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Jock Young: The Criminological Imagination

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1 Jock Young: The Criminological Imagination
Introduction: The Legacy of C. Wright Mills

2 Mills published Sociological Imagination in 1959
--advocated sociology as a vocation --idealized craftsmanship: joy of writing, weaving theory and research, conceptually insightful and empirically grounded “the key nature of the ‘SI’ was to situate human biography in history and in social structure … to bridge gap between human actors and historical and social settings in which they find themselves.” “ He talks of ‘the earthquakes’ of social change, and of widespread feelings of people feeling themselves adrift, of being unable to understand what is happening to them, of individualizing their problems.” “’Nowadays men often feel that their private lives are a series of traps’.” “… if the downside of such a momentum is feelings of entrapment and alienation, the upside is an increased reflexivity, a dereification of the social world, and an awareness of the ever-present possibility of change.”

3 The sociological imagination:
--personal troubles of a milieu --public issues of structure … In a “world characterized by instability, in work, family and community…” In late modern social order … chaos of reward and identity… “people face an existential quandray; their uncertainty can be interpreted in self-blame and failure, yet the widespread nature of economic and cultural instability and its daily dissemination on the global media, facilitate feelings of connectedness and of recognizing the parallel nature of the social condition…” Mills identifies two opposing tendencies where academic sociology loses contact with social reality -- abstracted empiricism -- grand theory Goode says there has been a neglect of the transformative politics in Mills work

4 1. Closing down the imagination
‘the confetti of Greek letters… seems in a different universe from the louche bars, dope smokers, snitches and police harassment in downtown Pittsburgh’ ‘abstracted empiricism’ ‘the data mysteriously detach themselves from their subject matter and lose all context’ ‘paradoxically, the less their contact with the subject matter the more knowledgeable they feel’ ‘whole swaths of theory and controversy are simply not mentioned…’ p12 --the war against drugs --the failure of deterrence --racism in drug enforcement --drug war counterproductive --police corruption common ‘this is the study of deviance without deviance’

5 ‘the authors….the more they are distanced from what they are studying, the more secure they feel’
How do we understand such research? ‘as theory atrophies, methodology becomes a substitute’ And what of Mills’ three guidelines? ‘there is no history… the actors have no past, and their future is mundane’ The researchers are searching for generalizations independent of people, structure, history and place --the new social science orthodoxy looks to ‘positivism’ --compare to the work of Bourgois on crack dealers

6 ‘Let me introduce you to the datasaur’
‘The elevation of the journal’ --theories decontextualized to become operational ‘what we need is a method which can deal with reflexivity, contradiction, tentativeness… a method which is sensitive to the way people write and rewrite their personal narratives.’ Merton’s ‘social structure and anomie’ manifestly connects private troubles to public issues… where is his evidence that the american dream is ‘a sop for those who might reel against the entire structure were this consoling hope removed’?’

7 ‘bracketing off issues of power and inequality [is] more pronounced in criminology’
‘the criminological gaze is more exposed to problems of power, stigmatization, and the context of values than any other area of social sciences… norms are formed, broken, disputed and selectively enforced… deviance is enacted and concealed’ ‘the 1960s and 1970s was the time of a cultural turn… a stress on the interpretative rather than the mechanistic… focusing on the way in which human actors generate meaning… consisting of two strands, subcultural and labelling, phenomenological and constructionist’ p19

8 --statistics are social constructions
--deviance is not in the act but a quality imposed on it --meaning is dependent on social contexts --people construct meaning, in sit’ns beyond their control --individuals have to be placed within wider structure --contested definitions of deviance in pluralistic society --agencies of social control impose def’ns of powerful

9 The hubris of positivism:
--growth of the criminal justice system --universities have expanded to train practitioners --market society has become dominant ethos --qualitative methods seen as 2nd to quantitative ‘the affinity between positivist criminology and the bureaucratic needs of the criminal justice system … is a question of shared notions of ontology and of social order, of world views which are coincident in their mapping of the social world and the place of the deviant within it, backed by common anxieties about social order.’

10 7. Mayhem, Magic and Margaret Mead
“late modernity brings with a loosening of the ties between social structure and behaviour, between material predicament and the subcultural solutions which human beings create in order to facilitate and give meaning to their lives” Words become blurred, eg. ‘marriage’, ‘gay’, ‘rape’ “in late modernity such narratives not only change but they are more fragmented, they are contested and they co-exist, That is, there are several possible/plausible narratives available at any one time. And in a media saturated society these narratives are freely available ...”

11 “none of the choices available has the weight of absolute certainty as in the past. Narratives lose their singularity, their cohesion and their gravitas. … The narratives are not only contested, but they are not coherent, well formed: they are contradictory and inconsistent not only between themselves but within themselves. There is always an element of mayhem in late modernity.” [yet] much ethnographic work has] “vignettes of urban life which have as much validity as a posed photograph at a formal wedding. …It replaces the reification of numbers with the reification of representation.”

12 The meta-narrative of the lens – interpretive structure
Ethnography and incoherence – homo performans The metaphor of the photograph – if reality… Hiatus and relationship – ‘orientalism’ and power The ethnographer’s audience – readers choose… Ethnography and the end of innocence – Mead -- representativeness, masquerading, translation probs -- arguments over ‘what counts as sex’ -- the influence of the meta-narrative

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