editors serveral names of several reviewers who would be good evaluators of your work.

Ray Michalowski


From: on behalf of Bruce Arrigo []

Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 12:53 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Publication of Crit Crim Material -Reply

Jeff and Ray: I appreciated the exchange of thought on why critical or non-mainstream types of analyses more routinely fail to find their way into conventional and leading (crim) journals. There is something of an epistemological difference that underscores the manner in which critical vs. non-critical scholarship unfolds. This difference extends to logic, assumptions, beliefs, values, agency, and the like. Critical Race Theorists, Feminists, postmodernists, etc., have been saying this for some time now. The academic “struggle” is over favored ways of knowing and interpreting the world, social phenomena, and human interaction. To (always) surrender to preferred methods of analysis or understanding is to sacrifice a piece of one’s self, one’s identity, one’s humanity. When we tacitly endorse such favored ways of understanding as the key to “scientific truth” we legitimize the power such world views have over our lives, over our very being. This is the manifestation of hegemony and reification. I, too, have discussed these issues, to some extent, with Bob Bursik. Recently, I submitted materials to him for consideration as a member of Criminology’s Editorial Board. I think our challenge, in part, is to insist that multiple approaches to the knowledge process have a space within which to be heard. As critical criminologists, we need to find our way onto the decision making bodies of our leading journals. In fact, I believe we have an obligation to insist on this. If we do not, then our multiple orientations to criminology will quickly become extent like the dinosaurs of yesterday.



From: on behalf of Stuart Henry [soc_henry@ONLINE.EMICH.EDU]

Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 5:54 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Publication of Crit Crim Material -Reply


If anyone has some time (and I have less than none) I did notice some critical responses to Joe Feagan’s Chronicle article on sociology which paralleled Bruce’s piece. These letters that are in the current issue of the Chronicle might be responded to by a letter/piece from you guys sent to the Chronicle that also highlights the same debate in Criminology. The point would be to take the issue outside of our disicipline and make it a transdisciplinary problem. Getting something in the Chronicle would also help the mainstream take notice. Yes, Bruce and Dragan I agree the timing for this debate is now, even though I did not think so!




From: on behalf of Raymond Michalowski [Raymond.Michalowski@NAU.EDU]

Sent: Thursday, December 02, 1999 6:38 PM

To: Multiple recipients of list

Subject: Re: Publication of Crit Crim Material -Reply


I couldn’t agree more. It seems to me the problem is the “struggle” to established favored ways of knowing itself. It would seem preferable to apprehend the search for “understanding” (rather than “scientific truth”) as an ideally polyvocal endeavor wherein participants can “hear” the speakers of multiple epistemological standpoints, evaluating them both on their terms and on ours (whatever those happen to be), but never automatically dismissing the speaking or the speaker because we think we have detected an epistemological standpoint different from our own.



Humanizing Criminal Justice Education: Alternatives to “Us” Versus “Them”

Humanizing Criminal Justice Education: Alternatives to “Us” Versus “Them”

Kenneth W. Mentor
Department of Sociology and Criminology
University of North Carolina Wilmington

Originally published in “Professing Humanist Sociology,” Glenn Goodwin and Martin Schwartz, eds. Washington DC:  American Sociological Association, 2000.


In our efforts to humanize criminal justice education many of us refer, often in vague terms, to humanist and/or peacemaking criminology. Although well intentioned, unless we are careful with our words and examples, we may provide our students an opportunity to misinterpret the meaning and goals of humanist criminology. For example, it is easy to encourage students to humanize victims. However, if our humanizing efforts focus solely on socially defined “victims” of crime, we run the risk of intensifying the “us” versus “them” thinking we intend to challenge. In light of this concern, this paper proceeds with the idea that it is not necessarily helpful to turn victims, by default, into fine examples of humanity, while offenders are demonized. It is challenging to encourage students to make an effort to understand, and care about, someone who has been convicted of murder. When doing so, we walk a fine line. While our goal is to introduce a humanistic viewpoint, we run the risk of turning away students who will tune us out as they assume we are “coddling” criminals. This line is worth walking. The recognition of humanity, even among those who have been defined as unworthy, represents a significant step toward a humanist understanding of the criminal justice system.

Before moving forward, it is important to emphasize that many lives have been shattered by crime. Clearly, some people are dangerous, violent, and act with no respect for others. Although we continue to seek alternatives, the behavior of these individuals may leave society with little choice but to incarcerate the individual, perhaps for the remainder of his or her life.

It is important to openly express the points stated in the previous paragraph in an effort to minimize the challenges inherent in any attempt to integrate a humanist perspective in the teaching of criminal justice. Without clarification, some students, as they conclude that the professor is crazy and/or soft on crime, will shut out the humanist message. In order to keep the attention and interest of the majority it is helpful to occasionally place the humanist message in perspective.


My efforts to move the teaching of criminology away from the “us” verses “them” mentality are motivated by frustration as well as hope. Mainstream criminology is the source of much of this frustration. Additional frustration stems from the fact that politicians continue to repeat the same policy errors. Many of the flawed policies, for example, three strikes laws, the “war” on drugs, and the incredible increase in incarceration, seem to be directly related to the “us” versus “them” mentality. The academic community endorses ineffective policy by failing to point out the errors of, as well as the motives behind, these policies.

The hope that motivates my efforts to humanize criminology is based on a belief (perhaps naive) that through our efforts to educate future policy makers we may begin to see positive changes in the criminal justice system. The strategies presented in this paper are intended to generate change among criminal justice students. My bet is that this change will be in a certain direction. The teaching strategies discussed in this paper are intended to challenge stereotypes. Humanist criminology can succeed to the degree that the dominant paradigm, which is typified by state directed violence, force, and coercion, is questioned. The paradigm is challenged each time a glimmer of humanity appears in an area we have been told consists of people who do not deserve to be treated with respect.

David Bruck, in Decisions of Death, quotes Tocqueville in suggesting that restraint in punishment “extends as far as our sense of social equality, and no further: “the same man who is full of humanity toward his fellow creatures when they are at the same time his equals becomes insensible to their affliction as soon as that equality ceases” (1991:525). Our justice system, as well as our society, contains a variety of dehumanizing mechanisms that assist in an effort to define “them.” This definitional process allows a systemic reaction to crime that focuses on the individual rather than on the causes of his or her behavior.

Criminologists, through the teaching of criminology and criminal justice, have contributed to the “us” versus “them” mentality. Mills (1943) warned that due to market forces, “textbooks tend to embody a content agreed upon by the academic group using them” (1943:165). Several years later, Liazos echoed similar sentiments. In a review of popular deviance textbooks, Liazos pointed out that ideological biases in the field of deviance were “apparent as much from what these books leave unsaid and unexamined, as from what they say” (1972:104). As we strive to humanize criminal justice education we are able to avoid the narrow interpretations offered by mainstream criminology in our attempts to avoid the “us” versus “them” mentality.


The following discussion centers on strategies that encourage alternative ways of thinking about “criminals.” Many of these strategies meet with resistance. As Quinney points out, many students “come to us entrenched in a conservative ideology of crime. . . . To advance an alternative, a non-violent and humane approach to crime, is met with considerable dismay and resistance” (1993: 438). In light of this predictable resistance, it may be best to begin the humanizing effort at the more benign end of the spectrum of deviant behavior. Once students begin to accept that the deviance creating machinery is extremely effective, and works equally well throughout the full range of “deviant” and “criminal” behaviors, they have taken the first step toward humanizing all actors in the criminal justice system.

“I Never Thought I Was a Deviant”

Liazos (1978) warned of sociology’s fascination with “Nuts, Sluts, and Preverts.” In contrast, a humanistic criminology course presents an opportunity to exercise a great deal of creativity in the selection of readings. One of my goals has been to select topics that illustrate the machinery that creates “deviants.” A second goal is to illustrate that this machinery is so effective that “normal” people, people very similar to our students, can be efficiently defined as deviants.

One of my students’ favorite readings, which does not appear in traditional deviant behavior texts, is a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. Harrison Bergeron (Vonnegut, 1961) describes a society in which everyone is equal. In Vonnegut’s fictional society, the state attempts to limit non normative behavior or traits by creating “equality” through the use of “handicapping devices” such as lead weights, face masks, and loud noises intended to minimize logical thought. Harrison Bergeron is a great introduction to the power to define certain behavior or traits as unacceptable. The power to define, when coupled with the power to sanction, is very intimidating. Students are encouraged to look for examples, in today’s society, where the state has the power to define and sanction certain behaviors. Their examples often include examples of “normal” people, often through no fault of their own, being defined as deviant.

Another interesting reading describes an example of socially defined deviance. Pearson (1987) writes about the Grateful Dead phenomenon. While many students identify with this particular form of behavior, others see the behavior of Deadheads as quite deviant. Again, how can it be that something that some define as “normal” is defined as “deviant” by others? Students enjoy this topic and are often surprised to find that some in our society have negative feelings about Deadheads.

Duff and Hong (1989) discuss the creation and application of definitions of deviance in relation to women bodybuilders. Becker (1953) describes a process through which “normal” people become marijuana users. Troyer and Markle (1984) describe the emerging social problem of coffee drinking. Petrunik and Shearing (1996) describe practices intended to lessen the impact of negative views of stuttering. Each of these readings provides a humanistic view of deviance and has been well received by my students.

If deviance and crime are seen as similar behavior, leading to different social sanctions, students are able to see that a major difference between deviance and crime is the degree to which society blames the actor for his or her “unacceptable” behavior. Students begin a move toward a humanist criminology once they begin to recognize the mechanisms active in assigning blame. These mechanisms, apparent throughout our system of justice, separate “us” from “them.”

“Juvenile Delinquents” Are Human Too

Many of the most humanistic criminology writings are the result of qualitative research. For example, Goldstein (1990) interviewed “delinquent” juveniles. Goldstein suggests that the experience of being “delinquent” conveys expertise in understanding delinquency. Goldstein’s efforts to provide “ordinary knowledge as a supplement to and, at times, even a replacement for professional scientific knowledge” (emphasis in original, 1990:3) provide a clear and compassionate picture of the world of juveniles.

Elliott Currie (1992), in Dope and Trouble, follows a similar path. He writes that he had learned a great deal through personal interviews and that others would benefit from hearing the stories, in their entirety, as told by the subjects of his research. Currie felt “that it was only by hearing their own stories that we could appreciate the complexity and uniqueness of each of their lives” (1992:xii). This approach is necessary, according to Currie, because stereotypes “mislead us and hobble a rational approach to the problems of troubled kids. They obscure the complexity of the forces that influence the paths young people take” (1992:xii).

Currie, Goldstein, and others have engaged in ethnographic research that allows us to develop a greater empathy for those who are defined as deviant, delinquent, or criminal. This type of research is a rich resource for anyone attempting to humanize the criminal justice process. After reading such personal stories only the most obstinate students will fail to recognize that those who attract the attention of the criminal justice system are not always so different from themselves.

A less thoroughly researched area, and thankfully one that generally does not include juvenile offenders, is the phenomenon defined as “serial killing.” In the following section we turn our attention to the task of humanizing some of the “least human” participants in our society.

Natural Born Killers?

As might be imagined, this group can be extremely difficult to humanize. One method that has been somewhat effective, and very popular with students, has been to view serial killers or other mass murderers as they have been depicted in film. One of the most popular films, although I do not show it without numerous disclaimers and the clearly elaborated opportunity to miss class without fear of retribution, is Natural Born Killers. The film’s main characters, Mickey and Mallory, are depicted as a violent couple with real, although unusual, problems. The film pushes the viewer to wonder how these individuals could have been created. The impact of violent media messages, child abuse, education, and other socialization events are outlined in the film. Students do not believe, in spite of the film’s title, that Mickey and Mallory were born to live a murderous lifestyle. Instead, students recognize that this lifestyle was the product of a socialization process not totally dissimilar to their own.

Another film, a well done documentary directed by Nick Broomfield, presents the human side of a female “serial killer.” Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, introduces us to a woman who has killed at least seven men. The documentary presents Wuornos as a victim of an uncaring criminal justice system. She is represented by a greedy and incompetent attorney, who would clearly prefer to be a rock star. Aileen’s “mother” demonstrates her love for her newly adopted daughter by encouraging her to plead no contest to multiple murder. The logic behind this plea, which is supported by the attorney, is that this plea, and the resulting death penalty, will accelerate the process through which Aileen will receive God’s ultimate forgiveness. Other players include police officers who ignore evidence that would reduce the value of a story they were attempting to sell to the networks.

Ms. Wuornos, an admitted prostitute who claims that she killed these men because they were about to rape and kill her, is a victim as well as offender. Students are shocked to learn about her situation and question whether it is a true story. The documentary effectively demonstrates the humanity of an individual who has been victimized throughout much of her life. The effectiveness of the dehumanizing ritual active throughout the justice system is also apparent.

“But Some of Them Deserve to Die”

The case of Aileen Wuornos is an obvious link to the issue of capital punishment. Since nearly all death penalty writings, at least those that spring from the scholarly community, are in opposition to the death penalty, each may be helpful in a humanist criminal justice course. These writings may offer moral or religious arguments in opposition to the death penalty. Others argue against the idea of general deterrence (Archer et al., 1983). Others document the discriminatory application of the death penalty (Baldus et al., 1986). Another viewpoint, which avoids the problem associated with humanizing murderers, is that a number of innocent humans have been executed by the state (Bedau and Radelet, 1987).

Another strategy, which has been fairly successful in my teaching, includes death row stories. Books by Dicks (1995) and Radelet (1989) include a collection of stories from people on death row. The narratives are offered by the condemned, those who work on death row, the families of both victim and offender, and from a variety of observers. Again, the words of those involved in the system provide compassionate evidence in support of a humanist criminology.


One of my most effective attempts to humanize deviance and criminology involved a campus and classroom visit from a homeless man who had been an active member of the Hell’s Angels. He was an “enforcer,” claimed to have taken several lives, and had served time in prison. At the time of his visit, he was no longer an active member of the Hell’s Angels. This man suffered from a genetic disorder that had forced him to undergo over 300 surgeries. He was not physically attractive in traditional terms. He was from a poor family and had lived a violent life, in direct contrast to the students at the exclusive liberal arts college he was visiting.

I was reluctant to issue an invitation when the opportunity was presented. I felt that his visit might be little more than a “freak show.” I was concerned that my students, who would see this individual as very different from them, would move to the “us” versus “them” mode of thinking. Fortunately, I underestimated these students. They wanted to learn all they could from this man. They treated him with dignity and honored him with their sincere efforts to understand his life. A one day visit from this man, much more like “them” than “us,” taught over 100 individuals that the lives of “us” and “them” are intricately intertwined.

This paper briefly outlines specific strategies that can be integrated into any criminal justice course. Along with these strategies, the humanistic criminal justice educator should always be on the lookout for simple stories or experiences that illustrate the humanity of those who are caught up in our system of justice. For example, a good friend of mine teaches Adult Basic Education classes at a large state prison. This prison is known for holding some of the state’s most dangerous prisoners. Several students in her class had just earned their GED and the class was celebrating their success with a day away from the books. The class greatly enjoyed a rousing game of “Outburst.” My students are always amused by the image of “hardened criminals” laughing, joking around, and playing a trivia game. Their amusement provides an opportunity to ask, “why wouldn’t they enjoy this game, it’s a lot of fun isn’t it?” This simple story and question, with no further elaboration needed, has a great deal of humanizing potential. The “us” versus “them” machinery is stopped cold by the image of murderers playing board games.

Perhaps this is the right time to humanize criminology. Immarigeon writes that “there are numerous cracks in the armor” that protects a criminal justice policy that relies heavily on repressive measures (1991:429). He argues that an “opening therefore exists to challenge and organize against the prevailing paradigm of justice” (1991:429). Criminology has “too often served the violence of criminal justice” (Quinney, 1993:8). Change is unlikely unless we, as criminologists, begin to challenge the dominant paradigm. This challenge need not involve major policy statements or ground breaking research. The tools to move toward a humanist criminology are more subtle and are easily available. These tools can be used to encourage future policy makers to resist pressures to demonize offenders. Instilling this resistance may be the best hope for creating a humanist, compassionate, and peaceful justice system.


Archer, D., Gartner, R., and Beittel, M. 1983. “Homicide and the Death Penalty: A Cross-National Test of a Deterrence Hypothesis.” Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 74, 991.

