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Class, State and Crime

On the Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice

By (author) Richard Quinney
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Prentice Hall Europe (a Pearson Education company), London, United Kingdom
Imprint: Prentice Hall Press
Published: 14th Aug 1978
Dimensions: w 140mm h 200mm
ISBN-10: 0582280613
ISBN-13: 9780582280618
Barcode No: 9780582280618

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Kirkus US
Quinney propounds a rigorously Marxist theory of crime and the criminal justice system, anchoring himself in the intensified "contradictions" of advanced, decaying capitalism. His argument, in a nutshell, is that as economic crisis deepens the "surplus" population which is thrown out of work also increases - and with it criminality. In an effort to secure domestic tranquillity (a prerequisite for capitalist accumulation), the state finds itself spending more and more on crime control - viz., the creation in recent years of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) and the passage of bills like the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act; currently the cost of criminal justice is $15 billion per year and rising. All this, according to the Marxist canon, is as inevitable as it is futile: the huge, nonproductive expense of crime control only exacerbates the fiscal crisis which portends the collapse of the system itself. Quinney quotes everyone from E. P. Thompson to Harry Braverman with the tenacity of a Talmudic scholar, but his formulations are so sterile and jargon-ridden that even those sympathetically disposed toward the argument that prisons are a last-ditch form of "social control" of capitalists over workers will be turned off. What about the traditional Marxist view that criminals are merely a parasitical lumpenproletariat? Quinney modifies it somewhat by sketching three stages of criminal activity: (1) unconscious reaction to exploitation; (2) conscious acts of survival; (3) politically conscious acts of rebellion. The dialectic which underlies all change convinces him that, as social conditions deteriorate, felons will become less lumpen and more revolution-minded. Quinney's unfortunate style will diminish what would, in any case, be a limited sectarian audience. (Kirkus Reviews)