Teaching Criminology: Part VII

Postmodern Criminology

A. This is the final part of a seven part series on teaching criminology. The series was prepared for graduate students in sociology as part of the Transforming Sociology Series of the Red Feather Institute for Advanced Studies in Sociology.

B. PostModern Philosophy of Science. Postmodern science has very attributes from the modern science which, 300 years after the death of Newton, continues to inform sociology in general and criminology in particular. In this and other work, posted on-line at the address above, I use the new sciences of chaos and complexity with which to sort out the dynamics of crime, change, class and other topics of interest to sociology. Among the very different attributes are:

C. Postmodern Criminology. The research design used in all modern science is set up in order to eliminate understanding of non-linear dynamics and fractal facticities. In a recent comment in the LA Times, James Q. Wilson is quoted as saying '...real science involves testing theories by repeated and independent experiments.' Wilson uses research in DNA, a simple system with linear dynamics as the model for battered women and children who live--and die--in very complex and nonlinear systems. He urges that courts use the truth standards appropriate for simple, linear systems in criminal cases.

Until we set in place quite a different research design, one which looks for changing truth values as key variables make small changes, both human understanding and social policy are hostage to this simplistic science.

CONCLUSION: A postmodern criminology is as much concerned with preventing crime as with charting and theorizing about it. Postmodern criminology looks for changing correlations rather than high correlations. Postmodern criminology looks for ways to keep a society with enough order to serve the human need for dependable scheduling of social interaction while maintaining enough disorder to permit change, flexibility, adaptation and creativity. Postmodern crime policy is not oriented so much to control, pain and punishment as to careful, light and strategic adjustments of key variables which affect the kind and number of attractors. Postmodern crime policy is not concerned so much with individuals but with kind and degree of linearity of structural variables: racism, class inequality, gender oppressions as well as national/transnational exploitations.

In a word, postmodern criminology is more oriented to social justice than to criminal justice.

TR Young

Red Feather
Home Page
Lectures Teaching