Baldus, D., Pulaski, C., and Woodworth, G. 1986. “Arbitrariness and Discrimination in the Administration of the Death Penalty: A Challenge to State Supreme Courts.” Stetson Law Review, 15, 133-261.

Becker, H.S. 1953. “Becoming a Successful Marihuana User.” The American Journal of Sociology, 59, 235-242.

Bedau, H.A. and Radelet, M.L. 1987. “Miscarriages of Justice in Potential Capital Cases.” Stanford Law Review, 40, 21-179.

Bruck, D. 1991. “Decisions of Death.” In J.H. Skolnick and E. Currie (eds.) Crisis in American Institutions, Eighth Edition. New York: Harper Collins.

Currie, E. 1992. Dope and Trouble. New York: Pantheon Books.

Dicks, S. (ed.). 1995. Young Blood: Juvenile Justice and the Death Penalty. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Duff, R.W. and Hong, L.K. 1989. “Management of Deviant Identity Among Competitive Women Bodybuilders.” In D.H. Kelly, (ed.) Deviant Behavior. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Goldstein, A. 1990. Delinquents on Delinquency. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

Immarigeon, R. 1991. “Beyond the Fear of Crime.” In H.E. Pepinsky and R. Quinney, (eds.) Criminology as Peacemaking. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Liazos, A. 1978. “The Poverty of the Sociology of Deviance: Nuts, Sluts, and Preverts.” Social Problems, 20, 103-120.

Mills, C.W. 1943. “The Professional Ideology of Social Pathologists.” The American Journal of Sociology, 49, 165-180.

Pearson, A. 1987. “The Grateful Dead Phenomenon: An Ethnomethodological Approach.” Youth & Society, 18(4), 418-432.

Pepinsky, H.E. and Quinney, R. (eds.) 1991. Criminology as Peacemaking. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Petrunik, M. and Shearing, C.D. 1996. “Stutterers’ Practices.” In E. Rubington and M.S. Weinberg, (eds.) Deviance: The Interactionist Perspective, Sixth Edition, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Quinney, R. 1993. “A Life of Crime: Criminology and Public Policy as Peacemaking.” Journal of Crime and Justice, 16(2), 3-9.

Radelet, M. (ed.). 1989. The Death Penalty: Essays on a Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Troyer, R.J. and Markle, G.E. 1984. “Coffee Drinking: An Emerging Social Problem?” Social Problems, 31(4).

Vonnegut, K. 1961. “Harrison Bergeron.” Reprinted in K. Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House (1988). New York: Laurel.


Dueling Paradigms: Modernist v. Postmodernist Thought


Dragan Milovanovic
Department of Criminal Justice
Northeastern Illinois University

(Revised version from Humanity and Society (19(1): 1-22, 1995; and revised in Dragan Milovanovic, Postmodern Criminology. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997)


In recent days, much has been said of a postmodernist analysis in the social sciences. Indeed, a number of comparisons occasionally arise in the literature between modernist and postmodernist analysis, usually as an introduction to some further study. Little, however, has appeared that takes as its primary goal a comparison of the two perspectives. Accordingly, this essay is more didactic and pedagogical in orientation. We have identified eight dimensions as a basis of comparison. Although presented as dichotomies, the differences often fall along a continuum; some tend toward further polarization, others become discontinuities, such as the differences between the centered and decentered subject, the privileging of disorder rather than order, the emphasis on Pathos rather than Logos, etc.

A considerable amount of literature from those who are committed to the modernist approach is of a defensive sort when confronted with the epistemological directions advocated by postmodernist analysis. The first tactic generally is to dismiss its claims as old wine in new bottles, followed by incorporating the postmodernist premises and concepts within the discourse of modernist thought. Much effort, then, is taken to undo the postmodernist’s concepts by way of a discursive reorientation, at the conclusion of which modernist thinkers hope to say, “There, I told you so! Old wine in new bottles!” This attempt fails, however, even though in some instances several modernist thinkers did in fact anticipate some aspects of the postmodern paradigm. It is necessary to recognize that postmodernist analysis is indeed premised on radically new concepts, and discursive redefinitions will not help further progressive thought in the social sciences. What we do have are dueling paradigms: the modernist versus the postmodernist.

Modernist thought had its origins in the Enlightenment period. This era was a celebration of the liberating potentials of the social sciences, the materialistic gains of capitalism, new forms of rational thought, due process safeguards, abstract rights applicable to all, and the individual it was a time of great optimism (Milovanovic, 1992a, 1994a; Dews, 1987; Sarup, 1989; Lyotard, 1984; Baker, 1993). Postmodernists are fundamentally opposed to modernist thought. Sensitized by the insights of some of the classic thinkers, ranging from Marx, to Weber, to Durkheim, Freud, and the critical thought of the Frankfurt School, postmodernist thought emerged with a new intensity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Let us wage a war on totality” states one of its key exponents (Lyotard, 1984: 82). Most of the key concepts of modernist thought were critically examined and found to be wanting. Entrenched bureaucratic powers, monopolies, the manipulative advertisement industry, dominant and totalizing discourses, and the ideology of the legal apparatus were seen as exerting repressive powers. In fact, the notion of the individual free, self-determining, reflective, and the center of activity was seen as an ideological construction, nowhere more apparent than in the notion of the juridic subject, the so-called reasonable man in law. Rather than the notion of the individual, the centered subject, the postmodernists were to advocate the notion of the decentered subject.

Postmodernist analysis had its roots in French thought, particularly during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Here, with the continued disillusionment with conventional critical thought a transition from Hegelian to Nietzschean thought took place. Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Foucault, Kristeva and many others were to emerge bearing the banner of postmodernist thinking. Feminists from the postmodern tradition were to become key thinkers. Such theorists as Irigaray, Moi, and Cixous were to apply much of this thought to gender construction. The central figure in developing alternative notions of the subject, the determining effects of discourse, and the nature of the symbolic order was Jacques Lacan. New-wave postmodernist thinkers are likely to draw from chaos theory, Godel’s theorem, catastrophe theory, quantum mechanics, and topology theory. Novel conceptions of space, time, causality, subjectivity, the role of discourse, desire, social structure, roles, social change, knowledge, and the nature of harm, justice, and the law were developed and continue to be developed in postmodernist thought. The call is for the abandonment of a center, privileged reference points, fixed subjects, first principles, and an origin (Sarup, 1989: 59).

This essay will outline the differences between the modernist and the postmodernist paradigm. As Thomas Kuhn said many years ago, paradigms tend to crystallize around key validity claims that become premises for scientific thought. “Normal science” tends to work out the implications of this general body of knowledge(s) through, for example, deductive logic. Occasionally, as in the case of postmodernist thought, a revolutionary new science with entirely new premises develops and becomes the body of knowledge from which new questions are asked and entirely new discoveries are made.

Modernist versus postmodernist thought

To clarify some of the more salient differences, we have selected eight dimensions for comparison. These dimensions include the nature of: (1) society and social structure, (2) social roles, (3) subjectivity/agency, (4) discourse, (5) knowledge, (6) space/time, (7) causality, and (8) social change. This essay will highlight the major differences that have emerged by the early 1990s. Accordingly, we will list the dimensions and comment briefly on each. We should add, whereas the modernist assumptions seem more descriptive, the postmodernist add a prescriptive dimension. Contrary to many modernist critics, postmodernism is not fatalistic, cynical, and nonvisionary; rather, what the new paradigm offers is a more intense critique of what is, and transformative visions of what could be.

1. Society and Social Structure

Key Concepts:

Modernist: equilibrium; homeostasis; tension reduction; order; homogeneity; consensus; stasis; normativity; foundationalism; logocentricism; totality; closure; transcendental signifiers; structural functionalism.

Postmodernist: far-from-equilibrium conditions; flux; change; chance; spontaneity; irony; orderly disorder; heterogeneity; diversity; intensity; paralogism; toleration for the incommensurable; dissipative structures; antifoundationalism; fragmentation; coupling; impossibility of formal closure; structural dislocations/undecidability; constitutive theory.


a. Modernist Thought. Much of the dominant literature of modernist thought can be traced to the work of structural functionalism or totalizing theory. Theorists such as Durkheim, Luhmann (1985) and Parson, stand out as exemplary. A good part of this literature rests on an underlying homeostatic, tension-reduction, or equilibrium model. Freud, for example, rests his views on some conception of tension-reduction as the operative force in social structural development. Perhaps we can trace much of this to Newtonian physics and its influence. The central question is one of order. It is seen as desirable without further explanation. In fact, some, such as Parsons, define deviance in terms of distance from some assumed acceptable standard of normativity.

Modernist thought is focused on totalizing theory the search for overencompassing theories of society and social development. Some discoverable foundation was said to exist. At the center, a logos was said to be at play; whether, for example, as in Weber’s forces of rationalization, Freud’s homeostasis, or as in Hegel’s Absolute Spirit. These logics slumbered in anticipation of their correct articulation. These were the transcendental signifiers that were discoverable.

Much of the often-mentioned consensus paradigm, too, can be placed within the modernist paradigm. Thus metanarratives are still replete with assumptions of homogeneity, desirability of consensus, order, etc.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought, although still emerging, and which initially found its basis in its critique of modernism, has found grounding in the insights of chaos theory, Godel’s theorem, catastrophe theory, quantum mechanics, emerging cosmological insights, topology theory, and Lacanian thought to name a few. Postmodernists begin their analysis with privileging disorder rather than order. Their starting point is paralogism: privileging instabilities (Lyotard, 1984). Accordingly, this model begins with far-from-equilibrium conditions as being the more “natural” state, and places a premium on flux, nonlinear change, chance, spontaneity, intensity, indeterminacy, irony, and orderly disorder. No permanent stable order is possible or even desirable. No center or foundation exists. Godel’s theorem (1962), describing the impossibility of formal closure, dictates that the search for an overall, all-encompassing totalizing theory is an illusory exercise. In fact, as we shall show below, since no precise center exists, or since no possibility exists for precisely specifying initial conditions, then, the process of iteration will produce disproportional and unanticipated effects.

“Dissipative structures” are offered as relatively stable societal structures that remain sensitive and responsive to their environment (Baker, 1993; see also Unger’s suggestion for the establishment of criticizable institutions, 1987; see also Leifer on organizational transformations, 1989). This concept implies both relative stability as well as continuous change (i.e., order and disorder). Contrary to structural functionalism and its privileging of homeostasis, postmodernists see the desirability of ongoing flux and continuous change captured by the notion of far-from-equilibrium conditions. It is within these conditions that dissipative structures flourish.

Accordingly, some have offered the notion of structural coupling and constitutive theory to explain the movement of information between structure and environment (Luhmann, 1992; Hunt, 1993; Jessop, 1990; Henry and Milovanovic, 1991, 1996). Implied is the coexistence of multiple sites of determinants whose unique historical articulations are never precisely predictable. Due to inherent uncertainties in initial conditions, iterative practices produce the unpredictable. Here, the focal concern is on tolerance and support for the incommensurable. Assumed is the existence of perpetual fragmentation, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Advocated is the facilitation of the emergence of marginalized, disenfranchised, disempowered, and other excluded voices. Noteworthy in the analysis of societal structure by way of postmodernist analysis is Unger’s work on an empowered democracy (1987), even if he didn’t explicitly state his affinity with postmodernist thought. In his offerings, orderly disorder should be privileged. During the 1960s and 1970s, the development of the conflict paradigm in the social sciences marked some movement toward the postmodernist approach, but the promise fell short.

Chaos theory is increasingly becoming a key element in postmodern analysis. The founding figures include Ilya Prigogine, Henri Poincare, Mitchell Feigenbaum, Benoit Mandelbrot, and Edward Lorenz (see the overview by Briggs and Peat, 1989; Gleick, 1987; Stewart, 1989). We find application of chaos theory to psychoanalysis (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987; Milovanovic, 1992a, 1993a); to literature (Serres, 1982a, 1982b; Hayles, 1990, 1991); to criminology (T.R.Young, 1991a; Pepinsky, 1991); to law (Brion, 1991; Milovanovic, 1993a); to psychology (Butz, 1991, 1992a, 1992b); to sociology (Young, 1991b, 1992; Baker, 1993); to business and management (Leifer, 1989); and to political science (Unger, 1987). Others such as Charles Sanders Peirce anticipated some dimensions of this approach (see especially his essay on the doctrine of chance and necessity, 1940: 157-73; and his notion of pure play or musement, 1934: 313-16).

Nietzschean and Lacanian thought, rather than Hegelian thought, are inspirational to postmodernist thinkers. Feminist postmodernists traced to the former have perhaps contributed the most important insights. Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and Toril Moi, to a considerable extent, have borrowed ideas from them in their elaboration of given phallocentric social structures and their possible alternatives (a useful overview is found in Sellers, 1991; Grosz, 1990; for an application in law, see Cornell, 1991, 1993; Milovanovic, 1994a: Chapter 6, 1994b).

2. Roles

Key Concepts:

Modernist: role-taking; socialization; integration; centripetal; closure; static; dichotomies; system serving; primacy to the “me”; limit attractors; symphony orchestra player.

Postmodernist: role-making; role-jumbling; variability; centrifugal; openness; porous boundaries; testing boundaries; primacy to the dialectic between the “I-me”; privileging the “I”; strange attractors; torus; jazz player.


a. Modernist Thought. The modernist view tends to rely on a Parsonian construct of a role in which centripetal forces of society socialize the person into accepting the obligations and expectations that pertain to him/her. This, then, becomes the question of functional integration. Accordingly, roles tend to become dichotomized male/female, employer/employee, good guy/bad guy, etc. In the specified balance of the I-me that many social theorists advocate (Durkheim, Mead, etc.), great weight is placed on the dominance of the “me,” that part of the self that dresses itself up with the persona demanded by the situation, struts upon the stage, and plays its part with various degrees of success to various audiences. A person is relegated to role-taking. The operative metaphor we offer is a member of a symphony orchestra.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists see things differently. Roles are essentially unstable and are in a dialectical relationship between centrifugal and centripetal forces. And this is desirable. Whereas roles in the modernist view would be similar to what chaos theorists refer to as limit attractors (they tend toward stereotypical closure), roles in postmodernist analysis would be very much like torus or strange attractors. A strange attractor can appear as two butterfly wings where instances of behavior may occur in one (i.e., a person’s conduct is situated in the illegal underworld), and in the other (i.e., a person’s conduct is in the legitimate world). Where the two cross, maximal indeterminacy prevails. When instances of behavior are plotted in phase space (a diagrammatical depiction), what appears over time is some degree of global patterning (the distinct wings of the butterfly), but at any instance, that is at any specific location, variability and indeterminacy prevail (from quantum mechanics’ uncertainty principle, one cannot at the same time predict location and momentum). There exists, in other words, local indeterminacy but a relative global stability, an orderly disorder. A person’s fate is relegated to role-making (Young, 1994).

In George Herbert Mead’s framework, role-making would indicate the active contribution of the “I.” Unger’s notion of role-jumbling would be another example (1987). Harraway’s idea of a postmodernist identity would be another (1991). Others have advocated a simultaneous disidentification and identification with various discursive subject positions, a process by which reidentifications are produced (JanMohammed, 1993; McLaren, 1994a). “It is…a process of forming affiliations with other positions, of defining equivalences and constructing alliances” (JanMohammed, 1993: 111). In fact, Lacan’s view is that the person is decentered and is always subject to imaginary and symbolic play, and therefore a stable moi is illusory. Stability can only be maintained by the impositions of external forces (i.e., manipulative powers of political forces and the advertisement industry; the violence of a phallocentric symbolic order, etc.). For the postmodernist view, the call is to be a jazz player and poet.

3. Subjectivity/Agency

Key Concepts:

Modernist: centered; the individual; transparent; reflective; self-directing; whole; positivistic; the “oversocialized” conception; juridic subject; homo-duplex; homoeconomicus; homeostatic; passivity; the “good,” interpellated, spoken subject; transcendental self; cartesian; cogito, ergo sum; logos; rational man; conscious, autonomous being; desire centered on lack.

