The Foundation volume of Justice, Power and Resistance, the Journal of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control will be published in September 2016.
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(Electronic versions of all papers will be available [free] here from the 1st March 2017)
Non-Penal Real Utopias
(edited by Emma Bell and David Scott)
Table of Contents
- ‘Editorial – Justice, Power and Resistance’
- David Scott and Emma Bell ‘Reawakening our Radical Imaginations: Thinking realistically about dystopias, utopias and the non-penal’
In this introduction we consider the relationship between the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control [European Group] and the promotion of non-penal real utopias. The article begins by considering the historical connections between the New Left, utopian ideas, abolitionism and critical criminology, highlighting the role played by the European Group in the development of utopian thought. It then considers the utopian imagination in critical criminology, paying particular attention to Penal Abolitionism and Zemiology as utopia. It briefly analyses the crisis of utopia undergone by critical criminology in the 1980s before moving on to discuss the recent awakening of the utopian criminological imagination and discussing the normative framework on which it should be based. Finally, it outlines the aims and scope of Justice, Power and Resistance showing how it might contribute to the development of emancipatory politics and praxis.
- Erik Olin Wright ‘Real Utopias and Dilemmas of Institutional Transformation’
The idea of ‘real utopias’ is a way of thinking about emancipatory alternatives to existing institutions of domination and inequality, about both the destinations to which we aspire and the strategies for getting there. This paper elaborates the values embodied in the idea of real utopias, explores the strategic problem of transforming society in ways that advance these values, and examines the dilemmas of creating real utopias in situations where the optimal design for ameliorating the harms of existing institutions is not the same as constructing real utopias.
- Emma Bell and David Scott ‘Reimagining Citizenship: Justice, responsibility and non-penal real utopias’
This article regards exclusive conceptions of citizenship as the principal stumbling block to developing alternatives to repressive penal policies. Indeed, exclusive communities foster mistrust and suspicion of the Other, leading to punitive responses to ‘outsiders’. It is therefore argued that the very notion of citizenship needs to be ‘reimagined’ in such a way that it is genuinely inclusive and encourages shared responsibility, thus enabling us to go beyond exclusive communities and penal policies generative of irresponsibilities. The idea of an inclusive citizenship of the common, founded on justice and responsibility, is promoted as a real utopian vision. Transformative justice is put forward as one means of realising this vision by allowing citizens to collectively institute a genuinely new non-penal rationality.
- Lynne Copson ‘Beyond Critique: Realistic Utopianism and Alternatives to Imprisonment’
Although the harms and inadequacies of the criminal justice and penal systems are well-documented, the contemporary impulse is largely one born in critique.Currently, it seems that as critical scholars, activists, and citizens, we are far better at deconstruction than positive construction of meaningful alternatives.Even where evidence of an impulse toward the latter exists, this is often diluted over time via its translation into routine politics.Whilst, in many ways, understandable (given the contemporary climate of knowledge-production which eschews ‘radical’ reform as hopeless and idealistic and/or inherently dangerous, and where the politics of knowledge production sees an endless tension between political independence and irrelevance on the part of those working in this field), this article explores the question of how, given this climate, we might begin to move beyond critique, towards the development of radical, yet realistic, meaningful alternatives to punitive penal practices.Despite attempts to develop realistic alternatives within criminology and penology, through a burgeoning interest in the concept of utopia as a form of praxis, the central argument put forward here is that responding differently to crime begins by thinking differently about crime.Drawing on Mannheim’s distinction between ideology and utopia, it offers the discourse of social harm as an important means of encouraging us to think differently and respond differently to social problems.It is argued that, so long as we take the criminal justice system as the starting point of our critique and the locus for the construction of alternatives, reforms are destined to reinforce and legitimise the contemporary ‘regime of truth’ and dominant constructions of crime, harm and justice.Therefore, it is only through the adoption of a ‘replacement discourse’ of harm that we can start to build realistic utopias and meaningful alternatives to imprisonment.
- JM Moore and Rebecca Roberts ‘What lies beyond criminal justice? Developing transformative solutions’
Criminal justice failure has been well-documented. The traditional response to this failure has been to seek out alternatives. However, by their very nature, alternatives are usually conceived and positioned in relation to the failed criminal justice interventions they seek to replace. In this paper we focus on an initiative, Justice Matters, which seeks to provide a model, not for developing alternatives to criminal justice failure, but instead the creation of transformative solutions to a range of social problems. To illustrate the potential of this approach we explore two examples: drugs and violence against women.
Central to our argument is that for nearly all social problems, solutions already exist. But they exist beyond the boundaries of criminal justice and its experts. By drawing on appropriate knowledge – health for drugs; and feminism for gendered violence; – aligned to a political commitment to social justice, we argue it is possible to develop transformative solutions which can provide the foundation for a society that lies beyond criminal justice.
