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Explanation and penal change: A study in the epistemology of criminal justice.

Morrison, Wayne Joseph (1990) Explanation and penal change: A study in the epistemology of criminal justice. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

This thesis defends epistemological pragmatism against arguments which see it as a compromise position and the term 'reflexive pragmatism' is adopted as a theoretical position suitable for a post-modern perspective. The route to this pragmatic perspective is outlined in criminal justice by a historical narrative of the development of criminal justice perspectives. "Progressive" criminal justice is seen as having undergone three stages: an early modern founding in philosophical construction; a modern faith in science based on the naturalist conception of the so-called natural sciences; and a late-modern pluralism of conceptions which serves as the backdrop to the rise in Just Deserts ideology. The present is seen as a complex and ambiguous situation. The advent of the post-modern consciousness, or the pragmatisation of belonging, both lowers modernist confidence and allows the possibility of confident power plays to dominate. The allure of simplistic solutions is ever present and the rhetoric of Just Deserts is seen as one socio-political choice concerning the proceduralisation of justice when the foundational security of rationalism or empiricism is seen to be lacking. This choice is implicitly contrasted to a reflexive pragmatic position, which, although underdeveloped and only possible to conceive of as 'notes for a potential', is radically different to the formalism of Just Deserts on issues such as objectivity, fairness and in the self-consciousness of the relativism, and human foundation it offers the notion of 'justice'. Considering contemporary penal practice, although Just Deserts espouses the rhetoric of return to punishment and strict formalism, other factors ensure that a complementary provisions to imprisonment are being utilized. In the range of arguments and conflicting perspectives room for experimentation may well exist. Considering the macro-sociological perspectives of Norbert Elias and Niklas Luhmann there are grounds for believing that rehabilitation was not merely a product of criminological positivism or the welfare state, but is reflective of the demands of increasingly differentiated and interfunctional societies. There are grounds therefore, for seeing the rhetoric of Just Deserts as only one facet - the production of post-modern 'selves' able to play their part in complex, differentiated and interdependent post-modern societies demands techniques of installing self-discipline. The catch is that such societies may require less selves, hence there is also the prospect of a developing underclass who will provide the basis of coercive control whilst alternative forms of social control structure the life games of the supra-class. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Law, Sociology, Criminology and Penology, Epistemology
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/1119

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