Postmodernist: decentered subject; polyvocal; polyvalent; parljtre; l’jtre parlant; pathos; subject-in-process; schema L and schema R; subject of desire; activity; subject of disidentification; assumption of one’s desire; effects of the unconscious; positive/productive desire; will to power.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought has privileged the idea of the individual, a person who is assumed to be conscious, whole, self-directing, reflective, unitary, and transparent. In its extreme we have what had been characterized in the 1960s by Dennis Wrong and picked up in the critical literature as the “oversocialized conception of man.” Other conceptions cling to a homo-duplex view in which human nature is said to be a balance of egoism and altruism. Here individual desires are said to be in need of synchronization with given sociopolitical systems. Alternatively, we have homoeconomicus. The Enlightenment period was one in which the individual or the centered subject was discovered. This conception of the transcendental self, the cartesian subject, has been incorporated in the legal sphere as the juridic subject, the reasonable man/woman in law. Nowhere better has it been expressed than in Cogito, ergo sum. Desire, for the modernists, is inscribed on the body; it is territorialized (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). As Foucault would point out, the desiring subject becomes a body of passivity and economic/political utility (1977). Desire must be tamed, captured within the coordinates of various dominant discourses. Here desire begins with a lack, the price it pays for its inauguration into the Symbolic Order, and the biography of the self is one in which repetition drives the organism in its attempt to fill the void (see also Dews, 1987: 132, 135). In the more passive form of adaptation, the person is driven toward homeostasis, tension-reduction, catharsis, etc. The subject is said to be interpellated into her/his discursive subject-positions necessitated by the imperatives of a smoothly functioning socioeconomic political order. Thus we have the interpellated (Althusser, 1971), spoken (Silverman, 1982) or the good subject (Pecheux, 1982). In the more active form of adaptation, expressions of alienation, despair, resistance and opposition produce the oppositional subject caught within the “discourse of the hysteric” (Lacan, 1991a; Milovanovic, 1993a).

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought has offered the idea of the decentered subject. The subject is more determined than determining, is less internally unified than a desiring subject caught within the constraints of various discourses and their structuring properties. Kristeva has referred to the person (Bartlett and Kennedy, 1991a: 387-9) as the subject-in-process; Lacan, l’jtre parlant or the parljtre (the speaking being, or the speaking); and much African-American feminist analysis in law, for example, has argued for the polyvocal, polyvalent nature of consciousness (Harris, 1991: 235-62; Matsuda, 1989; Williams, 1987, 1991; Bartlett and Kennedy, 1991a: 387-9). Perhaps the clearest exposition of the decentered subject has been provided by Lacan in his schema L (1977). This four-cornered schema proposes two diagonally intersecting axes: one represents an unconscious/symbolic axis, the other the imaginary axis. Here the subject is drawn over all four corners of this schema; s/he is simultaneously caught in the working of the symbolic and imaginary axes. The unconscious/symbolic axis has at one end of the pole the grammatical “I”; at the opposite end, the Other, the sphere of the unconscious structured like a language. The second axis, the imaginary axis, has at one end the imaginary construction of the self (moi); the opposite end that of the other, the entity through whom the self establishes itself as a coherent (be it illusory), whole being. Lacan’s more dynamic models of Schema L appear as the “graphs of desire” and Schema R (1977; see also Milovanovic’s expose, 1992a; on Schema R, see Milovanovic, 1994a).

The modernist’s view of the subject often centers on the idea that desire emerges from “lack,” and is predicated on the need for keeping desire in check its free-flowing expression being said to be inherently subversive or disruptive in ongoing social activity.

The postmodernists add that the desiring subject is imprisoned within restrictive discourses; at one extreme in discourses of the master, where subjects enact key master signifiers producing and reproducing the dominant order; at the other, in the discourses of the hysteric, where despairing subjects find no adequate signifiers with which to embody their desire (Lacan, 1991a; Bracher, 1988, 1993; Milovanovic, 1993a, 1993b). Oppressive discursive structures interpellate subjects as supports of system needs (Althusser, 1971; see also Silverman’s analysis of the manipulative media effects, 1983). In either case hegemony is easily sustained.

Postmodernists offer both a more passive and a more active form of disruptions. In the more passive form, we have the notion of disruptive voices, such as in the notion of dilire, a disruptive language of the body (Lecercle, 1985, 1990); or in minor literatureand the rhizome (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986, 1987); or in the notion of noise or the parasite (Serres, 1982a: 65-70; Hayles, 1990: 197-208); or in the nonlinear discursive disruptions of the enthymeme that intrudes on any linear discursive constructions (Knoespel, 1985); or, finally, in Lacan’s notion of an alternative form of jouissance, a jouissance of the body, a view that initiated much debate over the desirability of an jcriture fjminine(Lacan, 1985: 145). In the more active form, postmodernists offer a dialogically based pedagogy whereby the cultural revolutionary or revolutionary subject enters a dialogical encounter with the oppressed in coproducing key master signifiers and replacement discourses that more accurately reflect the given repressive order (see Lacan’s discourse of the analyst in combination with the discourse of the hysteric, Milovanovic, 1993a; see also Freire, 1985; McLaren 1994a; Aronowitz and Giroux, 1985).

For postmodernists, desire can “be conceived as a forward movement, a flight towards an object which always eludes our grasp, the attempt, never successful but never frustrating, to reach the unattainable by exploring the paths of the possible” (Lecercle, 1985: 196). Here desire, contrary to merely responding to lack and being a negative, conservative force, is seen as equated with positive processes (Dews, 1987: 132, 135-6), a will to power, defined as “the principle of the synthesis of forces” (Deleuze, 1983: 50). Nietzsche, not Hegel, is the key figure. Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the rhizomebrings out the nonlinear paths taken by desire seeking expression at each level of semiotic production (Milovanovic, 1992a: 125-33).

For postmodernists, desire is liberating, joyous, ironic, playful, and a positive force. Ultimately, the “hero” (or Nietzsche’s overman as opposed to the common man [woman]), must avow her/his desire and act in conformity with it (Lacan, 1992: 309, 319-21; Lacan, 1977: 275; Lee, 1990: 95-9, 168-70; Rajchman, 1991: 42-3). 4. Discourse

Key Concepts:

Modernist: instrumental; uniaccentual; global; neutral; dominant; master/university discourse; primacy to paradigm/syntagm; major literature; readerly text; production/reproduction; referential signifier and text; privileging of master signifiers and “natural” categories; privileging noun forms.

Postmodernist: multiaccentual; fractal signifiers; regime of signs; discourse of the hysteric/analyst; linguistic coordinate systems; discursive formations; borromean knots; capitonnage; symptoms; objet petit (a); primacy to the semiotic axes metaphor/metonymy, condensation/displacement; minor literature; writerly text; nonreferential text; hyperreal; cyberspace; verb forms. Commentary: a. Modernist Thought. The Modernist paradigm assumes that discourse is neutral; it is but an instrument for use to express rationally developed projects of an inherently centered subject. In fact, some transcendental signifiers exist at the center of social structure and phenomena that are discoverable. Assumed, most often, is an ongoing dominant discourse that is seen as adequate for providing the medium for expression, whether for dominant or subordinate groups.

The couplet, the signifier (the word), and the signified (that which it expresses) are said to stabilize and crystallize in conventional understandings (uniaccentuality). Signifiers are more often said to be referential: they point to something outside themselves, to some “concrete” reality (naturalism). Modernists are more likely to assume these natural categories rather than treating them as semiotically variable concepts (the Sapir-Whorf linguistic relativity principle anticipated many of the insights of postmodernist analysis). Modernist discourse celebrates the noun rather than the verb forms (Bohm, 1980). It is much more likely to make use of master signifiers such as prediction, falsification, replication, generalization, operationalization, objectivity, value freedom, etc.; these are “givens” in investigations (Young, 1994).

Modernists are more likely to focus on the most conscious level of semiotic production. Consciously constructed discourses are coordinated by two axes: the paradigmatic axis, which is a vertical structure, if you will, that provides word choices, a dictionary of sorts. The horizontal axis, the syntagmatic axis, stands for the grammatical and linear placement of signifiers. The two axes work together to produce meaning. Debates that do question the nature of dominant discourses often are centered on the differences between an oppressive master discourse versus an ostensibly liberating discourse of the university (on the nature of the four main discourses master, university, hysteric, and analyst, see Lacan, 1991a; Bracher, 1988, 1993; Milovanovic, 1993a). The evolution of history, for the modernist thinker, is often seen as the progressive victory of the discourse of the university over the discourse of the master. Discursive production, in modernist thought, is much more likely to produce the readerly text (Barthes, 1974; Silverman, 1982) and major literature (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986). This text is a linear reading (or viewing) with the organizing principle of noncontradiction. Its goal is closure. Its effect is the production and reproduction of conventionality. Interpreters and viewers are encouraged to assume conventional discursive subject-positions and fill in the gaps by use of dominant symbolic forms. b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought does not assume a neutral discourse. There are many discourses reflective of local sites of production, each, in turn, existing with a potential for the embodiment of desire in signifiers and for the constructions of realities. The sign, composed of signifier and signified, finds its natural state as being in flux. The signified is multiaccentual, the site of diverse struggles (Volosinov, 1986). The paradigm-syntagm semiotic axis is only the most manifest level of semiotic production, the most conscious. Two other levels have been identified and work at the unconscious level: the condensation-displacement semiotic axis, and the metaphoric-metonymic semiotic axis (Milovanovic, 1992b, 1993b).

Desire, it is argued, begins at a deeper level of the psychic apparatus and undergoes embodiment for Freud, “figuration”; for Lacan, essentially “fantasy,” $ a by the contributory work (“overdetermination”) of these two axes they are the coordinating mechanisms which provide temporary anchorings to the floating signifiers found in the Other, the sphere of the unconscious , finally reaching the level of a particular historically rooted and stabilized discourse or linguistic coordinate system. It is here where final embodiment must be completed in the paradigm-syntagm semiotic axis (i.e., a particular word or utterance is vocalized). It was Freud who began this analysis with his investigation of dream work as the “royal road to the unconscious.” It was Lacan who added the metaphoric-metonymic semiotic axis. Much of the investigation of the effects of language by modernists is focused merely on the surface structure of paradigm-syntagm (in law, for example, see Greimas, 1990; Jackson, 1988; Landowski, 1991). Postmodernists identify the violence of language (Lecercle, 1985, 1990). Linguistic repression and alienation are the results of historically situated hegemonic discourses (see also the notion of the regime of signs of Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, and their notion of minor versus major literature 1986; see also Foucault’s notion of discursive formations and the epistemes 1973; Milovanovic’s notion of linguistic coordinate systems 1992a, 1992b; Pecheux’s notion of discursive formations, 1982).

Critically, as we have previously said (1992a), Lacan has offered four intersubjectively structured discourses (1991a; Bracher, 1988, 1993; Milovanovic, 1993a; Arrigo, 1993a, 1993b). Desire, it is argued, has various forms of embodiment in these structured discourses. Different discourses may, on the one hand, be manipulative and repressive in the expression of desire; and, on the other, offer greater possibilities of expression to these same desires.

Postmodernists would celebrate the writerly text (Barthes, 1974; Silverman, 1982). This text is seen as being more subversive than a readerly text. Encouraged in the viewer/interpreter is “an infinite play of signification; in it there can be no transcendental signified, only provisional ones which function in turn as signifiers” (Silverman, 1982: 246). For the writerly form, deconstruction of the text is celebrated with the purpose of uncovering hidden or repressed voices (consider feminist’s celebration of investigating “her/story” rather than history). This strategy, the postmodernists would say, is particularly important in a contemporary society characterized as producing the nonreferential and autonomous hyperreal (Baudrillard, 1981), and the new order of cyberspace (Gibson, 1984).

Similarly, Deleuze and Guattari (1986) have offered the idea of minor literature,which tends toward a deterritorialization, manifest in the carnivalesque genre or other forms expressive of dilire (Lecercle, 1985), such as in the writings of E.E.Cummings, Franz Kafka, and James Joyce. In this spirit, David Bohm (1980) has advocated the privileging and the further development of the verb over the noun form; this would allow us to transcend the limiting metaphysics and metanarratives embedded in subject-verbobject discursive forms (consider, too, Benjamin Whorf’s investigations of the Hopi language, 1956).

5. Knowledge

Key Concepts:

Modernist: global; dominant; discourse of the master and university; grand narrative; totalizing; binary (as in law); logos; education as liberating; Truth; privileging scientific knowledge; absolute postulates; axiomizability; deductive logic; banking education; closure.

Postmodernist: local; repressed voices; constitutive processes; metanarratives; power/knowledge; fragmented; contingent and provisional truths; Pathos; discourse of hysteric and analyst; knowledge for sale; education as ideology and functional; narrative knowledge; noise, the parasite; enthymemes; the rhizome; dilire; incompleteness; undecidability; dialogic pedagogy; abduction.


a. Modernist Thought. Enlightenment thought tended toward a totalizing Truth centered on an ostensibly discoverable logos. Driven by formal rational methods, one inevitably dominant and globalizing thought would result. Lyotard, for example, has explained how scientific knowledge has usurped narrative knowledge (1984; see also Sarup, 1989: 120-1; Hayles, 1990: 209-10; see also Habermas’ point concerning the establishment of new steering mechanisms based on power and money that fuel purposive rational action, 1987). Narrative knowledge, on the other hand, is based on myth, legend, tales, stories, etc., which provided the wherewithal of being in society (see also Habermas’ idea of communicative or symbolic communication, 1987). Whereas scientific knowledge tends toward closure, narrative knowledge embraces imaginary free play.

Lacan has provided the mechanism for the production of knowledge and the reconstitution of Truths in his analysis of the discourses of the master and university. For the former, knowledge and ideology are embedded in dominant discourse. Since this discourse is the one which is seen as relevant and since subjects must situate themselves within it, they too are subject to its interpellative effects (Althusser, 1971; Milovanovic, 1988a). Thus conventional knowledge is more likely to be reconstituted by way of the readerly text, major literature, or the discourse of the master and university. The search for Truth by the modernists was inevitably guided by the ideal of establishing Absolute Postulates from which all other “facts” can be explained by linear, deductive logic. Efficiency and competency in the educative process are geared toward a banking education whereby conventional master signifiers or their derivatives are stored to be capitalized (Freire, 1985).

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists, on the other hand, view knowledge as always fragmented, partial, and contingent (see also, Sarup, 1989; Dews, 1987; Lyotard, 1984). It always has multiple sites of production (Geertz, 1983). It is derived from a dialogic pedagogy where novel signifiers are coproduced in the process of critique and the development of a language of possibility (Freire, 1985). It is more likely to reflect Pathos, human suffering, than Logos. Since there are many truths and no over-encompassing Truth is possible (following Godel’s undecidability theorem, 1962), knowledge defies closure or being stored passively as in a banking education. In fact, following chaos’ idea of iteration, the unpredictable and unanticipated are likely to continuously appear.

Postmodernists celebrate local knowledge. Dominant and global knowledge always subverts voices that otherwise seek expression, either directly or indirectly; by the demand that all desire must be embodied within dominant concepts, signifiers, and linguistic coordinate systems, or by way of translation (intertextuality) from their more unique concrete form into abstract categories of law and bureaucracy. Postmodernists, however, view local knowledge(s) as not necessarily subsumable under one grand narrative or logic (Godel’s theorem).

Postmodernists view subjects within a social formation as thwarted in their attempts to be true to their desires. Even so, “space” does exist for possible articulation of desire. The destabilizing effects of noise, the parasite, the work of the rhizome, minor literatures, the nonlinear disruptions of enthymemes, and the subversive writerly text always threaten dominant forms of knowledge. Denied subjects may be oppositional, as in the discourse of the hysteric; or revolutionary, as in the discourse of the analyst/hysteric (Milovanovic, 1993a, 1993b). For postmodernists, knowledge is always both relational and positional (Kerruish, 1991). Accordingly, standpoints are always situated in social relations and within ideologies (p. 187). Power and knowledge are intricately connected and hierarchically arranged (see Dew’s useful discussion of Foucault, Nietzsche, Lyotard, 1987). To enter a discursive formation (legal, medical, scientific, political, etc.) is to enter the logic and rationality embedded within it (Foucault, 1973; Pitkin, 1971); thus, truth is discoursespecific.

Feminist postmodernist analysis has been poignant as to the explanation of the construction of the phallic Symbolic order, gender roles, and possible alternative knowledges (see especially Cornell, 1991, 1993; Brennan, 1993). Investigations on the contribution of the imaginary sphere and its possible impact on reconstructing myths have been illuminating (Arrigo, 1993b, 1993c). Constitutive theory has also offered the notion of replacement discourses (Henry and Milovanovic, 1991; Milovanovic, 1993a, 1993b). This new knowledge is based on contingent and provisional truths, subject to further reflection and historicity.