- William Munro ‘What is to be Done? A reconsideration of Stan Cohen’s Pragmatic Utopianism’
Visions of Social Control (1985) is an important but unconventional work within British criminology. Its academic unconventionality is perhaps most clearly displayed in the final chapter What is to be Done? in which Cohen appeals to criminologists to be intellectual adversaries in projects of demystification and institutional reform. While the book’s overall aim is explicitly utopian, the narrative is one of an underlying pessimism. A question at the heart of Cohen's ‘pragmatic utopianism’ is whether social science can provide a more effective theoretical understanding of the institutions of social control in relation to their location in the social and physical space of the city. This paper will outline the key arguments of Cohen's Visions of Social Control, offer an account of his pragmatic utopianism and consider what a pragmatic utopianism may look like under today's changed historical conditions.
- Thomas Mathiesen and Ole Kristian Hjemdal ‘A New Look at Victim and Offender: An abolitionist approach’
Since the 1980s prison populations have increased dramatically in most Western countries. Criminology has proposed several approaches to reverse this development, but with only meagre success. Treatment programmes based on individual explanations of crime conducted inside prisons have not been able to overcome the negative effects of the prison-life; programmes conducted outside prisons have often been supplements and add-ons rather than alternatives; and strategies of incapacitation based on an understanding of social and societal risk factors have often shown themselves to be both repressive and ineffective. Mere criticism of the prison system, as ineffective and repressive, along with proposals to reduce the number of prisons and decriminalise drug use are important, but not enough to tear down the prison walls and significantly reduce prison populations.
- Margaret Malloch ‘Justice for Women: A Penal Utopia?’
For more than two decades, there has been an ongoing critique of penal responses to women in the criminal justice system. Calls to reduce the female prison population have been many, and attempts at reform have been ongoing.In Scotland, a recent decision to halt the building of a new 300-350 bed prison for women was widely welcomed, although in the aftermath, the potential for alternative resources appears to be creating something of a conundrum.Despite all the academic, policy and activist research over these decades, the options for radical alternatives seem vague and contested.This paper seeks to draw on utopian traces, existing in the present and drawn from the past, to consider what a radical alternative for women requires in practice and, what could be implemented to address ‘social harm’ in this gendered context. Looking outside the criminal justice system, the impulses of critical feminist theory are examined to consider what is required for a just society for women.
- David Scott and Helena Gosling ‘Otherwise than prisons, not prisons otherwise: Therapeutic communities as a non-penal real utopia’
The aim of this paper is to critically engage with the idea that Therapeutic Communities (TCs) can be promoted in England and Wales as a radical alternative to prison for substance users who have broken the law. After grounding the discussion within the normative framework of an ‘abolitionist real utopia’ (Scott, 2013), the article explores the historical and theoretical underpinnings of TCs. Existing literature advocating TCs as a radical alternative to imprisonment is then reviewed, followed by a critical reflection of TCs’ compatibility with the broader values and principles of an abolitionist real utopia. To conclude, the article suggests that although TCs could be a plausible and historically immanent non-penal real utopia for certain people in certain circumstances, we must not lose focus of wider social inequalities.
- Steve Tombs ‘What to do with the Harmful Corporation?’
The central concern of this paper is how to respond to health and safety harms caused by corporations. I confine my considerations to health and safety harms, and focus on corporations, not individuals. Once one begins to try to identify ways of effectively ‘punishing’ the corporation, one is led to think about undermining the very basis of the corporation – that is, one is forced into envisioning real utopias. And it is an area in desperate need of ‘real utopian’ thinking, given the scale of harm at issue. The paper begins by indicating the scale and nature of this harm. Then, I critically discuss the use of the fine as the common response to corporate crime in this sphere, before going on to consider more effective responses to corporate crime and harms, and the extent to which they may further the task of abolishing the corporation.
- Tom MacManus and Tony Ward 'Utopia in the Midst of Dystopia? The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó’
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó is a self-governing community of peasant farmers in Urabá, one of the regions of Colombia where violence by the state, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries has been most intense. It is based on a rejection of all violence and on autonomy from, and neutrality between, the state, paramilitaries and guerrillas. Drawing on interviews with community members by the first author, this paper considers how far the Peace Community has succeeded in establishing a radical alternative to the state legal and penal systems in pursuit of what could be called a ‘real utopia’ (Wright 2010).
- Nils Christie ‘Apartheid in Modernity’
This article explores ways of breaking down the social and cultural barriers that lead people to place others in closed categories rather than regarding them as individuals. Christie begins by briefly describing his own experience of living in a ‘ghetto’ before moving on to discuss the role of institutionalisation, notably of children, in the creation of ‘apartheid’. He deplores the erection of walls between children and adults, the middle and working classes. Christie sees an important role for criminologists in the breaking down of barriers. He argues that, rather than being the servants of the State, they ought to work as ‘translators’, giving meaning to the actions of those who seek to resist the conditions of apartheid. Finally, he advocates deinstitutionalisation and the return of children to society as a means of moving beyond apartheid.