NOTES ON: Taylor I, Walton P, Young  J  (eds) (1975) Critical Criminology, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 

Chapter one Taylor I, Walton P and Young J 'Critical Criminology in Britain: Review and Prospects'

Critical Criminology offers a move on from demystifying traditional criminology. It tries to see deviancy as an authentic activity, arising from the diversity of cultures and their contradictory nature. It is anti-correctionalist, since correctionalism is a form of social control. It also pursues a methodological critique, opposing positivism and approaches like labelling theory  (which fails to focus on power relations), and any other approaches which oscillate between objectivity and subjectivity in the conventional senses. 

British culture is dominated by Fabianism and Utilitarianism, with their ideologies of equality of opportunity and welfarism. These approaches also take a punitive stance towards deviancy: deviants are seen as suffering from a personality disorder; thieves threaten welfare redistribution. Such views have affected the ideologies in social work too. Welfare is really a political issue, stabilising capitalism as part of a Keynesian management regime  (as argued by Gouldner). 

Deviancy can be seen as expressive, as anti-utilitiarian. Some middle-class groups are resistant to industrialisation, but offer an inversion of it. This leads to participant-observation and other studies of subjectivity in deviancy theory, and to policies of radical non-intervention for the State and social work. This kind of celebration of cultural diversity is OK, but it offers no analysis of the State. 

In the early stages of critical criminology, the concept of alienation was used. This led to seeing deviancy as an assertion of human values, and to a methodology about how this assertion was controlled. Key terms were never specified or analysed, however, and again we had a celebration rather than an analysis. The actual groups which emerged, such as the Claimants' Unions, or Gay Liberation, supported radical diversity, and did develop a kind of political commitment. 

A political economy of deviancy emerged too. Crime was seen as bound up with inequalities, with production and ownership. The abolition of crime became possible. This approach was rooted in radical perceptions rather than conservative or liberal ones, still focused on human potential and on the possibilities of praxis, although different from the other critiques -- for example, radical research was to be fed back to slum neighbourhoods, to facilitate a general politicisation. Clearly, research was to be partisan and not value-free. 

What would materialist research look like? 

(a) an expose of the rich and powerful. This is useful but again would be a mere inversion, based on a moral indignation, seeing power as a moral matter, to do with legitimacy, and located in individuals rather than the system. 
(b) crime in property societies might be investigated, using statistics to show how there is a class bias in matters like legal processing. Thus the sizes and effects of theft might be compared with those of fraud, and the concept of  'lawful crimes' be examined. 
(c) the connection might be explored between crime and the law. The law must be criticised, using marxist analysis as a way of restoring an account of the social relations involved in, and the historical specificity of legal norms. A materialist analysis might be pursued it using the base/superstructure model: law might be seen as the result of labour. Stuart Hall's work [see file on policing -- or this one which is more general] might be used to explore how the economic level dominates the other levels, and also how legal relations assist in the reproduction of capitalism -- such as those that support  'free' labour and so on. The law has undergone a process of uneven development, but some interesting examples might be pursued on law in industrial relations, or the role of  'law and order' panics in the development of social control

Chapter 8 Hirst PQ  'Marx and Engels on law, crime and morality'

There are some terms differences between [modern ] 'marxism' and actual marxism. Much depends on whether the problems, objects and fields in modern versions are compatible with the object and fields in marxism. Is marxism suitable as a critique as in Radical Deviancy Theory, where crime are seen as a result of social relations and the nature of laws is to be questioned? There can be a no real marxist theory of deviancy  (and no such theory of education, family, or sport either!). Marxism can only use its own concepts -- mode of production, class struggle, State, ideology. Any attempt to apply marxism to other areas must be  'revisionist'. 

The writings of the young Marx often appeal to modern radicals because they seem so relevant. But we need to look at Marx's own development as well. We cannot just interpret Marx's works as we will --  'The notion that Marx's works are open to any  "interpretation"... is patently false'. We might begin to look at what Marx actually wrote about crime and law. 

In the period 1840-2, Marx's writings were based on Kantian - liberal conceptions. Reason was equated to freedom, reason was universal and transcendental, and it was possible to use this notion to critique actual laws. In this phase 'man' was seen as defined by some biologically based species characteristics rather than by any transcendental or religious characteristics  (including self-consciousness). The work was definitely idealist -- the point was to develop radical communist ideas. Thus private property was seen as an affront to natural rights, as the theft of those rights, and actual governments, like those in the Rhineland, were criticised morally, for allowing landowners to usurp people's natural rights. The laws in the Rhineland were to be criticised, because they were not based on universal reason. Historical analysis was needed to uncover how this had happened. 