The notion of abduction offered by Charles S. Peirce is more accurately reflective of the postmodernist epistemology than deductive logic. Here, Absolute Postulates or major premises never achieve stability; rather, creative free play guides the formulation of tentative propositions. As Nancy Fraser and Linda Nicholson have said, postmodernist critique:

floats free of any universalist theoretical ground. No longer anchored philosophically, the very shape or character of social criticism changes; it becomes more pragmatic, ad hoc, contextual, and local…[t]here are no special tribunals set apart from the sites where inquiry is practiced, [but only] … the plural, local, and immanent (cited in Bartlett and Kennedy, 1991b: 388).

6. Space/Time

Key Concepts:

Modernist: three-dimensional space; integral; homogeneous; striated space; Newtonian mechanics; Euclidean geometry; Cartesian coordinates; quantitative; differential equations and continuities; reversibility of time.

Postmodernist: multidimensional; smooth; fractal; imaginary; quantum mechanics/relativity; implicate (enfolded) order; non-Euclidean geometry; holographic; topology theory; qualitative; twister space (imaginary); cyberspace; nonlinear; nonreversible time.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought rests on Newtonian mechanics. This classical view in physics rests on notions of absolute space and time. This in turn is connected with the existence of determinism within systems: if we know the positions, masses, and velocities of a particle at one time we can accurately determine their positions and velocities at all later times (Bohm, 1980: 121). Newtonian physics and Euclidean geometry, with its use of Cartesian coordinates, is the map or blueprint of space on which modernists construct the social world. It is what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as striated space (1987: 488): it consists of space with whole-number dimensions where constant direction can be describable and end-states predictable. Drawing from Descartes’ coordinate grid of an x-axis perpendicularly intersecting with a y-axis, a point could be located anywhere in two-dimensional space (similarly with 3-D space, with an added z-axis). Thus the equation, y = 3x, can be identified on this graph. At one stroke geometry and algebra are linked. And Newton refined this further with his calculus with its differential equations. Now a continuous change in one variable can be shown to produce a calculable change in the other. And just as time flows forward, it can flow backward in a predictable way: the romantic past, the “good old days,” can be re-created.

This model has been incorporated in the social sciences. A person’s life course, for example, could be plotted with precision if we could discover appropriate determinants. This is the basis of positivism. It is by a striated space (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987) that science progresses and by which desire can be territorialized on the body (1986) by a political economy. But striated space needs its discrete variables with whole-number dimensions.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists see things differently. Quantum mechanics, non-Euclidean geometry, string theory, twister space, topology theory, and chaos theory, to name a few of the most prominent approaches, have offered alternative conceptions. The question of a dimension and prediction becomes problematic. Nuclear physicists, for example, faced with trying to reconcile general relativity theory with quantum mechanics, have come up with infinities. By adding space dimensions to their equations, these begin to drop out of the equation. At 10-D in one model and 26D in another, they disappear (Peat, 1988; Kaku, 1994). The 3-D model we see is perhaps just an explicate order with the rest of the dimensions rolled up tightly (compactified). This compactified order is the enfolded or implicate order (Bohm, 1980), said to have its origins moments after the Big Bang.

Chaos theory has developed the idea of fractal dimensions. Rather than having whole dimensions we can refer to a space with 1= dimensions, 1 , etc. (A point has a dimension of zero, a line a dimension of one; a plane, two; a volume, three.) A coastline, for example, can have a fractal dimension between one and two. So, for example, contrary to the Boolean logic of doctrinal legal analysis, truths are always fractal in form. Deleuze and Guattari have developed the idea of a smooth space, which is continuous, not discrete. The notion of fractals is in accord with smooth space (1987), and, as we shall show below, fields. It is within smooth space that becoming occurs; but progress and conventional science is done in striated space (p. 486; see also Bergson, 1958; Serres, 1982a, 1982b).

Yet others, such as the noted mathematician Penrose, have constructed a view of space in terms of imaginary numbers, a twister space (Peat, 1988: Chapter 8; Penrose, 1989: 87-98). Chaos theorists, such as Mandelbrot, made use of complex numbers in the form of z = x + iy, where i is an imaginary number (the square root of -1). By further plotting z = z 2 + c and by taking the result and reiterating by the use of the same formula, they were to find enormously complex and esthetically appealing figures (see Penrose, 1989: 92-4). Yet others have relied on the hologram to indicate how inscriptions of phenomena are encoded and how they can be revealed with their multidimensional splendor (Bohm, 1980: 150; Pribram, 1977). Finally, we note the field of topology, the qualitative math which offers alternative ways of conceptualizing phenomena without the use of math. Here, in what is often called the “rubber math,” figures are twisted, pulled, and reshaped in various ways. Breaking and gluing are not legitimate operations. Breaking produces entirely new forms. Much current thinking in nuclear- and astrophysics relies on topology theory (Peat, 1988; Kaku, 1994).

Lacan has made use of topology to explain such things as the structure of the psychic apparatus by using borromean knots, Mobius bands, the torus, and projective geometry (the cross-cap) (see also Milovanovic, 1993b, 1994c; Granon-Lafont, 1985, 1990; Vappereau, 1988; for an introduction to topology theory, see Hilbert and Cohn-Vossen, 1952; Weeks, 1985; for non-Euclidean geometry, see Russell, 1956). In fact, in 4-D space the borromean knot of Lacan is no longer knotted. The cross-cap, which topologically portrays the working of schema R and how desire is embodied as a result of the effects of the Symbolic, Imaginary, and Real Orders, can also be presented in 3-D or 4-D space (Milovanovic, 1994c; Hilbert and Cohn-Vossen, 1952). It is not without effect when we move from 3-D to 4-D space (Rucker, 1984; Banchoff, 1990; for the contributions of nonEuclidean geometry and 4-D space on cubism in art, see Henderson, 1983). Much needs to be done in the analysis of the effects of these novel conceptions. Thus, for the postmodernists, several notions of space are currently being explored and incorporated in their analysis of the subject, discourse, causality, and society: multiple dimensional (Peat, 1988), fractal (Mandelbrot, 1983), holographic (Talbot, 1991; Bohm, 1980: Pribram, 1977), enfolded/implicate order (Bohm, 1980; Bohm and Peat, 1987), cyberspace (Gibson, 1984), hyperreal (Baudrillard, 1981), smooth space (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987), twister space (Penrose, 1989; see also Peat, 1988), and topological (Lacan, 1976, 1987a; Peat, 1988; Granon-Lafont, 1985, 1990; Vappereau, 1988; Milovanovic, 1993b, 1994c; Lem, 1984). T.R. Young has been succinct in indicating the relevance of these notions in that an alternative space is open for the development of conceptions of “human agency in ways not possible in those dynamics privileged by Newtonian physics, Aristotelian logic, Euclidean geometry and the linear causality they presume” (1992: 447). And there can be no return to the nostalgic “good old days”: time is irreversible; since initial conditions are undecidable, then, with the passage of time and iteration, there can be no return to some decidable state.

7. Causality

Key Concepts:

Modernist: linear; proportional effects; positivism; determinism; classical physics; I. Newton; “God does not play dice”; certainty; grand theorizing; predictability; future fixed by past; particle effects.

Postmodernist: nonlinear; disproportional effects; genealogy; rhizome; chance; contingency; quantum mechanics; uncertainty; iteration; catastrophe theory; paradoxical; discontinuities; singularities; field effects.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought rests on the determinism of Newtonian physics. It appears most often in the form of positivism. Modernist thought would assume that given some incremental increase in some identified cause or determinant, a proportional and linear increase in the effect will result. The basic unit of analysis is particles (i.e., assumed autonomous individuals, social “elements,” and discrete categories) and their contributory effects. The use of cartesian coordinates, whole-number dimensions, calculus, etc., in a few words, striated space, is what makes possible a highly predictive mathematics. Even Einstein refused to accept much of quantum mechanics that came after him, particularly the notion that God plays dice.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists see things differently. Chaos theory, Godel’s theorem, and quantum mechanics stipulate that proportional effects do not necessarily follow some incremental increase of an input variable. Uncertainty, indeterminacy, and disproportional (nonlinear) effects are all underlying assumptions and worthy of inquiry in explaining an event (genealogy). In the extreme, a butterfly flapping its wings in East Asia produces a hurricane in Warren, Ohio. Key thinkers here are Edward Lorenz, Benoit Mandelbrot, and Stephen Smale (see the excellent overview by Gleick, 1987; Briggs and Peat, 1989). In fact, in the extreme, something can emerge out of nothing at points identified as singularities; this is the sphere of order arising out of disorder.

Two current approaches within chaos theory are making their impact: one, focused more on order that exists in an otherwise apparently disorderly state of affairs (Hayles, 1991: 12; see Feigenbaum, 1980; Shaw, 1981); the second, focused more on how, in fact, order arises out of chaotic systems order out of disorder or self-organization (Hayles, 1991: 12; 1990: 1-28; see also Prigogine and Stengers, 1984; Thom, 1975). A growing number of applications is taking place. See particularly Unger’s application in his prescription for an empowered democracy (1987).

The notion of iteration is a central concept of postmodernism. Simply, it means recomputing with answers obtained from some formula. Continuous feedback and iteration produces disproportional (not linear) effects. Derrida has applied it to how words obtain new meaning in new contexts (1976; see also Balkan, 1987); in law, for example, the “original intent” of the “founding fathers” undergoes modification over time and can not be reconstructed. The point being made is that because of minute initial uncertainties however small, consider Godel’s theorem , when iteration proceeds these are amplified, producing indeterminacies (Hayles, 1990: 183; Lyotard, 1984: 55). Thus, rather than celebrating global theory, chaos theorists and postmodernists look to local knowledges, where small changes can produce large effects (Hayles, 1990: 211). In other words, postmodernists see otherwise small contributions as having profound possibilities. Yes, one “small” person’s actions can make a difference! One person’s involvement in a demonstration, petition signature, act of civil disobedience, or “speaking up,” can, in the long run, have greater effects than anticipated. Causation can be attributed to field rather than particle effects (Bohm, 1980; Bohm and Peat, 1987). Borrowing from Bohm’s insights concerning the quantum potential and the enfolded order where all is interconnected, rather than focusing, as the modernists do, on particles, points and point events, all of which are narrowly spatiotemporally defined (analogously, consider the subject in traditional positivistic sciences: an object, located socioeconomically, who has engaged in some act at a particular time and place), the unit of analysis, for postmodernists, should be a field with its moments, duration, intensities, flows, displacements of libidinal energy. Moments, unlike point events, have fluctuating time-space coordinates that defy precise measurement (Bohm, 1980: 207). Within this field, heterogeneous intensities can affect movement, even if they are not immediately discernible or linear and/or local. Nonlinear and nonlocal factors, therefore, even at a distance, can have a noticeable effect (Bohm and Peat, 1987: 88-93, 182-3). Research awaits in drawing out the implications of moving from 3-D to 4-D space, i.e., what is knotted in the former becomes unknotted in the latter (Rucker, 1984; Kaku, 1994; consider Lacan’s borromean knot in 4-D space, as discussed in Milovanovic, 1993b).

In the postmodern view, certainties that do appear are often the creation of subjects: Nietzsche has shown, for example, how a subject in need of “horizons” finds semiotic fictions that produce the appearance of a centered subject; Peirce, anticipating chaos, has shown how free will is often created after the event as the “facts” are rearranged to fit a deterministic model and individual authorship (1923: 47); legal realists, in the early part of this century, have shown that what creates order in legal decision-making is not syllogistic reasoning and a formally rational legal systems, but ex post facto constructions; and so forth. For postmodernists, especially Nietzsche and Foucault, it is the “fear of the chaotic and the unclassifiable” (Dews, 1987: 186) that accounts for the order we attribute to nature.

8. Social Change

Key Concepts:

Modernist: evolutionary; Darwinian; rationalization; linear; Absolute Spirit; dialectical materialism; praxis; Hegel; reaction and negation; reversal of hierarchies; reduction of complexity; stable premises for action; history as progress; variation, selection, and transmission; oppositional subject; discourse of the hysteric.

Postmodernist: genealogy; transpraxis; standpoint epistemology(ies); Pure Play/musement; rhizome; disidentification; play of the imaginary; dialectics of struggle; affirmative action; deconstruction and reconstruction; proliferation of complexity; premises of action based on tolerability; overcoming panopticism; d_pens_, mimeses; multiplicities of resistance to power; assuming one’s desire; dialogism; conscientization, language of possibility; revolutionary subject; discourse of the hysteric/analyst.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought often sees change in terms of evolutionary theory, in various versions of Darwinian dynamics, particularly in terms of some “invisible hand” at work, or some working out of a logic, as in the Absolute Spirit of Hegel, or in forces of rationalization as in Weber, or in dialectical materialism as in Marx. What often underlies these approaches is some linear conception of historical change. Perhaps praxis is the upper limit of modernist thought. In the most liberal modernist view, Hegel’s master-slave dialectic is a key parable of change. It is premised on reaction-negation dynamics. The slave (the oppressed) only creates value by a double negation. Nothing new is offered. The limits of an alternative vision remain tied to the initial logic of the major premise of the master-slave dialectic that falls on the side of the master. At best we have the oppositional subject who finds her/himself in the discourse of the hysteric, sometimes slipping into nihilistic and fatalist stances in neither case offering anything new; at worst, a subject that inadvertently recreates the dominant repressive order (hegemony). Modernist thought that often takes the form of evolutionary theory of change attempts to account for three phenomena: variation, selection, and transmission (Sinclair, 1992: 95; Luhmann, 1985: 249; see also Sinclair’s critique of evolutionary theory of law, 1987). Luhmann’s analysis is instructive. He tells us that the continuous differentiation of society tends to produce an excess of possibilities (1985: 237; see also Manning’s application to police bureaucracies and how diverse voices are channeled into “relevant” categories, 1988). Given this creation of excesses, law, Luhmann claims, functions to reduce complexity so that subjects may plan within certain discernible horizons which, in turn, produce predictability in social planning. Social change is therefore a linear affair with continuous adjustments of social institutions to continuous processes of differentiation.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought focuses more on nonlinear conceptions of historical change, genealogical analysis, and transpraxis, a materialistically based politics that includes a language of critique and possibility (Freire, 1985; McLaren, 1994a; Aronowitz and Giroux, 1985). Postmodernists are in general agreement that, in studying historical change, much room must be made for the contributions of contingency, irony, the spontaneous, and the marginal. Nietzsche, once again, is the dominant thinker (1980; see also Love, 1986; Deleuze, 1983).

Nietzsche’s version of the master-slave dialectic is key for postmodernists. Here, rather than reaction-negation dynamics as in Hegel, an inherently conservative approach, Nietzsche’s position advocates active change. This includes deconstruction and reconstruction as inseparable elements. This has been captured by the idea of a transpraxis rather than a praxis (Henry and Milovanovic, 1991, 1993b; Milovanovic, 1993b).

Most prominent in recent days are feminist postmodernist theorists who have built on various versions of Lacanian psychoanalytic semiotics as well as those who have developed a standpoint theory aided especially by numerous productive critiques. Accordingly, Cornell has identified the contributions of the imaginary and the rethinking of the myth (1991, 1993; Cixous, 1986; Arrigo, 1993a); Cornell (1991: 147) and Grant (1993: 116) have noted that given ideologies “leave some critical space” or “slippage” (in this context Peirce’s notion of musement or pure play is also relevant [1934: 313-16]); Kristeva has focused on the idea that semiotic processes that are situated in the form of the readerly text of Barthes are faced with semiotic overflow at privileged moments specified as the subversive triad: “madness, holiness and poetry” (cited in Grosz, 1990: 153); Pecheux has focused on the notion of dis-identification (1982); Irigaray on mimeses(1985; see also Cornell’s commentary, 1991: 147-50); Lacan on the discourse of the analyst (1991a; see also Bracher, 1993); Milovanovic on the revolutionary subject (composite of the hysteric and analyst, 1993a) and on knot-breaking (1993b). Some current trends in postmodernist analysis draw out the implications for social change from Freire (1985), whose work lies between modernist and postmodernist analysis. The wherewithal of the revolutionary subject and social change may be fruitfully situated in the integration of Lacan’s work on the discourse of the hysteric/analyst with Freire’s notion of conscientization rooted in social struggles over signification. In this integration, structure and subjectivity, material conditions and ideology, the macro and the microsociological, critique and visions for change, undecidability and decidability, can be reconciled. The signifier can be rooted in the concrete, historical arena of struggles; it can attain provisional decidability and a contingent universality in producing utopian visions of what could be, and contribute, by way of a dialogic pedagogy, to the subject-in-process (generally, see, McLaren, 1994a; Ebert, 1991a; Zavarzadeh and Morton, 1990; Butler, 1992).

