Sunday, 22 July 2007

Review - Law And Order: Arguements for Socialism (1982) by Ian Taylor

Law and Order: Arguements For Socialism, is British critical criminologist Ian Taylor's arguement that the British left should take the issue of crime seriously. In the aftermath of the 1980/1981 riots which showed just how badly Margaret Thatcher supposedly 'Law and Order' agenda had failed Taylor argues for the reconstruction of socialist crimnal policy in the form of 'transitional demands'. Although Taylor is not a revolutionary, he (at least at this point) argued for the end of capitalist economic relations as part of the fight against crime and other social problems.

Taylor starts the book with a description of the rise of right-wing criminology (right realism) and the effects this has had within the first two years of Margaret Thatcher's reign in the UK, particularly the advocation of free market policies and 'tough on crime' policies. I do not think i need to go once again into these, needless to say the crime rate did not decline with the implementation of these policies, rather it began to climb even faster.

Taylor's second chapter is a critique of the keynesian welfare state. Taylor's arguement (which i agree with) is that despite it's short comings the post world war 2 welfare state fulfilled to an extent real needs. He charts the how the Labour Party fell short of what was possible in the aftermath of world war two, which could have been a decisive break from capitalism (i would argue that the social democratic parties of europe saved capitalism). Then he chronicles the reforms implemented in the immediate aftermath of this, noting the top-down imposition of experts (mostly liberal-professionals) to run the criminal justice system and other social services, which deals with their middle class ideas of peoples need rather than the actual needs of workers.

Taylor then begins to argue for his 'transitional programme' in relation to crime issues. This is necessary he says because of the right's dominance of an issue they are making worse for people through their economic policies (and continuing to do so today), with no real solutions. He puts forward the slogan of the radical democratisation of the state, particularly in relation to the police, but that this must also be done on the basis of putting forward socialist economic policies to undermine the fundamental causal factors of crime.

Taylor then goes onto suggest where such policies can come from. He puts forward policies in relation to the family, the police, sexuak crime, prisons and the legal system, building on such movements as the prisons right movement that was around at that time. These topics are not exhaustive as he says, but these were the most prominent of the issues when he was writing the book (although he briefly comments on the 1981 riots in the introduction, he had finished the bulk of the text by then). He argues that a socialist criminology should not be academic with its head on the clouds but argue for policies that have a concrete reality that working people can fight around. He concludes by paraphrasing the famous remark of Rosa Luxemburg that the obverse of socialism is barbarism.


Unfortunately, like many after the collapse of the soviet union, Taylor seems to give in to the Capitalist triumphalism of the 1990's in his later works prior to his death in 2001. His last book prior to death, Crime in Context will be reviewed at some stage in the future. However, what is clear in even the immediate aftermath of this book is that the book Ian Taylor promises on a further extension of some of the ideas of this book combined with some essays by Jock Young never seems to have appeared, despite being scheduled for publication the following year, perhaps this was due to Young's diversion into left realist criminology.
Nevertheless this book remains in my mind the pinnacle of criminological writings so far, and should be read by all (despite it's focus on the uk). (copies should be available second hand on amazon)

PS. just a reminder that i'll be away until next thursday/friday so don't expect any more posts until then

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

Very interesting post.

I think this topic is where you'll make your mark. You should carry on this work.

I don't have the answers.