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Introduction to critical criminology
Introduction to critical criminology

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The development of critical criminology

In the mid 1960s, positivist criminologies began to be challenged by a range of radical discourses that questioned the assumptions on which positivist criminology was founded. These new discourses focused criminological attentions away from the search for causal relationships between unproblematised social phenomena and towards an interrogation of the concepts of social order, crime, and constructions of deviance. This generation of criminologists, influenced by a rapidly changing social world, denounced what they had come to view as the ‘mainstream criminological ideology’ (Taylor et al., 1973). It is here that the story of critical criminology begins.

It is important to recognise that much of the ‘criminological project’ has been characterised by knowledges developing either in parallel – or in response to – changing social conditions. New knowledges in criminology seldom completely replace old ones. Innovative approaches and ways of thinking about issues of criminological concern have emerged with regularity throughout the relatively short history of this dynamic and expanding field of study. Although criminology is a fast-paced area of academic enquiry that is in constant development, roots from its earliest manifestations have been sustained while new branches have developed alongside them. As a whole, the various developments and trajectories in criminology have formed a rich and varied tapestry of criminological ideas that reflect the wide range of disciplines that have contributed to its formation.