Postmodernists, too, are concerned with the possible negative and unintended effects of struggles against oppression and hierarchy. Reaction-negation dynamics may at times lead to what Nietzsche referred to as ressentiment as well as to new master discourses, forms of political correctness, exorcism (Milovanovic, 1991b), and dogma. Transpraxis, however, has as a central element the privileging of reflexivity of thought and the specification of contingent and provisional foundational political positions for social change (i.e., contingent universalities can become the basis for political alliances and agendas for change, McLaren, 1994a).

Among ethical principles that may come into play, for the postmodernists, perhaps Lacan’s idea of “assuming one’s desire” will become a key one. Faced with the passivity of the common man (woman), Lacan advocates that the hero is the one who does not betray her/his desire; meaning, s/he will act in conformity with it and not embrace the offerings of manipulative powers that offer an abundance of substitute materials, or what Lacan referred to as objets petit(a) (Lacan, 1992: 309, 319-21; Lacan, 1977: 275; Lee, 1990: 95-9, 168-70; Rajchman, 1991: 42-3). Here, the productive use of desire is advocated, not one based on lack, tension-reduction, and stasis. Thus a sociopolitical system that maximizes the opportunities for avowing one’s desire is a good one; conversely, hierarchical systems, whether under the name of capitalism or socialism, that systematically disavow subjects’ desire, are bad ones. Elsewhere, a postmodernist definition of crime/harm has been offered based on harm inflicted (Henry and Milovanovic, 1993a).

Postmodernists faced with the question of variation, selection, and transmission, opt for the development of the greatest variation, the most expansive form of retaining local sites of production, and the most optimal mechanisms for transmission. Accordingly, faced with an increasingly differentiating society with “excesses in possibilities,” and the modernist’s call for ways of reducing complexity the most extreme form being in pastiche (Jameson, 1984; Sarup, 1989: 133, 145), an imitation of dead styles as models for action , the central challenge of the postmodernist alternative is to create new cultural styles that privilege chance, spontaneity, irony, intensity, etc., while still providing some dissipative horizons within which the subject may situate her/himself.


This essay has presented some of the salient differences between modernist and postmodernist thought. Contrary to modernist critics, a new paradigm is upon us. And it is neither fatalistic nor nihilistic; nor is it without visions of what could be. We were especially concerned with the possibilities of a new transpraxis and the development of replacement discourses. It might be argued that the postmodernist paradigm may take on the form of a normal science and tend toward closure. But, unlike the modernist enterprise, there are intrinsic forces that militate against closure and stasis.


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Empathy Works, Obedience Doesn’t


Hal Pepinsky
Criminal Justice
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405  USA



It has been just over a decade since I turned explicitly to studying how to make peace instead of making war on crime and violence.  Criminology and criminal justice are essentially negative enterprises, about what not to do, about why we do what we should not, about how to stop us from doing wrong. In studying peacemaking I sought to understand how we get the kind of human relations we DO want.  Essentially, I seek to understand how we become safer in the face of violence.  I want to find out what safety is and how we get more of it with one another.  There are many other words we use for the opposite of being enmeshed in violence–security, community, compassion…I like “safety” because it is such a plain, blunt word.

I began my explicit inquiry into peacemaking by stating a theory that peace supplanted violence whenever interaction became “responsive” (Pepinsky 1988; expanded in Pepinsky 1991).  While violence and the fear and pain it engenders came from people pursuing their own independent agendas and objectives regardless of how others were affected, responsiveness was interaction in which actors’ personal agendas shifted constantly to accommodate others’ feelings and needs.  Responsiveness was how people acted in participatory democracy, which Paul Jesilow and I had earlier proposed as the way to “make people behave” instead of punishing criminality (Pepinsky and Jesilow 1992 [1984]: 127- 38).  Thus enterprise would become safer and more honest if tax incentives and other subsidies supported worker/client- democratically-owned-and-operated businesses; prisons would become safer if democratically governed as Tom Murton (1968)- -who became “Brubaker” in a movie–did in the mid-sixties in Arkansas; and responses to crime and violence like Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs (VORPS) built safety by encouraging victims and offenders to have community support in creating their own ways into secure community life–as Christie (1977) had put it, to own their own disputes.  In all our proposals, democratization was the path to peace.

In Montreal in 1987 at the Third International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA III), I was also made aware of three parallel streams of thought in action:  radical feminism as Kay Harris had propounded it at ICOPA II in 1985 (revised statement in Harris 1991), “abolitionism” as propounded by Knopp et al. in 1976 as represented in her Safer Society Program for victims of sexual violence and for offenders (Knopp 1991), and “restorative justice” beginning under Mennonite auspices with establishment of VORPs first in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1974, and in Elkhart, Indiana, in 1977 (Zehr 1990).  At about this time, aboriginal alternatives to prosecution and punishment were beginning to gain recognition; in 1989, New Zealand adopted Maori ways, offering “family group councils” to all young people petitioned into juvenile court for delinquency–circles including family and friends of victims and offenders, sitting in a circle with officials and lawyers, convened by a social worker (Consedine 1995).  All these strands focused on the harm done by crime and violence in tearing both victims and offenders from reciprocally trustworthy relations with others, on trying to repair the damage caused by violence rather than focusing on identifying, isolating, separating, and punishing the offender.  This body of work has been summarized in a special issue on “The Phenomenon of Restorative Justice,” inaugurating the journal Contemporary Justice Review (Sullivan 1998).

Richard Quinney, I, and our contributors began drawing these strands of thought and action together into a field we labeled Criminology as Peacemaking (Pepinsky and Quinney 1991).  I have since tried to gain understanding of basic mundane elements by which people make peace in place of violence. I have found one set of accounts of how to make peace in place of violence which to me precisely describe the basic structural elements of peacemaking.  These accounts describe the Navajo world view in which “peacemaking courts” have been constituted by the Navajo Supreme Court. 

Navajo Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Yazzie (1998) has been joined by Zion (1985) and Gross (1996) in describing how the court functions.  The peacemaker, recognized by community members as “someone who thinks well, speaks well, thinks well, and shows by his or her behavior that the person’s conduct is grounded in spirituality” (Yazzie 1998: 125), follows a mediation process which culminates in a circle, joined by individuals aggrieved and their clans, and individuals who have aggrieved and their clans.   The peacemaker begins a conversation about violence which simply moves around the circle, each individual free either to speak or to pass the floor to her or his left.  Each time the conversation returns to the peacemaker, s/he summarizes what has been said, and may and in all probability will continue round the circle again and again.  At any time the peacemaker may pass the floor to a particular member of the circle, who may then pass as asked.  To the Navajo, violence is a matter of imbalances of power in interaction.  All human interaction is viewed as a conversation.  When any person or group in interaction monopolizes the conversation, the conversation–in Navajo terms–becomes imbalanced.  Peace is restored by balancing the conversation henceforth.  Everyone leaves a truly balanced conversation free to choose what s/he does next.  To the Navajo as to me, it is a contradiction in terms to make someone responsible; rather, a peacemaking process liberates one’s heart to be in tune with others and to continue taking turns in interaction.  Participating in a balanced conversation stimulates one’s assumption of responsibility.

Wagner-Pacifici (1993) has analyzed transcripts of negotiations between MOVE and the City of Philadelphia, confirming the hypothesis that violence escalated and eventually erupted as MOVE members’ voices and concerns were taken out of officials’ conversations in the negotiation process.  As Fisher et al. (1992) depict peacemaking in international diplomacy, “getting to yes” entails “moving from position to interest.”  The quarrel over position is, to borrow Anglo legal terminology, over whether a party has “standing to be heard.”  Parties are able to move to inventing ways to accommodate one another’s concerns once they take for granted that everyone’s interests equally deserve airing and hearing.  Again, balanced participation in conversations among those who live with the consequences is the essence of making peace.

My recent published work has been directed toward describing how balancing conversations in response to personal violence makes us safer and more secure, in everyday life (Pepinsky 1998a), in criminological research (Pepinsky 1998b), and where legal protection against personal violence fails (Pepinsky 1995).  In this work, I focus on the basic substance of peacemaking–to what it is that happens as our conversations become more balanced, to what safe results are.

Here I discuss what safety IS.

I propose that safety is essentially the enjoyment of empathy of others, while from a warmaking point of view safety is essentially a state of perfect obedience.  I am not a prophet, and so I don’t propose whether at any moment we will do what makes us safer rather than threatening us with greater violence.  I do propose what safe relations are when we manage to build them, that is, as we make peace.  My thesis about what reduces the threat of violence and yields safety in its place is simply this: empathy works, obedience doesn’t.

REMORSE AND EMPATHY We are born with the capacity to ask for help, and the capacity to offer a loving gaze or embrace.  That much is undisputed.  To the degree we regard childrearing as a warrior’s duty to command a child’s obedience, parental duty lies in suppressing inappropriate or intolerable expressions of feeling and commitment.  We justify parental war on children on grounds that adults know better than children what children should feel, say, and do.

In my home culture parents speak with fear of handling “terrible twos” and adolescence.  And from a warrior’s point of view, in both cases, it is vital that the parent establish that s/he is in charge.  Good children do as they are told. When children do bad, they need–in the current local cliche- -to be “given consequences,” as though hurting someone isn’t consequence enough in itself to deal with.  And when we are thus “disciplining” our children, what sign of having become trustworthy do we look for first and foremost?  Remorse.

“I’m sorry.  I know it was stupid.  I’ll never do it again, promise.”

Remorse is the widely known best chance of talking one’s way out of a speeding ticket.  Remorse is the primary objective of criminal prosecution.  When, shortly after the death of Mao Zedong, criminal codes were enacted in China in 1978, Chinese legislators were berated by colleagues of mine in the U.S. for virtually requiring criminal defendants to confess guilt at trial or face dire consequences.  I noted at the time how we in the U.S. do the same; woe to the criminal defendant who demands to go to trial and (as most do) loses (Pepinsky 1980). I suffer watching defendants plead guilty in local courts. It is such a humiliating experience, assuring the judge count by count that yes, your honor, I have done it and know it was wrong and have no excuse for my behavior…Thus the judge leaves a clean record that the plea is “free and voluntary.” We put a premium on obedience.  We do so to our peril, I believe.

Alice Miller (1990 [1983]) calls commanding obedience “poisonous pedagogy.”  It is poisonous pedagogy, as her book title suggests, to make a child feel or do something for his or her own good.  “Stop whining, you know this is good for you!”  You learn that to please the parents you spontaneously love and want to please, to say nothing of to avoid pain and rejection, you smile when you are supposed to, you say the right thing, no matter how tempted you are to protest or show fear or pain.  You learn, in other words, to lie.  The poison in this pedagogy is that we teach ourselves as children to lie, to dissociate from our own feelings and inclinations, to bury them, to reject our own true selves.

Nothing is more fundamental to safe social relations than honesty.  Insofar as we manage to bury our true feelings and respond–mechanically–as instructed, we are essentially what psychiatrists in my culture these days call sociopathic.  We are essentially expedient.  We are, as Miller argues using Hitler and a serial sadistic killer as case studies, in the dissociated frame of mind in which Milgram’s (1973) demonstrated enough “obedience to authority” to try to give lethal shock to stooges who begged for their lives.

Short of being murdered or severely disabled, vaginal or anal rape is a fair candidate for being the form of criminal personal violence we fear most.  Those who have raped who talk about it characteristically express surprise that those they have raped are complaining, thinking, “They asked for it,” or, “They deserved it.”  While those being raped fear that their attacker is so out of control that “he could kill me!” those who are raping are oblivious to the pain and fear they cause.  They simply dissociate from their companion’s pain and terror.  That dissociation is the mechanism by which violence continues and repeats itself.

At the other end of the spectrum from those who subordinate others wantonly to those who conform to our norms, how are you supposed to trust the yes-person who assures you that “I’ll be there for you”?  At one end of the spectrum, personal violence does not happen unless the assailant dissociates.  At the other, you don’t know whether you can count on anyone who has had to learn to turn her or his true feelings off and tell you what s/he thinks you want to hear.  This is what Alice Miller tells us that poisonous pedagogy– doing and feeling as you’re told–produces.  When the conformist who tells you “I’ll be there for you”  feels the demand to shift allegiance to some other power figure at your expense, you lose.  The promise is not really a promise.  The promise is oriented toward an external set of rewards and punishments, which may shift with political winds, not toward your needs.  The promise is an act of obedience, not of empathy.  One common promise for obedience sake is to apologize for one’s violence and promise never to do it again.

It is remarkable that we so venerate remorse.  Remorse is in thorough disrepute among those who work with those victimized by so-called domestic violence.  In the run-of-the-mill cycle of repeated assaults, each assault is followed by a “honeymoon period” in which the assailant expresses remorse, says he’s sorry, tries to do anything to make it up.  Those who work with those who most regularly are battered, including those who are routinely raped, regard remorse as worthless.  Experience tells them so.  I find it quite remarkable that we can find remorse in our subjects, such as criminal defendants and children, so reassuring.

Conversely, empathy may supplant violence with no remorse expressed.  A friend recently described to me how she had found safety in the company of a mother who had chronically emotionally abused her.  This friend, who in my view has done a heroic job of balancing compliance with court orders and protecting herself and her children from apparent violence, had stopped calling her mother because her mother would invariably combine two themes: what is so wrong with you that all this trouble keeps happening?  and you’re not showing me you love me.

My friend’s father had told her that her mother has cancer, and that metastasis had set in.  Her mother had started going shopping with her.  One of the faults the mother had criticized my friend for was for compulsive shopping.  That stopped.  They don’t talk about Lynnette’s problems.  They don’t talk about the cancer either.  Her mother doesn’t complain to her daughter at all, bent instead on enjoying time together looking for bargains and such.  Her mother’s behavior is what I would call “responsive”: she by her action demonstrates what hurts her daughter and responds instead to what her daughter enjoys.  My friend and I agree that her mother is demonstrating a reliable commitment to saying goodbye on good terms.  The mother’s conduct combines a hardnosed projection of how the mother herself wants to die with attentiveness to what truly makes her daughter feel safe in her mother’s company.

Since having supposed that empathy might be a reliable ground upon which to build trust and become safe in others’ company, I have noticed how hard it is for those who are at risk of continuing emotional or physical assaults to fake empathy.  Remorseful violators can go on and on about how terrible THEY feel over how they hurt you, but until they become honest with themselves and you about getting what they want, they suffer emotional attention deficit disorder.  If they do get forced to talk about how they think you feel and what they think you want, it just won’t sound like you to you.  I have learned to depend on empathy to decide whether I can afford to let down my guard with others.  Empathy may come and go, of course, mine included.  It is not that the world can be separated into empathic and sociopathic people.

Rather, empathy indicates that any of us can be depended upon to be responsive rather than untrustworthy while any of us shows it.  Empathy amounts to letting others’ true selves into our conversations, and when we do so, we are literally there WITH others, in a frame of mind to notice others’ fear and pain and offer validation and reassurance.

In recent years I have gotten to know a number of children and parents caught in struggles over evidence that the children are seriously assaulted by parents, to know large numbers of those who describe having been raised in horrendous violence, commonly known as ritual abuse, and to know a number of those who have treated people for the trauma such violence leaves behind.  I have gotten to know these people in the context of offering a seminar on children’s rights and safety and another class in which I introduce peacemaking.  I invite a number of them to these classes.  I seldom have money even to cover their travel expenses, but I do offer my home to those who stay overnight.  Among these guests is a woman who I believe indeed was born in a prominent cult bloodline, and long after she thought that she had renounced the occult, still got “triggered” into an “alter” state to impose “discipline” on member groups in a multi-state region for twenty years thereafter.  I asked my students how they felt about my inviting her, and several survivors of like violence whom she has taken in, into my home.  Some were outraged and dismayed that I could do so.  I sent their comments to my friend, who wrote back a long letter.

The letter, which I have shared with my students and others, is not long on remorse.  My friend says that she herself did hands-on “sacrificing” of people only until she rose high enough to let others do it instead, that she did it without feeling knowing that she would be killed if she did not.  She explicitly distinguishes herself from despicable serial killers like Ted Bundy.