1842 - 44 was a Feuerbachian period in Marx's development, and he was writing the Economic and Political Manuscripts, which are crucial. There is no mention of the law in these writings, however. There is an attempt to reduce all phenomena to the  'alienation problematic'. The point of criticism was to capture the essence of  matters in the alienated forms in which they appeared. The process of alienation had occurred in definite historical developments for Marx, which was once also a difference with Feuerbach. Communism was to occur at the end of this history, as alienation was abolished. Alienation was therefore a general concept: to use it as a mere description of criminological phenomena is absurd, especially if it is operationalized. Using it like this, as happens in modern social sciences, reduces the concept of alienation, or destroys its context, or somehow harnesses social science to that process of criticising historical development. [This is neither intended nor realised, of course]. 

1845 onwards  was the period of historical materialism proper. It was accompanied by definite changes in conceptions of the social structure and conceptions of politics, which had moved from emphasising human equality or natural rights to those demands in the Critique of the Gotha Programme [basically, demands for the abolition of the State and of the wage system, and a replacement of slogans such as  'a fair day's pay for a fair day's work'with one such as  'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs']. The famous 1859 Preface [the the one which sets out the model of economic base and cultural or ideological superstructures] is reductionist, but no more than the Economic and Political Manuscripts. The Althusserian reading of the 1859 Preface remedies this anyway -- it sees the base as a mere limit, a condition of existence, and develops the three-level model [see file]. Social relations at these different levels are not further reducible to the practice of human beings, however -- the marxist referent here is social totality rather than individuals. Individuals and their relations are effects of social relations. There is no longer an end to this in communism -- communist societies also have these invariant laws. Marxism now has a scientific object but no goal, no telos [direction,  progress towards a goal] of history as reconciliation  (page 212). The base/superstructure separation is not a contradiction but an invariant. The Critique of the Gotha Programme criticises moral egalitarianism, distributive justice, and abstract ethical notions like  'fair' or  'equal'. In capitalist societies the mode of production will still determine distribution and will still be unequal. The differences between these positions than earlier ones are incommensurable -- the last one is a critique of the others. 

Crime, law, marxist politics

Marx saw the lumpenproletariat as 'scum', and as reactionary. This was not just a moral  rejection but a political rejection: it was a matter of alliances of proletarians and how to form them. The lumpenproletariat were the worst fraction -- the criminals and parasites, whose interests were opposed to the proletariat. They lived off the crumbs of capitalism, and were likely to be easily bribed by the ruling class. They cannot grasp the principles of socialism because they are so undisciplined -- they may have a minor role to play as part of a mob, or in street fighting, but this is far from attempting to take over the control of factories. They played no significant role in the events of the French Revolution. 

There is a section in Engels on the brutalisation of people following enclosures or factory systems. It was indeed the system which produced  'vagabondage'. Even so, delinquency was not seen as a form of rebellion but one of reactionary accommodation. Factory sabotage or Luddism were seen as a  'spontaneous' struggle, which was badly in need of organization: it was an infantile struggle. This was recognised in the Communist struggles in China, where the Communist Party felt it necessary to exercise firm leadership over the bandits who fought with them. 

As for political crimes and the State, the State is a ruling class agency and it does try to stigmatises opponents as criminal. But the State is not simply a ruling class tool, and it is not true that all law is irrelevant and class dominated. The problem is to decide what is really illegal and what is part of the political struggle. There is no ethical formula to do this, it is a matter really of the efficacy of activity in the overall struggle. For example, Socialists should be defending bourgeois legal freedoms if that helps to develop the workers' movement and leads to demands for universal suffrage, free trade unions and the rest. 

Marx's Theories of Surplus Value does have sections on the functions of the criminal. These are to reinforce bourgeois morality, to help the production of commodities, to develop a nice 'social problem' to create work [in the security business]. In this way, crime is indeed an innovatory force -- but Marx was being ironic, of course, mocking the defence professions as very moral and useful to society, the very acme of  'productive labour' in the bourgeois definitions. Productive labour', for Marx, was not just useful labour, but labour which led to the production of surplus value. 

It follows from this notion of productive labour that theft can only be a parasitic enterprise, with the thief as a kind of middle man or re-distributor. Such labour is not economically necessary even though it does look like the official mode of the extraction of surplus value in feudal regimes! Conversely, private property is not the same as theft  [and Marx heavily criticised Proudhon for saying that it was], since private property is not a natural right, does not arise from natural law but is a specific institution. 

The same sort of thing goes for prostitution or other illegal services, which are unproductive labour if the provider gets the benefit, and productive if a boss receives the benefit -- but hardly characteristic of capitalist labour. Professional crime serves to produce only illegal capital, which is therefore highly limited in its role. The same goes for illegal labour: it is marginal and can only lead to political quiescence. In fact crime generally is marginal to capitalism, it is not a major problem, certainly not when compared with organised labour  (the threat from organised labour is the real reason for the State and the police). 

Overall then, a 'marxist' deviancy theory will actually require an awful lot of bourgeois apology for capitalism, talking up marginal activities, especially in supporting the view that crime is a major problem for capitalism. 

Chapter nine Taylor I and Walton P  'Radical Deviancy Theory and Marxism, a Reply to Paul Q Hirst'

Hirst fails to mention any actual deviancy theorists, and no actual ones use the arguments that he accuses them of using. So-called  'conflict' approaches are often not derived from marxism [ as they argued in their earlier work -- see file]. 

