As there has been much writing and discussion about crime, why has there been little success in its reduction?
In this essay I will argue that despite the enormous volume of criminological writing and debate which has taken place throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, the resulting theories which have emerged have tended to each focus too heavily on one particular aspect of crime and its control and as such, have proved to be incomplete approaches to our understanding of crime and its reduction; the focus of these being on the victim or on the offender, on the social reaction to crime or on the criminal behavior itself [Young, 1995, p 102], but never sufficiently all-embracing. As a result, the criminal justice system, in reliance on this 'partial' criminology, has introduced penal measures which have proved totally ineffective in reducing crime. I shall demonstrate my argument with a discussion of post-World War II criminology and penology, and provide practical examples of how 'partial criminology' has lead to a failure in crime reduction [by 'partial criminology', I refer to criminological theories which have focused and relied too heavily on one particular aspect of crime, and have, as a result, failed to aid its reduction]. I shall then conclude this essay by discussing some of the more recent criminological approaches which have emerged in the latter decades of the twentieth century, and discuss how these writings and debate might have paved the way for a brighter future in terms of effective crime control.
From the latter part of the 1950's to the early 70's, the study of deviance and crime by criminologists entered an intensive period of development. The dominant criminological paradigm to emerge in this post-World War II period became known as 'social democratic positivism'. The central tenet of this approach was a belief that the increases in crime and anti-social behavior which had been witnessed in this period were due to the demise of social conditions; social democratic positivism dictated that the only way to reduce these high levels of anti-social behavior and crime therefore was to improve the existing anti-social conditions of post-war Europe.
Practical measures were introduced in line with this 'wisdom': Governments went about demolishing slums and pumping large amounts of money into increased welfare spending, the promotion of education, and large scale campaigns to encourage greater levels of full employment. In practical terms, these measures were certainly very successful; there was a marked increase in the level of social affluence throughout the industrial world: In Britain, for example, in the years from 1951 to 1971, real disposable income per person in the UK increased by a factor of 64 per cent [Young, 1995, p72]. According to the writings and practices of social democratic positivism, this resulting increase in social affluence...