She also describes going through books of pictures of missing children, looking to see whether she recognizes any of her victims.  She offers assistance to law enforcement, including telling them about her past (which is unprosecutable because bodies would not be found).  She takes in others trying to escape.  She is in touch enough with what she now regards as an alien part of herself–the part that could be triggered and called out to cult activity–that she ensures that she is always in safe company, so that she has no chance to “lose time,” as happens when people switch among multiple personalities.  In so doing she is in touch with her real self, just as she pays attention to others.  On her own initiative, she started visiting a prisoner with whom I have been corresponding for some years.  She not only shows sensitivity and empathy for those in whose company I see her; ultimately she shows empathy for me.  She is for instance scrupulous about honoring my request to come and go to suit my family schedule.  She and her guests notice and express appreciation even for little demonstrations of hospitality.

Noticing their empathy, I am confident that they will in no way hurt me or my family.  Their displays of empathy are exercises in personal responsibility–in becoming different from the way they were when they tortured and killed others.

To become responsible and empathetic, you have to have confidence in the value and legitimacy of your own feelings and needs.  So my friend may show some remorse implicitly by having tried for instance to identify her victims, but my safety with her now in my judgment rests on her knowing that it was a part of her that she now considers alien, that she knows that basically she is better and more trustworthy than the part of her that formerly hurt others.  You have to like and accept a part of yourself that you do not dissociate from in order to be honest with others about what you do feel and want, and it appears to me in this and other cases that one’s empathy sets in only as one feels one can be oneself without being rejected for it.  Trying to induce remorse and shame is therefore counterproductive, for success in shaming lies in making one loathe and reject and demean oneself.  In shame, one may either choose a safe, loving, vulnerable target such as one’s child and lash out in anger, just split off from attention to the subject’s feelings and let the rage out.  It is easy to imagine that when one is on the receiving end of such an outburst, it feels as though you’re going to die.  In the numbness and shame that follows victimization, shame may do more than bottle up rage for politically convenient outbursts.  One may adapt by concluding that in this world such as it is, you don’t deserve or cannot expect better than to hang onto one’s abuser.  The patterns protective mothers describe to me indicate that those who aim to prey on “their” children pick out women who have been beaten into feeling responsible for being violated, into feeling that it was their worldly, religious duty to serve men (generally) who degraded them, and then beat them.

In neither case does shame help one’s affliction. 

Martyrdom and servitude are inherently instrumental. Empathy is not.  Empathy is an openness to new experience, a relaxing of preconceptions as to what is expected, in English metaphor, an opening of the heart.  In Buddhist terms it is pure life(-giving) energy, compassion in action.  As Quinney (1991) tells us, we end suffering by noticing it and responding openly.  Elements of empathy are captured in this saying attributed to the Navajo, which I have posted in bold letters outside my office:  





Attachment to outcome means that you know, before you hear from others, what needs to be done.  If you already know what needs to be done, you have nothing to learn from listening to others before your next move, in terms of what most demands your attention.  Your priorities are not up for discussion.

The energy in compassion or empathy lies in learning something new to do by listening to those who will most be affected by what you do next.  Empathy is a suspension of one’s agenda to “pay attention” to what they say, and to let their feelings soak into one’s own conscious nervous energy.

Empathy begins with unencumbered listening (Pepinsky 1998a).  Of course, in order to pay attention you have to “show up”– or as I hear people in my daughter’s generation say, “be there.”  You have to show interest and solicit voices of those voices are least heard in whatever setting or reference group you find yourself, in order to introduce balance into the conversation–the structural manifestation that peace is being made.

Our ultimate cultural barrier to substituting empathy for obedience is our presumption that adults know more than children.  In a sense of course, that is true.  But as children, we have some vital gifts of our own to add to conversations.  Chief among these is our blatantly honest desire to please and be accepted by adults.  We bring honesty to conversations, unless adults shut us down.  We may be the first to cry when we are all scared.  We may be the first to relax and pay attention at school when the parents we so much want to please stop scaring each other.  Adults who leave “their” children out of their conversations are prone to impose lessons gained from experience, including having to lie, as Alice Miller puts it for the children’s “own good.” How blind.  How damaging to the very gift of empathy the child spontaneously offers to our conversations.

Norway is a second home to me.  There at the dinner table in party company, children are almost ritually brought into conversations, to describe their worlds in their own terms, as adults pay attention.

As adults share among themselves what they hear as they pay attention to children, adults legitimize in safe company reliving traumas of their own childhoods.  I have seen this happen time and again, as mothers trying to protect their children recognize ways in which, as children themselves, they too were sexually assaulted by someone they loved and trusted.  Without magically fixing their children’s problems, I have seen them and their children gain strength–as in the case of eating disorders literally gaining weight.  These mothers have the greatest respect for the honesty, courage, and wisdom of their children.  That is their primary solace.

This, to me, is truly a break in an intergenerational cycle of violence and victimization. I sense that as growing numbers of children and adult survivors share stories, validate one another, and speak out, we will overcome our ignorance of what our children, including the children buried in our adult selves, have to teach us.  That will be the profoundest peacemaking of all.

In the mid sixties in law school I learned that a minority of states were setting a national trend, permitting “no- fault” divorces.  The common-law rule, in effect in New York State at the time, was that one could obtain a divorce only if one’s spouse committed a statutory offense (adultery in New York), and if one had “clean hands.”  So if one spouse sued another for divorce proving adultery, and the other spouse proved that the plaintiff was also committing adultery, the law required that family to be reunified, unless perhaps they consented to separate for an extended period and then ask for a divorce together.

Women’s shelters started opening up not long after.  And in growing numbers, women do leave battering relations.  From what I know of where custody disputes began (as by Children of the Underground founder Faye Yager in 1973; Carpenter and Dietrich 1997), children whose fathers were established in communities in the middle class or higher first began to feel safe enough to talk to mothers, who felt detached enough to believe what they heard rather than telling their children to stop telling lies.  And in therapy, adults began to talk about the violence of their own childhoods and be heard, especially by women’s advocates.  (One sad void, for instance, is in support groups for male survivors of childhood incest.)  Surveys were first conducted asking people how often they had been sexually assaulted by someone they knew in the late eighties.  And so, I would say, out of the movement to allow women to leave men who beat, rape, and threaten them, we have liberated children’s voices of victimization into public discourse.

The results are scary.  What amounts to unrelenting torture of children once plainly described suddenly seems as though it might be happening all around us.  As I see it, this is an awakening of our empathy for childhood, our own included.  As we recognize that children have as much to offer in decisions that affect them as adults, our children will free themselves of violence more readily.  All it takes, actually, is for a single adult whom the child manifestly likes and laughs with to offer the child sanctuary from any adult whose company scares the child, and for other adults to let sanctuary happen (Bianchi 1994).  There you have the fundamental prerequisite of any child’s safety.  This may be hard to achieve in a warring world, but people do achieve small bits of empathy do provide remarkable measures of safety.  One survivor of cult torture, led by her socially and politically prominent father, remembers a fifth-grade teacher looking at her as though she understood that something wrong was being done to her.  That bit of empathic connection carried her forward until she broke from the cult, and for years since has been for instance in a very fulfilling and safe marriage.

A small dose of sanctuary can be life-sustaining.

The bad thing about scary news is that it makes you feel that you have to shut the problem down.  I have testified in one case in which a judge actually ordered children NOT to be in counseling so that they would stop saying bad stuff about their father; I know of many others like it.  All this is in the guise that children are causing trouble for themselves by threatening sacred family bonds.  It is terrifying to think that if we probe enough in our very own families, we may discover that a valued relative was Jekyll and Hyde, or that a monster may lurk in our child’s daycare center or school.

As I hear individuals whom I know in other contexts talk about how violence in the home including violence by children is getting out of hand, I am struck that the tone and substance of the protest is like that of someone confronting any personal feeling or fear that s/he has denied.  It is inherently scary to emerge from denial of a problem, all the more so when one’s denial amounts to cultural blindness.  And yet, I see that as progress toward safety, in which each of us learns to create families of choice rather than just doing our ancestral duties.  As I see it, record numbers of children and adult survivors are sharing stories and being heard about problems that for millenia in our European ancestry at any rate were almost totally buried.  As DeMause (1982) traces it, children in Europe and Euro-America were not legally and politically recognized as people to whom adults owed any duty until about a hundred years ago.  So we have come a long way.

We can of course follow the same principles of making peace in any company, with or without children.  Basically though, our defenses against forsaking duty for empathy lie embedded in the violence we suffer as children.  We may join the mob in going after this or that public villain, but at root, in areas of our lives remote from police and legal surveillance, we are most likely to be trapped in violence or safe from it. Empathy and honesty pay off anywhere in daily or political life.  By “showing up” and “paying attention” to the voices of our childhood, we most directly accomplish the safety which Karl Marx (1963) called “human emancipation.” In the Navajo saying, “telling the truth” refers to honesty.

If you want someone honestly to talk about his or her reaction to having committed a crime, you don’t set up plea bargaining ceremonies of remorse in order to draw out how the offender honestly feels and believes.  The condition for honesty is essentially acceptance of this principle: When I ask you for truth, I grant you the responsibility of how next what you tell me gets used.

This condition sets the principle behind “Incidents Teams” established by the dean of students office on my home campus of Indiana University.  I am delighted to have representatives of the nearly decade-old Racial Incidents Team, and Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Anti-Harassment Team make presentations in my classes on “social control.”  The Racial Incidents Team invites people to report harassment or crimes committed against them which appears based on race or ethnicity, or on religious beliefs.  The GLB Anti-Harassment Team invites reports of gaybashing (whether or not the person victimized is gay).  Among other things the teams annually publish summaries of every incident reported annually.  Each is a team of professional staff who first invite each complainant to elaborate, and then brainstorm options as to what the complainant might do further.  The options are diverse and imaginative, ranging from education to notification to invoking disciplinary or legal processes.  It is up to the complainant to ask the Team to help her or him implement the package of the complainant’s choice.

In most cases, complainants are satisfied to have the report on file, and want to go no further.  Team members report occasional frustration when for instance a complainant declines to report a crime to police or the prosecutor.  But the rule of confidentiality and abiding by complainant wishes is ironclad.

This is precisely the rule followed by therapists and rape or domestic violence crisis counselors.  The one who has been victimized suffers a loss of control.  Restoration of a sense of personal safety rests on the one who has been victimized resuming control of her social relations.  Since s/he is the one at hand who has most been stripped of a voice in what happens to her or him, her or his voice is the one most urgently needing to be drawn into the ensuing conversation. If that voice matters, it will guide and be supported by what it says.  Let the one who has most been traumatized by victimization be the primary guide to what comes next.  This is the principle by which the Incidents Teams operate.  It seems to me that incidents teams would be a useful independent adjunct to police, prosecutors and courts.  Those who complained could have the support of the Team on their terms regardless of what police or prosecutors decided duty demanded of themselves.  This would represent organizing to create empathy in the wake of violence, as a supplement to organizing to demand obedience of perpetrators.  Time and again I have heard survivors of traumatic violence like incestuous rape say that the most healing, energizing response they received when they first told about the event was from those who sat, listened, said as little as “How terrible; I’m so sorry,” and did nothing else to try to take over and fix it.  Incidents team members at IU report much the same experience.  Offering safe refuge from further violence is the next most crucial step to safety.

Martyrdom and servitude represent trying to do things for others on pain of social or heavenly rejection.  Regardless of whether people who martyr themselves or serve others are forced by other people to do so or “choose” to subordinate their own needs to others’, at a basic internal level they feel they have or deserve no choice.  They must discern and obey the demands or fill the needs of the gods or people they serve, or else…they cut off their social and spiritual connections at the roots.  As Weber (1999) discerned, the difference lies in whether one is born in a state of grace, or has to earn grace.  If one is born in a state of grace, one does not have to justify one’s existence.  If one must justify one’s existence, one is trapped into meeting external standards to make one’s life worthwhile.

When doing one’s painful duty to abide by external needs or rules, one is literally just following orders.  Regardless of whether this defense is accepted as a legal justification for violence, the honest truth is that obedient actors have forsaken personal responsibility for their actions, quite literally so.  Responsibility is implied instead by the simple claim, “I did it because I wanted to.”  What one once wanted to do for one reason, one can responsibility and expressly choose to do differently in order to enjoy the safety of empathic relations oneself–because you feel a need to hear and respect the sensibilities of those whose turn it is to join the conversation, because it makes you feel connected.  As Quinney would say, you have heard the suffering at hand and been moved by it.  When you do that, by definition, your violence stops in its tracks.

I have been close to people who I believing to be repeatedly assaulting or harassing others.  I have heard plenty of remorse.  I have seen how hard it is for those who I find at risk of repeating their violence to empathize.  They are too hung up on their own problems, and desperate to do whatever they feel they must to cling to others.  I find that empathy, unlike a polygraph, is hard to fake.  And when people like the houseguests whom I describe above shows one another and me empathy, I find that I can afford to let down my guard and enjoy my safety in their company.  I also notice that I receive ample warning as empathy shuts down before someone bursts into violence, which helps me relax and be able to empathize myself, rather than to be on guard for renewed attack.

At the individual level one’s capacity for empathy with others remains in balance with what I consider empathy for oneself “telling the truth” to oneself and others about what one feels and needs to feel validated and connected to others merely for being oneself, not denying one’s own needs and feelings in martyrdom or self-sacrifice.  In enjoying the safety of empathy one takes heart from watching those who have been victimized gain voice and assume responsibility for their lives, and one’s satisfaction rests in being there to validate and honor the occasion.  In martyrdom or self- sacrifice one becomes what Schaef (1992) and others call co- dependent, and attempts to assume responsibility for others’ needs rather than enhancing their assumption of responsibility for meeting theirs while burying one’s own feelings and needs. 

When enjoying empathic relations, one loses “attachment to outcome.”  One’s faith that balanced participation in itself increases the chances that one’s own most crying needs will be accommodated, supplants faith that someone else has to do something one divines oneself as a predicate to safety.  From showing up to letting go of attachment to outcome, the Navajo saying summarizes the range of elements on which empathy rests.

Trying to make anyone else empathic or responsible rests on the fallacy of making empathy an act of obedience.  The logic on which empathy rests determines that empathy and responsibility can only be invited by showing empathy and responsibility.  This means listening down–drawing out voices most excluded from our conversations and being guided by them–rather than subordinating others, which literally is a refusal to grant empathy.  It means listening down in balance with listening down into one’s own self.  It is by allowing one’s sharing of one’s own feelings and self with others to emerge that one can feel at all, truly feel, and hence feel what others are expressing in the event.  It is as one turns off one’s own feelings and denies one’s own sensibilities that one turns instead to connecting with others in the manner of one of Milgram’s obedient subjects.

This includes feeling too ashamed and inadequate to deserve to have one’s feelings and sensibilities count, or have them enter the conversation.  Ultimately, shame deprives not other offenders but oneself of one’s capacity to enjoy empathy with others in concert with empathy with oneself.  One bears responsibility as one dares to bare oneself and let outcomes fall where they may.  Insofar as one bears oneself, one cares and dares to listen to others’ pain and fears without having to fix or solve them either.  Letting go of attachment to outcome allows oneself to attend and respond to one’s present.  It is, as Ernest Becker (1968: 327-46) concludes, our self-esteem rather than our shame which allows us to connect safely and honestly with others.  That is no less true of one’s worst enemy than it is of oneself.  One cannot dictate whether anyone gives empathy, but safety lies only where feelings of the moment are noticed and recognized, and acted upon.  Empathy rests on embracing a part of one’s own inner self as a foundation for rejecting what has been wrong with oneself.

I work a lot these days in cases of apparent violence against children.  Contrary to warmaking expectations, I find that children facing violence are much more compassionate and reasonable than adults around them.  One child advocate I know who had to fight off her own stepfather’s regular demands for oral sex just wanted him out of the home when the police only wanted the stepfather restrained from entering her home.  The police responded that she should either press charges and get her stepfather jailed, or go home with him.

Quite typically, children who are “molested” by a parent want to work out some safe form of contact, while adults around them fight over whether that parent deserves to own the child’s company on the parent’s unilateral terms or not at all.  The mission of Adult Children of Alcoholics recognizes how out of loving duty children go out of their way to feel, be, and do what their parents need rather than the reverse.

As children learn languages readily so as to communicate as circumstances allow, so when as children we are in warmaking perspective most ignorant and out of control, we are in fact more responsible than we generally dare grow up to be.  We grow up learning agendas we must perform, learning to subordinate our own feelings, and in the process, subordinate feelings of others to what we are most carefully taught we must do so that they do what they must or should, all personal feelings aside.