There are some strong objections to the kind of  'scientific' marxism that Hirst endorses. It is a mistake to think that the analysis of consciousness can be done with scientific techniques [the old claim here that human beings require a special human science of their own]. 

Deviancy is not just crime  [Hirst focuses entirely on the latter]. 

Theoretical coherence is the issue, not whether theory may be appropriated or not, and not whether we should focus on a privilege science or politics. Hirst would ban all efforts to attack bourgeois consciousness as part of the struggle: such an attack would involve us in analysing ideology, rather than in scientific analyses, and it would involve discussion about the role of intellectuals rather than the proletariat. 

There is no intention to romanticise crime or to see it as a form of rebellion. These may be tendencies in certain radical approaches, such as in the neo-Chicago School approach advocated by Gouldner [ who had written an introduction to the earlier work The New Criminology], but this needs actual analysis. 

There is at least agreement on how it is the system that brutalises people. The point about the irony of 'functional' analyses of crime is to argue that crime is not necessary --  'Of course, for Marx and for us, it is not' (page 237) [ they had noticed this quote themselves, anyway -- see file]. Hence the need to  '[establish]... theoretically the potentiality of a classless, human and non-criminal society' (page 237). 

Chapter 10 Hirst PQ 'Radical Deviancy Theory and Marxism: a Reply to Taylor and Walton'

There are some internal contradiction in Taylor's and Walton's account -- they say there is no marxist deviancy theory and then they say that there is and it is acceptable! Hirst's own account turns on a criticism of empiricism, which arises when applying a theoretical problematic to some  'real object', which implies using theories merely as more or less convenient explanatory devices.  [Following Althusser] really, objects are internal to problemtics, they are always  'objects in knowledge'. There are really three problematics in Marx, each of which specify as three different sorts of objects: however, none are applicable to crime or deviancy. The objects of various applied sociologies are pre-constituted to, this time by ideology. Taylor and Walton do not reply to this point, and seen knowledge as a matter of consciousness, as the experience of the social world by a subject. Radical Deviancy Theory proposes a transformation of consciousness rather than of its objects, supplying a politically different ideology to guide practice, quite openly so. It must therefore cease to claim to be a theory: it denies science. 

All societies outlaw certain acts as a necessary condition of their continuance. The police force is not just a repressive state apparatus [this seems to contradict what he had said in his first piece? -- I suppose much turns on that word  'just']. Can certain kinds of deviants be seen as rebels? Should deviancy be seen as a political struggle? If so, it must be a form of consciousness, a form that is explained and analysed in the 1859 Preface: it must be the outlook of a particular group, perhaps one which expresses some essentialist truth about  'humanity' [these are all insulting terms, of course, for a marxist of Hirst's persuasion]. 

Historical materialism cannot be seen as a problematic that deals with theory alone. It is a theory with definite objects -- modes of production. It is not like a 'natural science', which can be used to explain the operations of the economic base while analysing the superstructures requires subjectivism -- this is a dualistic essentialism. Proper marxism sees the superstructures as practices as well, which enables a unity of concepts  [Althusser pursues this line in his account of the 'Generalities' -- very briefly, a model which explains how a mode of intellectual production transforms raw materials provided by ideology into the finished products of marxist science. This enables some unity to be established between economic production and the production of ideas, it is being claimed here]. 

My comments 

This is one of those fairly inconclusive academic debates, it seems to me. Neither of the parties seems to offer a close reading of the views of the others, but deal instead with their own version of the others' arguments. I have not indicated it very well here, but the argument seems to have become reasonably acrimonious as well -- so a section I have not quoted, in the Introduction, has Taylor, Walton and Young saying that Hirst's arguments offer a potential defence of the Soviet criminalisation of dissidents! This is in fact fairly typical of some early reactions to Althusserian readings of Marx! 

Since reading the earlier New Criminology again, I am also quite puzzled by some of this. In their section on Marx and Engels (and a bloke called Bonger), Taylor et al make many of the comments about marxism themselves, and even use the same quotes as Hirst-- about the lumpenproletariat or the ironic use of crime, for example. Had Hirst thought Taylor et al  had not really appreciated the meaning of these sections? Had they met and discussed it already and agreed the relevant quotes over which they were later to disagree? Had Taylor et al already encountered Hirst's critiques, before they actually published the chapter in the New Criminology, and tried to get them into their own work before Hirst was able to publish his critique? Academic life is very strange, and any or all of these are possible...

Finally, I have argued, in my discussion of the work of Stuart Hall and his colleagues, in pieces such as Policing The Crisis, that Hirst's criticism provoked a response from gramscians as well -- see especially this bit of the file. Indeed, in my 1992 book, which, admittedly is a bit of a polemic, I suggest that  'the crisis' that needs to be policed is the crisis induced in non-Althusserians by this trenchant critique, and Hall et al 'policed ' it by trying to make it fit their own views.