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Radical Criminology

Radical Criminology

Kenneth W. Mentor
University of North Carolina Wilmington

Radical criminology began to appear on the criminological scene in the 1960s as criminologists began to question traditional criminology in light of political, social, and economic events occurring in the United States. Conflict over racial issues and the Vietnam war resulted in organized opposition to the state, including rioting and other forms of violence. The governmental, along with researchers and academics, sought ways to respond to and control these movements, which eventually led to rapid expansion of the criminal justice system.

Radical criminology may be referred to as Marxist, conflict, or critical criminology. The ideological perspectives defined in the early years of radical criminology continue to serve as a foundation for criminologists interested in anarchist, environmental, feminist, constitutive, cultural, peacemaking, restorative, and other branches of critical criminology. All branches of radical or critical criminology share concepts and principles centered on the distribution of power and ways in which the law protects the interests of the ruling class.

Radical or critical criminologists, many of whom were politically active during the 1960’s, generally adhere to Marxist principles. While Marx did not specifically discuss crime, his writings focused on law, power, and social and economic control, each of which are important variables to consider in an examination of crime and justice. Radical criminologists argue that the law serves those with the power to translate their interests into public policy. Rather than accepting the premise of law as a product of consensus, radical criminologists define law as a set of rules defined and enforced by the state. Critical scholars argue that our criminal justice system neutralizes potential opposition to the state by targeting the actions of those who are most oppressed. In addition to controlling opposition, these laws often reproduce hierarchies that serve the interests of those in power.

Radical criminologists challenge mainstream criminology’s focus on theoretical explanations of the causes of criminal behavior and the measurement of crime reported in the Uniform Crime Reports. The focus on common crimes and individual responsibility, leading to punishments intended to deter individuals from choosing crime, serves the state’s interest in repression. Individual blame also diverts attention from structural models of causation and relieves those in power from accepting responsibility. Radicals argue that the discipline of criminology, the general public, and politicians focus on crime in the streets, allowing those in power to commit far greater criminal acts with little fear of retribution.

Radical criminologists also examine the processes through which deviance, criminal behavior, and state responses to crime are socially constructed. This examination provides insight into the ways state power is used to define challenges to authority. For example, behaviors that threaten the social, economic, and political order are labeled terrorist as well as criminal (Lynch and Groves, 1989). Different responses to criminal acts are facilitated when the state-controlled label of terrorist can be applied. Similarly, the focus on repeat offenders, and long prison terms, has centered on street crime rather than corporate or white-collar crime. This pattern also reinforces the perception that individuals, rather than institutions, are to blame for social problems. In effect, the powerful are able to exert social control on the masses while excluding their own acts and the criminal acts of those who serve powerful interests.

Radical criminology also examines the consequences of crime policies that prevent society from questioning the dehumanizing effects of our social institutions. The justice system is used to create a permanent underclass whose options are limited as a result of contact with the justice system. Thousands of men, particularly men of color, are kept out of the job market or trapped in the secondary market as they move through the seemly endless cycle of crime, prison, and recidivism. At the same time, the justice system creates millions of jobs.

Radical criminologists remain active within the American Society of Criminology (ASC), the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), and other professional organizations. Radical criminology has evolved, and earned legitimacy within the wider discipline, due to the inclusion of radically oriented sessions at annual meetings and continued contributions to scholarly publications associated with these organizations. Formal recognition came when the Division of Critical Criminology was established by the ASC in 1990. This was followed in the late 1990’s with the creation of the ACJS Critical Criminal Justice Section.

For more information:

Chambliss, W., & Mankoff, M. (Eds.). (1976). Whose law? What order? A conflict approach to criminology. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Currie, E. (1999). “Radical criminology or just criminology – Then, and now,” Social Justice, 26.

Lynch, M. (Ed.). (1997). Radical criminology. Aldershot, England: Dartmouth Publishing Co.

Lynch, M., & Groves, W. B. (1989). A primer in radical criminology (2nd ed.). New York: Harrow and Heston.

Platt, T. (1988). “If we know, then we must fight: The origins of radical criminology in the U.S.” Critical Sociology, 15(2).

Quinney, R. (2000). Bearing witness to crime and social justice. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Schwendinger, H. & Schwendinger, J. (1970). “Defenders of order or guardians of human rights?” Issues in Criminology, 5(2).



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).


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.



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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