Ironically, then, age and experience seem to harden our propensity to lie or deny even our own feelings and experience.  Age and experience are liable to ingrain defenses and prejudices in us which a child’s fresh eyes can see through more readily.  In any command structure, it is fallacious to presume that superiors know and do better than their subordinates.  Power over others preaches and embeds in our psyches its own false justification–that powerholders are wiser, truer and kinder than subordinates.  Balancing conversations is the only way out of thralldom in this falsehood.


Obedience is a matter of choosing whose voices get to be heard as against others’.  The very definition of who offends and who gets victimized becomes a matter of who is entitled to define who the offenders and victims are.  This is a power trip.  The logic of a system run by mobilizing power over others is inescapable: Those who enjoy most power to dictate definitions of others’ situations are by virtue of power alone odds on to–as Jeffrey Reiman (1997) puts it, “get richer and the poor get prison.”  It doesn’t take long growing up in the game of obedience to learn that in cases of difference, the one who is highest in the power configuration gets to decide on grounds that in case of dispute, what I say goes.  The realities of subordination manifest themselves repeatedly.  Nowhere recently have these realities more clearly manifested themselves to me than in contests between children who say that a custodian is sexually assaulting them, and the caretakers accused.  It appears as though the more corroborative evidence there is, like a child’s having a sexually transmitted disease or torn anus or vaginal opening, and the more serious the assault would be if the fact of it were recognized, the greater the odds that officials will rule evidence of the caretaker’s assaults inadequate to find fault, and hence that the child should be taken from the presence of any parent or therapist to whom the child complains (Rosen and Etlin 1996).

In the face of the rule that those who hold more power are more likely to win power games, as we continue to seek safety via subordination of miscreants, we find ourselves in ever more jeopardy, caught in a world where “inequalities” and “injustice” harden and grow.  From the peacemaker view, I am safer the more readily those who are obedient find relations in which they share attending to one another’s will and needs.  Extend the boundaries within which those whom I mistrust and I share empathy, and I become safer.  Raise the number of those whose fates I separate from mine via subordination, and I become endangered, not only from those authoritatively subordinated as by being labeled “offender,” but from all those who empathize and share destinies with them.  Thus, justice is something that happens to me and my fellow creatures together, one way or the other.  The gods who render justice don’t appear to care who started violence.

It is simply that the more firmly separated enemy fates become, the more endangered we are.  The justice we face is that we all ultimately become safer or more endangered together.  This is what Hindus call karma.  In terms of how stressed out or relaxed I am while I survive, and indeed in terms of how likely some friend will feed, shelter, and hold me in need, insofar as we enjoy empathy, we enjoy safety.

Insofar as we resort to violence, we fear and hurt from violence.  That is not a prophecy.  That is simply how justice gets done one way or the other.

Within the microlimits of our individual lives, just having friends with whom we can safely, honestly share fear and pain is the essence of being safe from personal violence.

Personal investment in empathy pays off in personal security and self-esteem.  Personal investment in empathy means not letting one’s own feelings and sensibilities be subordinated, balanced with hearing the first and foremost the most subdued voices in one’s own here and now.  One proposition I have put to students is that it is safer to invest in friendship than in Wall Street.  When the market crashes, I rest my survival on having friends who will take me in and feed me from their own stocks.  That is my primary social security.  The more heavily others follow my lead in investing in this market of peace, the more readily we all will free ourselves from violence, regardless of how quickly or steadily the personal safety we build close around ourselves with friends translates into global safety. Within the peacemaking frame, the broader the divergence in background, class, status, power among those who empathize, the brighter and broader the halo of empathy around that accommodation.  But empathy pays off in the personal safety of the one who invests in it regardless of how slowly culture follows.

It is presumptuous of anyone to suppose that s/he knows how to accomplish justice.

It is practical to invest empathy for safety’s sake, and because safety lies in treating one another fairly and with balance. Until as recently as my “peacemaking primer” (Pepinsky 1995), I looked on “dumping up” as a means to making peace.

I recant.  Any form of dumping is a bid for obedience.  I know from growing up and circulating among rich and powerful people that people up there tend to suspect that no one really loves them for themselves and feel mighty scared, vulnerable, driven to defend their claim to a social stake. I know they are as wary as are streetpeople I have met. Fitness to survive unrelenting struggles over power and obedience entails greater vigilance against betrayal than those one has dumped up and out.  Those who find the legitimacy of their power positions drawn into question naturally focus more on establishing who remains in charge, and in justifying the system to which one belongs, than to noticing how subordinates feel and see and hear things.  We can by empathy and refuge free people from subordination far more readily than we can beat powerholders into empathy.

A little listening means a lot.

Those who are trapped in recurrent victimization offer large doses of personal appreciation to anyone who just stops and listens to them. Rather than depending on dumping up, the logic of balancing conversations by spreading empathy dictates that I instead help amplify the left-out voices, to let them speak for themselves rather than seeking to speak for them.  In the practice of mediating imbalances in conversation, the floor oscillates back and forth between concerns of those at the poles of each interest in conflict, so that once those who are weakest are aired and heard, the floor passes upward, so that those who have offended and those who hold power may enjoy their turn at being heard, honestly heard.  Peacemaking entails taking turns in conversation about oneself and one’s own feelings and interests, up and down the power structure like a child’s see-saw or teeter-totter.  Insofar as one offers empathy rather than a demand for obedience, one offers a gift rather than imposing an obligation.  Whatever the response, it is responsible and trustworthy only insofar as it is not commanded, or more implicitly, expected.  What matters is whether concern for others’ interests manifestly redirects the response.  Empathy may be reciprocated and hence create safety; a command will never do so.

The peacemaker’s faith is that the co-generation of empathy will create responses which will accommodate everyone’s needs more readily than any other response.  The karmic promise, the promise of justice, is that social security and equity in having needs accommodated will resonate outward from individual increases in safety against personal violence, from taking turns listening in dyadic conversations, to allowing workers and customers fair shares of ownership in corporate decisions and losses or profits to, to mediating conversations between those we designate victims and offenders…wherever, at whatever social level one wants to measure equity of participation in conversations.  That’s the starting point and the way regardless of how far apart people start.

When we are truly responsible, we are responsible for our own choices and for responding to the consequences, not oxymoronically responsible for making others do anything.

Insofar as we become conscious of the role our empathy alone plays in creating the results, I propose that we will feel safer, and by any number of measures of violence and inequality will become safer.

Balancing voices in our conversations requires that we individually feel secure enough to dampen our narcissism, including letting go of getting our own points across, relaxing our determination to reach some objective we have set for ourselves or for others in advance.  Implicit in a concern for doing justice, rather than making sure others too have a balanced say in what happens, is a need to justify a result rather than attention to the process by which results are achieved.   Gaining safety makes a simple but unyielding demand–that we pay attention to the sensibilities of the people we live with rather than to performing some higher social agenda.


There has been a lot of talk for over twenty years about “widening the net” of criminal justice (Cohen 1979, Pepinsky 1973).  When programs are introduced which are supposed to offer alternatives to incarceration, the odds shift toward using the alternatives on those who otherwise would have had less done to them, with potential for creating records of failure of alternatives which justify and thus increase use of incarceration.  I have noticed over the years an impasse between academicians who recognize this dynamic and practitioners who protest that they use alternatives and are not widening the net.  Recently, an official who works with youth explained how those who seek to mitigate punishment widen nets.

She was speaking of the need for a local juvenile detention center.  She said that since it was so expensive to have juveniles transported several counties away to be detained, the judge could only really afford to send juveniles for a minimum stay of six days.  Meanwhile, there were youths at risk who had had the benefit of all the alternatives the system had to offer, and who might be turned around from getting into further trouble by just being given 24 hours in detention to teach them that wrongdoing “has consequences.” So if the local detention center is built, new classes of youths will be given this “shock.”  And what is to be done if they for instance fail the routine urinalysis (given by that juvenile probation office regardless of offense charged) in the aftermath?  Finckenauer (1982) found that those who had been “scared straight” in confrontations with lifers in a maximum security prison afterwards got arrested more than a matched control group of those who had not undergone the program.  In the game of demanding obedience, the need for sterner measures spreads inexorably.

It is like what a parent faces who has spanked a child hard and yet had a recurrence of disobedience.  A sterner measure is called for in the logic of commanding obedience.

The same official who illustrated to me how people think as they widen nets also was giving reassurance to volunteers in a new Victim Offender Reconciliation Program.  She noted that after 13 years of work she had taken heart from some people who had come back to her years later and had told her that because she had cared when other adults had not, she had turned their lives around.  I expect that these were moments of empathy which tend not to be shared or even remembered because they don’t count in the game of imposing consequences.  Empathy matters nonetheless.

No matter what our formal or official exteriors, we show empathy in some measure, almost all of us.  It is indeed what makes the doing of any of our jobs socially worthwhile.  It is just too bad when we feel obliged to attribute what our empathy has achieved to doing our duty to command obedience. The popular criminal legal jargon these days around me is that since we know the system is out of hand and don’t really favor punishment, we “give consequences” instead.  It occurs to me as I begin service as a VORP mediator that my preoccupation is with focusing attention on consequences– first and foremost harm to those victimized–which have already occurred.  Why demand that people attend instead to consequences I or others have devised?  I seek to have those most affected by the crimes referred to us tell one another what they have done and what has already happened, and then assume responsibility for devising responses to the consequences at hand.  Results of that process may feel safe.

Introducing consequences means that I assume responsibility and make decisions for others, taking away their room for exercise of responsibility.  I don’t even give myself a chance to learn how they might respond if I did not impose my own consequences.  And as by urine testing, I who impose consequences will want to ensure accountability not to my subject’s personal responsibility, but to me.  I will find myself driven to imposing closer and closer scrutiny of my subjects.  How unsafe to be on guard so.

Anyone with a problem of violence in or out of the criminal justice system enjoys a measure of discretion whether next to listen or pass on what someone says, or to execute or follow an order.  That is the only remedy I see for an escalation in incarceration in my home United States since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, which otherwise could be diverted only by sending a mass of young U.S. soldiers abroad into open combat with a foreign enemy (Pepinsky 1996, 1991: 34-61).

A year after I moved to my current home town, in 1977, my county whose population has since climbed from 90-120,000 hired a not-for-profit consultant who told us that our county jail could be gutted and made into 40 cells which would last us until well into the next millenium.  That consultant then formed a for-profit firm, so that by 1983 he had forecast what we would need 95-110 cells to last us into the next millenium.  I joined a friend suing to void county council approval of a leasing arrangement for a jail which–to round off corners on the top of a new “justice building”–would have 124 cells.  We lost.  That jail as opened in 1986, and episodically spilled to over capacity within six months of its opening.  Now we appear destined to approve building a jail truly sufficient to meet our needs as we enter the new millenium–with 4-500 cells.

I was talking with a friend who inspired my failed lawsuit, and we agreed that–karmically–our efforts to tell people that the new jail would be filled had helped create the monster we now face.  A burst of official effort went into organizing and using defendant- or offender-subsidized “alternative” “consequences” for offenders, which apparently generated records of failure of “lenient” measures, and widened the net far faster than I might have imagined.

As I begin learning how to serve as a VORP mediator, I have no illusions that VORP or any other restorative justice program will empty the jail.  Nor do I think that officials are more to blame than the will in all of us to respond to place obedience before empathy.

I have fantasized about a bumper sticker: “Safer to Carry a Friend than a Gun.”  There is remarkable, significant safety in each empathetic connection we make.  All structural safety, all signs of the withering away of oppression and inequality, rest on attending to empathy, which in turn requires letting go of obedience.  The science and art of achieving safety in the face of personal violence is that of empathy, which I call making peace instead of making war.

Empathy can start anywhere, on any job.  Empathy is the only mechanism which protects us against personal violence.  The personal violence recorded by criminologists and police is but a shadow of the violence and terror of isolation (and attendant worthlessness) that threatens us routinely in our daily lives, where outsiders including police and child protection workers fear to intrude.  Whether we humans achieve greater violence or safety, justice will prevail, where the just results of our efforts to become safer in one another’s company will show that for us all, empathy works, obedience doesn’t.


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The Bush Family: A Continuing Criminal Enterprise?

The Bush Family: A Continuing Criminal Enterprise?

Gary W. Potter, PhD.
Professor, Criminal Justice
Eastern Kentucky University

The S&Ls, the Mob and the Bushs

During the 1980’s hundred of Savings and Loan Banks failed. Those bank failures cost U.S. taxpayers over $500 billion to cover federally insured losses, and much more to investigate the bank failures (Pizzo, Fricker, and Muolo, 1989; Brewton, 1992; Johnston, 1990). More than 75% of the Savings and Loan insolvencies where directly linked to serious and often criminal misconduct by senior financial insiders (Pizzo, Fricker and Muolo, 1989: 305). In fact, less than 10 percent of bank failures are related to economic conditions, the rest are caused by mismanagement or criminal conduct (Pizzo, Fricker and Muolo, 1989: 305).

A good example of the Savings and Loan failures can be found in the activities of Mario Renda, a Savings and Loan insider who often worked in close collaboration with organized crime (Pizzo, Fricker and Muolo, 1989: 123-126;302). Renda served as a middle man in arranging about $5 billion a year in deposits into 130 Savings and Loans, all of which failed (Kwitny, 1992: 27). Many of these deposits were made contingent on an agreement that the Savings and Loan involved would lend money to borrowers recommended by Renda, many of whom were organized crime figures or people entirely unknown to the banking institution involved (Kwitny, 1992: 27).

Equally good examples of financial misconduct in the Savings and Loan scandal is found in the activities of the Bush family. In some cases Bush family members helped skim Savings and Loan funds which were delivered to outsiders as a part of deals involving lucrative payoffs to bank directors. In other cases, members of the Bush family intervened to influence decisions involving highly speculative and unsound investments involving loans that would not be repaid if the venture was not profitable. And finally, the Bush family’s political connection served to protect those guilty of misconduct in the Savings and Loan scandal (Kwitny, 1992: 24).

Neil Bush: Taking Down Silverado

In 1990 federal bank regulators filed a $200 million lawsuit against the officers of Silverado Banking, including Neil Bush, brother of the current President. The lawsuit accused them of gross negligence which resulted in a loss of $1 billion by Silverado and the bank’s ultimate collapse (Los Angeles Times, 1990). According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: “Our conclusion is that Silverado was the victim of sophisticated schemes and abuses by insiders and of gross negligence by its directors and outside professionals” (Johnston, 1990). Neil Bush was reprimanded by the Office of Thrift Supervision for pervasive conflicts of interest while serving as a paid director of the bank Of particular concern was his role in a serious of loans totaling $132 million from the bank to two businessmen, Bill Walters and Kenneth Good (Los Angeles Times, 1990: 1; Isikoff, 1992: A1). Walters and Good, after securing the loans from Silverado, lent Neil Bush $100,000 and later forgave the loan entirely. In addition, Walters and Good owned a company which paid $550,000 in salaries to Neil Bush (Los Angeles Times, 1990: 1; Isikoff, 1992: A1). In the end Walters and Good lost a total of $330 million loaned to them by Silverado. They also received instructions from a member of Silrverado’s board of directors on the establishment of family trusts to prevent the government from seizing the money they owed the bank (Kwitny, 1992: 32). The shutdown of Silverado was postponed from October to December 1988 so that it would happen after President Bush, Sr.’s election campaign had ended. Neil Bush had to pay only $50,000 to settle the federal lawsuit against him and he was able to avoid any legal costs because a senior banking industry lobbyist formed a legal defense fund to pay the legal costs (Fritz, 1992).

Neil Bush also profited enormously from another company on verge of bankruptcy. Apex Energy paid him over $2000,000 in salary and oil deed compensation payments while teetering on the edge of bankruptcy (Failing firm paid Neil Bush big salary, 1992).

Neil Bush’s small oil company also seemed to profit from its political connections when it was awarded a 1987 contract to drill for oil in Argentina (Bush ‘s Son Misses Deadline For Reporting “Inside” Sale,1991).

