Thoughts from the criminology team

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The Criminology of the Future

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As we are gleefully coming towards the start of yet another academic year, we tend to go through a number of perpetual motions; reflect on the year past, prepare material for the upcoming year and make adjustments on current educational expectations.  Academics can be creatures of habit, even if their habit is to change things over.  Nonetheless, there are always milestones that we all observe no matter the institution or discipline.  The graduation, for example brings to an end the degree aspirations of a cohort, whilst Clearing and Welcome Week offer an opportunity of a new group of applicants to join a cohort and begin the process again.  Academia like a pendulum swings constantly, replenishing itself with new generations of learners who carry with them the imprint of their social circumstance.

It was in the hectic days at Clearing that my mind began to wonder about the future of education and more importantly about criminology.  A discipline that emerged at an unsettled time when urban life and modernity began to dominate the Western landscape.  Young people (both in age and/or in spirit) began to question traditional notions about the establishment and its significance.  The boundaries that protect the individual from the whim of the authorities was one of those fundamental concerns on criminological discourses.  A 19th century colleague questions the notion of policing as an established institution, thus challenging its authority and necessity.  An end of 20th century colleague may be involved in the training of those involved in policing.  Changing times, arguably.  Quite; but what is the implications for the discipline?

My random example can be challenged on many different fronts; the contested nature of a colleague as a singular entity that sees the world in a singular gaze; or the ability to diversify on the perspectives each discipline observes.  It does nonetheless, raises a key question: what expectations can we place on the discipline for the 21st century.

If we and our students are the participants of social change as it happens in our society then our impressions and experiences can help us formulate a projective perspective of the future.  Our knowledge of the past is key to supplying an understanding of what we have done before, so that we can comprehend the reality in a way that will allow us to give it the vocabulary it deserves.  A colleague recently posted on twitter her agony about “vehicles being the new terrorist weapon,” asking what is the answer.  The answer to violence is exactly the same; whether a person gets in a van, or goes home and uses a bread knife to harm their partner.  Everyday objects that can be utilised to harm.  A projection in the future could assert that this phenomenon is likely to continue.  The Romans called it Alea iacta est and it was the moment you decide to act.  In my heart this is precisely the debate about the future of criminology; is it crime with or without free will?

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2 Comments

  1. 20scog17 says:

    Interesting piece which reminds me of a philosophy lesson when i was still in secondary school. we were doing Kant and our professor gave us the example of a car on fire at the petrol station. You want to help and you reach for a bucket. You throw the bucket at the car, but the bucket is full of petrol and you can imagine the consequences. The question was: is the person guilty of causing damage and/or harm? In this case the individual acted of his/her own free will but the consequences are disastrous. But the question you ask is even more philosophical and can be extended to any decision we make with or without criminal consequences. The tricky point is to determine what free will is and of course to deal with the grey area in which free will blurs into something else. So, in the case of the case of the car violence we may well ponder whether someone whose free will was manipulated to the point to which he believed to act freely but was not is still culpable of the offence or whether we should go to the source of the manipulation? Was the person who committed the crime of using the car to inflict violence an accessory to a crime? what do you think?

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  2. manosdaskalou says:

    You are quite right, the foundations of criminology are very philosophical even when exploring practical ramifications of actions. The issue of harm is interlinked with one of the most basic of all criminological philosophies, that of utilitarianism but to get into the issue of consequence you have to first ponder how able are we to exercise free will?
    In my example; the person who is using the van to inflict violence is not dissimilar to the person who uses a gun; both of them have decided to use violence- instrumentally- to achieve whatever goal they believe they serve.

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