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Crime, Moral Panics and Security

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  1. Crime, Moral Panics and Security JUR5101, February 10 2009 Heidi Mork Lomell

  2. Crime • Crime as an aberration; crime as deviance • A manifestation of biological, social or other pathologies • A deviation from a common morality/a deviation from the norm • An infraction of legal codes • Crime as a routine activity • An opportunity • A fact of everyday live • Normal social commonplace aspect of modern society • Continuous with normal social interaction, motivated by the same urge to utility maximisation • ”Criminals are portrayed not so much as pathological or poorly socialised, but rather as rational actors taking advantage of opportunities to further their own ends.” (Zedner, p. 159)

  3. Manegerialist and punitive strategies • ”Rational approaches to control of crime rates and harsh punishment policies have developed hand in hand. Whereas the presentation of crime as a routine and everyday event promised a cooler, less moralistic attitude toward crime, penal politics have not become one iota less punitive but instead simultaneously seek to pursue what we micht call manegerialist and punitive strategies side by side.” (Zedner (Hudson), p. 160) • Criminologies of the self vs. Criminologies of the other (Garland)

  4. Moral Panics • Exaggeration of both the extent and significance of the problem • In itself • Compared with other, more serious problems • Disproportionality: • The reaction is always more severe than the condition warrants • ”The idea that social problems are socially constructed does not question their existence nor dismiss issues of causation, prevention and control. It draws attention to a meta debate about what sort of acknowledgement the problem receives and merits.” (Cohen, p. xxxiv) • Over-reaction: Taking things too seriously vs. • Under-reaction: Not taking things seriously enough

  5. Objects of moral panics • Young, working-class, violent males • School violence: Bullying and shootouts • Wrong drugs: Used by wrong people at wrong places • Child abuse, satanic rituals and paedophile registers • Sex, violence and blaming the media • Welfare cheats and single mothers • Refugees and asylum seekers: Flooding our country, swamping our services

  6. Security • ”Governance of crime” is more than criminal justice. • From ”punishment” to ”security” • ”The formal apparatus of criminal process, trial, and punishment have no more than a marginal purchase on the problem of controlling crime” (p. 155) • ”Major changes in the governance of crime are occurring within, on the margins, and outside the public sphere” (Zedner, p. 155) • ”From criminal justice state to security society” (Zedner, p. 176) • ”Whereas punishment provokes us to ask why, how, and in what measure the state may inflict pain upon its citizens, security has not been thought to require special justification because in many ways it seems preferable to punishment.” (Zedner, p. 155)

  7. Six paradoxes of security • Security pursues risk reduction but presumes the persistence of crime • The expansion of security has enlarged not diminished the penal state • Security promises reassurance but in fact increases anxiety • Security is posited as a universal good but in fact presumes social exclusion • Security promises freedom but in fact erodes civil liberties • Security is posited as a public good but its pursuit is inimical to the good society

  8. Justifying security • ”The compelling attractions of security, backed by equally threatening allusions to risk, have promoted the language of security and insecurity over any larger consideration of the threat its pursuit poses, not least to accountability, equality, and justice” (Zedner, p. 174) • If someone, or some category of persons, is categorised as a risk to public safety, there seems to remain scarcely any sense that they are nonetheless owed justice.” (Hudson i Zedner, p. 174)

  9. ”What matters it not just that crime is ’prevented’ (that people do not commit crimes they would otherwise have committed), but how and why they come not to commit them” (Duff et. al./Zedner, p. 178-179).