Jeb Bush: Influence Peddling for a “Bust-Out” Scam

But, Neil Bush was not the only Bush brother involved in the Savings and Loan collapses. Jeb Bush’s, the current Governor of Florida, curious relationship with Miguel Recarey is another illustration. Recarey was a long-time business associate of Tampa organized crime figure Santos Trafficante. Recarey also fled the U.S. facing three separate indictments for labor racketeering, illegal wiretapping and Medicare fraud (Freedburg, 1988: A1). Recarey’s business, International Medical Centers, was the largest health maintenance organization for the elderly in the U.S. and had been supported from $1 billion in payments from the Medicare program. International Medical Centers went bankrupt in 1988 (Freedburg, 1988: A1; Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4). When International Medical Centers went under it left $222 million in unpaid bills and was under investigation for $100 million in Medicare fraud (Freedbrug, 1988: A1; Frisby, 1992: G1). The U.S. Office of Labor Racketeering in Miami referred to Recarey and his company as “the classic case of embezzlement of government funds … “a bust-out operation” (Freedburg, 1988: A1)

Jeb Bush’s role in this saga being in 1985 when Recarey’s attempt to create his “bust-out scam” corporation ran into a federal regulation that said no HMO could get more that 50% of its revenue from Medicare (Freedburg, 1988: A1; Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4). Jeb Bush intervened on Recarey’s behalf with Helath Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler and one of her top aides. Convincing them to waive the regulation in the case of Recarey’s company (Freedburg, 1988: A1; Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4). In addition to Jeb Bush’s intervention, Recarey had paid $1 million to senior Republican lobbyists in Washington, who were also working the staff of Health and Human Services in pursuance of a waiver (Freedburg, 1988: A1; Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4). In addition, Jeb Bush had contacted Secretary Heckler earlier about complaints from doctors over the quality of International Medical Centers’ care and allegations that Recarey had embezzled funds form another hospital (Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4). Jeb Bush told an aide to Secretary Heckler that “contrary to any rumors that were floating around concerning Mr. Recarey, that he was a solid citizen from Mr. Bush’s perspective down there [in Miami], that he was a good community citizen and a good supporter of the Republican Party” (Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4).

Not surprisingly, in 1988 Recarey’s company gave Jeb Bush’s real estate company $75,000 to help it find a site for a new corporate headquarters (Freedburg, 1988: A1; Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4). It was a bad investment because International Medical Centers had already selected a corporate headquarters location when it hired Jeb Bush (Royce and Shaw, 1988: 4).

Jeb Bush had a role in yet another Savings and Loan fiasco when he defaulted on a loan from Broward Federal Savings and Loan (LaFraniere , 1990: A24). Broward Federal loaned $4,565.000 to J Edward Houston, a real developer in February, 1985. The loan was secured only by Houston’s personal guarantee. On the same day, one of Houston’s company lent the same amount to a partnership made up of Jeb Bush and Armondo Codina for the purpose of purchasing a building in Miami. The Bush-Condina partnership was required to repay the loan only if revenues from the building were sufficient to cover the repayment. Bush and Condina made no payments on the loan at all and in 1987 Houston defaulted on the Broward Federal loan and the Bank sued both Houston and the Bush-Condina real estate partnership. In a sweetheart settlement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Bush and Codina only had to repay $500,000 of the $4.5 million loan and got to retain ownership of the building which had been the collateral on the loan. In 1991, the FDIC sued the officers and directors of Broward Federal charging that the loan ultimately used by Bush and Codina was an example of the bank’s negleient lending practices (Frisby, 1992: G1). The Bush-Codina loan played a key part in the failure of Broward Federal which cost taxpayers $285 million (LaFraniere , 1990: A24).

George Bush, Jr.: Insider Information, Oil, and Baseball

The present President Bush has also reaped significant benefits from some highly questionable business practices:

Bush sold $828,560 worth of Harken stock [on June 20, 1990] just one week before the company stock posted unusually poor quarterly earnings and Harken stock plunged sharply. Shares lost more than 60% of their value over 6 months. When Bush sold his shares, he was a member of a company committee studying the effect of Harken’s restructuring, a move to appease anxious creditors. According to documents on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, his position on the Harken committee gave Bush detailed knowledge of the company’s deteriorating financial condition. The SEC received word of Bush’s trade eight months late. Bush has said he filed the notice but that is was lost (Hedges, 1992: 57-59).

At the time of the stock sale President Bush was fully aware that Harken Energy was in a serious cash flow crisis and was about to lose millions of dollars (Yost, 2000). Bush was investigated for insider trading, but on October 18, 1993, Bruce A. Hiler, the SEC’s associate director for enforcement, wrote a letter to Bush’s lawyer stating that “the investigation has been terminated as to the conduct of Mr. Bush, and that, at this time, no enforcement action is contemplated with respect to him” (Lardner and Romano, 1999: A1). Hiler’s official letter went on to say that it “must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result from the staff’s investigation” (Lardner and Romano, 1999:) It is instructive to note that head of the SEC at the time of investigation was a supporter of then-President Bush, as was the SEC’s general counsel (who later acted as George W. Bush’s private attorney) (Yost 2000). In addition, Harken, despite its poor performance and large losses, paid unusually high salaries and benefits to President Bush (Hedges, 1992: 57-59). Bush was allowed to purchase stock options at a 40% discount, paid for by company loans that were frequently forgiven (Hedges, 1992: 57-59).

Harken Energy was awarded a contract to drill offshore oil wells for the government of Bahrain in 1990. It was a curious contract because Harken had never drilled an oil well in water. While Bahrain government officials denied that the fact that the President’s son was on Harken’s board had any impact on the contract, the Wall Street Journal quoted an official of Harken Energy as saying there was “never any question” about George W. Bush’s involvement (Morrison, 1999: A26).

Harken Energy also had links to the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). BCCI was the seventh-largest privately owned bank in the world. It had over four hundred branch offices operating in seventy-three countries. Among its many criminal activities was the laundering of at least $14 billion for the Colombian cocaine cartels; the facilitating of financial transactions for Panamanian president Manuel Noriega and international arms merchant Adnan Khashoggi; the funneling of cash to the contras for illegal arms deals and contra-backed drug trafficking; and the assisting of Phillipine President Ferdinand Marcos in transferring his personal fortune, accrued through corruption and graft, out of the Philippines. Despite the enormity of BCCI’s crimes and its vital role in drug trafficking, the U.S. Justice Department was more than reluctant to investigate. In fact, the Justice Department had complete information on BCCI’s drug and arms operations and its illegal holdings in the United States for over three years before it even initiated an inquiry. Perhaps the reluctance of American law enforcement to interfere with such a major organized crime entity can be explained by the proliferation of what some have perceived as BCCI’s “friends” in the U.S. government holding high office (Castro, 1988; Beaty and Gwynne, 1991).

The Wall Street Journal commented extensively on Harken’s links to BCCI saying: “The mosaic of BCCI connections surrounding Harken Energy may prove nothing more than how ubiquitous the rogue bank’s ties were … But the number of BCCI-connected people who had dealings with Harken — all since George W. Bush came on board — likewise raises the question of whether they mask an effort to cozy up to a presidential son” (Morrison, 1999).

President Bush’s relationship with the Texas Rangers shows a similar pattern of curious business dealings. In investigating his purchase of the Texas Rangers, the Wall Street Journal commented that following “a pattern repeated through his business career, Mr. Bush’s play did not quite make the grade” (Morrison, 1999: A26). In 1989, an investment group Bush led was given preferential treatment to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team by its seller, a friend of George Bush, Sr. (Morrison, 1999: A26; Sack, 1999: 1). When they underbid for the team baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth brought another financier into the deal, “out of respect for his father,” President Bush (Morrison, 1999: A26; Sack, 1999: 1). Bush later successfully promoted a controversial arrangement in which the City of Arlington provided a $135 million subsidy for a new ballpark, funded by a sales tax increase, with an option for the team to repurchase the park at a vastly reduced price (Milbank, 2000, A1; Romano and Lardner, 1999: A1). The present President Bush realized $15 million on a $600,000 investment when he sold his share of the team in 1998 (Morrison, 1999, A26).

Jonathan Bush: An Unregistered Broker

Jonathan Bush rounds out this discussion of brotherly financial chicanery. Jonathan was cited for carrying out stock transactions without registering in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. While he was settling the complaint against him he continued to violate Massachusetts securities laws. Neal Sullivan, who handles security trading issues for the Massachusetts Secretary of State expressed his concern: “That created great concern for us. We were dismayed … Anyone who has been notified that he is violating state law and continues to do so certainly exemplifies a cavalier attitude toward the registration laws.” Jonathan Bush is a veteran stockbroker who, of course, knows about registration requirements. As Mr. Sullivan went on to comment: “Any time you have 880 transactions over several years, I wouldn’t characterize that as minor” (Phillips, 1991: 1).

Prescott Bush: The Yakuza’s Frontman

Finally, and perhaps most seriously, the Bush family pioneered the practice which has now become commonplace of collaboration between corporate and organized criminals. Prescott Bush, uncle of the current President and brother of the former President, played a key role in helping the Japanese Yakuza extend their financial and real estate holdings to the United States. In 1989, Prescott Bush made arrangements for a front company for Japanese organized crime groups to buy into two U.S. corporations and to make a sizeable real investment in the U.S. (Helm, 1991a: 1; Isikoff, 1992: A1). West Tsusho, a Japanese corporation, was identified by Japanese police officials as a front company for one of that country’s largest organized crime syndicates. Prescott Bush was paid a fee of $500,000 for his help in negotiating West Tsusho’s purchase of controlling interest in Assets Management, a U.S. corporation (Helm, 1991a: 1; Isikoff, 1992: A1). Bush also assisted the Japanese mob in investing in Quantam Access, a U.S. software company, which was ultimately taken over by the Japanese (Helm, 1991b: 10; Isikoff, 1992: A1). Both companies ultimately went into bankruptcy (Isikoff, 1992: A1; Moses, 1992).

George Bush Sr.: Shutting Down the Organize Crime Strike Forces

Despite assessments from senior law enforcement officers and experts on organized crime that efforts to control organized crime would be crippled, in December 1989, the administration of George Bush, Sr. abolished all 14 regional organized crime strike forces (McAlister, 1989: A 21; Struck out, 1990). The organized crime strike had been created as independent entities so they would not be subject to political influences or bureaucratic wrangling within federal law enforcement. In the two decades of their operation the strike forces had secured convictions of major organized crime figures in several U.S. cities (Struck out, 1990). It is at the very least curious to note that the federal strike force in Miami had been responsible for indicting Miguel Recarey, the man for whom Jeb Bush had intervened with regulators. Organized crime strike forces had similarly indicted Mario Renda, the organized crime liaison to the S& L’s, as well as several other key figures in the Savings and Loan Fiasco (Pizzo, Fricker, and Mulolo, 1989: 112, 120-123, 303, 337).


Beaty, J. and S. Gwynne. 1991. The dirtiest bank of all. Time. July 29: 42-47.

Brewton, P. 1992. Untold Story. New York: SPI Books.

Castro, J. 1988. The cash cleaners. Time. October 24: 65-66.

Failing firm paid Neil Bush big salary. 1992. San Francisco Examiner. (September 15): A9.

Freedberg, S, 1988. Contras, “Bugs” and the Mob. The Wall Street Journal. (August 9).

Frisby, M. 1992. Bush sons’ ventures expose him to scrutiny. Austin American-Statesman. (May 17): G1.

Fritz, S. 1992. Bush Kin: Trading on the Name? Evidence suggests the President’s relatives may be exploiting their relationship. But they hotly deny impropriety, saying such accusations are spinoffs of the Bill Clinton scandals. Los Angeles Times. (May 10): 1.

Hedges, S. 1992. The color of money: The president’s eldest son and his ties to a troubled Texas firm. U.S. News and World Report/ (March 16).

Helm, L. 1991a. Japanese Wise Up to Gangsters: Yakuza have long been tolerated and even romanticized. But with financial scandals and violent tactics, lawmakers and residents are saying enough is enough. Los Angeles Times. (August 1): 1.

Helm, L. 1991b. Bush Brother Was a Consultant to Company Under Scrutiny in Japan Finance: Prescott Bush gave investment advice to a firm lately suspected of gangland ties and of exchange violations, police investigators say. Los Angeles Times. (June 11): 10.

Isikoff, M. 1992. As Race Heats Up, So Does Scrutiny of Bush ‘s Family; Relatives’ Business Affairs Become Target. The Washington Post. (July 14): A1.

Johnston, O. 1990 . Seidman Puts S&L Bailout at $500 Billion. Los Angeles Times. (July 31): 1.

Kwitny, J. 1992. The Real S&L Scandal: How Bush’s Pals Broke the Banks. Village Voice. (October 20): 24.

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The Existential Question, What Is Real?


Richard Quinney
Northern Illinois University

Originally published in The Critical Criminologist, Vol. 6, No. 2, Summer-Fall 1994

What is the ground upon which we stand, the ground upon which we act? The question, as with all related questions, is of far more interest to us as criminologists than any question about crime. What is importance in the study of crime is everything that happens before crime occurs. Thus, the elementary ontological question of the nature of reality remains a pressing one for us. Everything else follows from our understanding–our stance–toward the question of reality.

What then is real? Really real, actually existing. Simply to ask is to realize that reality is existential. All human perception is subject to the lived experience of everyday life.

Some years ago, during that ontological shift of the 1960s, I sat in the cafes of Greenwich Village, walked the streets of the New York, and participated in the political events of the time. Daily, without ceasing. The song was playing then, Les McCann’s “Compared to What.” (After thirty years, this song still speaks to me.) Singing of the events of the time, hoping to understand, McCann sang, “Everybody now, try to make it real compared to what.” He sang mournfully the lines: “The goddamn nation . . .” “The president he’s got his war. Folks don’t know what its for.” “But I can’t use it.” “Where’s my God, and where’s my money?” “Goddamn it, try to make it real compared to what.”

In those days, I was trying to make my own song. One result was a book I called The Social Reality of Crime (1970). Shortly after its publication, Taylor, Walton, and Young, in their influential book The New Criminology, wrote about my efforts: “Many of Quinney’s statements about a theoretical orientation to the social reality of crime seem to be the product more of the author’s own existential Angst than they are the result of clear-headed theoretical analysis.” I remain to this day pleased with their observation. For one thing, I am happy to be counted among the existentialist. Albert Camus, I think of you daily. (“Mother died today, or maybe it was yesterday.”) And secondly, “clear-headed theoretical analysis,” abstract and removed from everyday life, is not something to which I aspire.

My questioning of the conventional scientific enterprise took further attack from Robert Merton in his book Sociological Ambivalence. He wrote:

Now, it is one thing to maintain, with Weber, Thomas, and the other giants of sociology, that to understand human action requires us to attend systematically to its subjective component: what people perceive, feel, believe, and want. But it is quite another thing to exaggerate this sound idea by maintaining that action is nothing but subjective. That extravagance leads to sociological Berkeleyanism (the allusion being, of course, to the English champion of philosophical idealism, not to an American geographic or academic place). Such total subjectivism conceives of social reality as consisting only in social definitions, perceptions, labels, beliefs, assumptions, or ideas, as expressed, for example, in full generality by the criminological theorist, Richard Quinney, when he writes that “We have no reason to believe in the objective existence of anything.” A basic idea is distorted into error and a great injustice is visited upon W.I. Thomas whenever his theorem is thus exaggerated.

I still do not know if I am a total subjectivist, or even what that might be. But it does seem to me that the subjective/objective debate is as much ideological as it is a statement about what is real and how we can know reality. The problem goes beyond a debate over the subjective and the objective. The matter has something to do with the human mind’s ability to think and to see beyond its own innate construction.

How can we know for certain of the existence of anything, including existence itself? The mind is the grand piano which provides the space for the mice–our thoughts–to play. We humans cannot step outside of our existence. And we cannot know, in the larger scheme of things, or non-things, if the grand piano is other than a dream. The dream of a cosmic dreamer. Why not?

It is not for us to know that which cannot be known. To seek such knowledge is not to be human. The simple teaching of Buddhism: “Only don’t know.” We have the mind to ask questions of the reality of our existence, universal and otherwise, but we do not have the capacity to answer with objectivity and certainty. (Camus, again: “The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.”) Entirely reasonable, then, our perpetual ambivalence, our uncertainty, and our fear of life and death. Humility, mixed with wonder, makes more sense than the continuous pursual of scientific knowledge.

We stand before the mystery of existence. Our understanding is in the recognition of our common inability to know for certain. Our fate, and our saving grace, is to be compassionate beings, in all humility. Whatever may be known is known in love. Not in manipulation and control, not in the advancement of a separate self and a career, but in the care for one another. That is reality enough.