Beyond Lamentation: Towards a Democratic Egalitarian Politics of Crime and Justice

45 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2012

See all articles by Ian Loader

Ian Loader

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Richard Sparks

University of Edinburgh - School of Law

Date Written: October 6, 2012


This paper addresses some prospects for and impediments upon the democratization of aspects of crime control policy. It does so in the first place through a sympathetic critique of themes in the recent work of Robert Reiner. A consistent theme especially of Reiner’s later work has been the critique of hegemonic neo-liberalism and of its effects on both crime and the politics of crime control. This has two main dimensions. One is the project of vindicating and revitalizing the Mertonian theory of anomie and relating it to contemporary accounts of the effects of structural inequality on public health, violence and victimization and the startling divergence in life chances that these represent in our kind of society now. The second dimension concerns the more strictly ethical objection to the competitive egoism that Reiner sees as coming to predominate in the culture of neo-liberal societies and his striving to defend certain principles of moderation, fairness and solidarity that he associates with twentieth century social democracy. In our view however these challenges demand a more open orientation to the future than is suggested by the recovery of social democratic traditions alone, as well as a keener engagement by criminologists with the resources of contemporary political theory and analysis. The substantive aim of moderating inequalities is one major task for such a programme but far from the only one. We also confront testing questions about the forms of contemporary politics – about the spaces for deliberation and participation that we might hope to develop; about the supra-national and inter-cultural character of our most urgent challenges and so on. In addressing these questions, we seek to find grounds for a less defensive, more hopeful politics of crime and punishment than we have managed to construct hitherto.

Keywords: policing, crime control, neo-liberalism, social democracy

Suggested Citation

Loader, Ian and Sparks, Richard, Beyond Lamentation: Towards a Democratic Egalitarian Politics of Crime and Justice (October 6, 2012). Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2012/23. Available at SSRN: or

Ian Loader

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

Richard Sparks (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh - School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom
0131-650-2006 (Phone)
0131-650-6317 (Fax)

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