Constitutive Criminology: Origins, Core Concepts, and Evaluation

By Henry, Stuart; Milovanovic, Dragan | Social Justice, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Constitutive Criminology: Origins, Core Concepts, and Evaluation


Henry, Stuart, Milovanovic, Dragan, Social Justice


IN THE 12 YEARS SINCE DRAGAN MILOVANOVIC AND I FIRST FORMULATED THIS theoretical perspective, we have received numerous questions (many via e-mail) about various aspects of the theory. Interestingly, these have not come predominantly from academics, but mainly from undergraduate, graduate, and even high school students. In addition, there have been over 25 discussions of the theory in journals and books (for an assessment of these, see Henry and Milovanovic, 1999). Below we will address the issues raised by summarizing the constitutive position and offering an evaluation of its contribution to date.

Origins and Influences

In one sense, constitutive criminology has a long history in that it draws on several well-established critical social theories, most notably symbolic interactionism, social constructionism, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, structural Marxism, poststructuralism, structuration theory, semiotics (for a review of these roots, see Arrigo, 1997; Bak, 1999, 2000). In another sense, it is part of the relatively recent interest in chaos theory and affirmative postmodernism. In particular, it draws on complexity theory (Mandelbrot, 1983; Gregerson and Sailer, 1993; Pickover, 1988), structural coupling (Luhmann, 1992; Teubner, 1993), strategic essentialism (Spivak, 1988; Jessop, 1990), relational sets (Hunt, 1993), critical race theory and intersections (Matsuda et al., 1993), autopoietic systems (Teubner, 1988, 1993; Cornell, 1991), dialectical materialism (Marx, 1975; Sayer, 1979), and topology theory (Lacan, 1961; Milovanovic and Ragland, 2001; Milovanovic, 1996c).

Most recently, constitutive criminology was born of the application of these postmodernist concepts to critical criminology by a relatively small group of critical criminologists whose inner circle comprises Stuart Henry, Dragan Milovanovic, Gregg Barak, and Bruce Arrigo. This group has primarily been responsible for founding the position in criminology and making theoretical innovations. A broader group that is more loosely linked to the constitutive project includes T.R. Young, Rob Schehr, Lisa Sanchez, Vic Kappeler, James Williams, and Mary Bosworth. These scholars have found the theory helpful in explaining particular developments in crime and justice and have pushed the theory in new directions (see Henry and Milovanovic, 1999, for a sampling of their research). The outer circle of this group includes sympathizers who have incorporated aspects of the theory into their analysis, while developing their own theoretical analysis in new directions. There is also a growing body of students who have developed their research around the constitutive position, including Biko Azino, Andrew Bak, and Mark Faccini. Finally, there are critics of the position. Their contributions are included in an evaluation section at the end of this article.

In a more narrow sense, constitutive criminology first emerged in the 1980s in Stuart Henry's studies on crime and social control in the workplace (Henry, 1983; 1985). They were considerably influenced by Peter Fitzpatrick's (1984) theory of "integral plurality" and Anthony Giddens' (1979, 1984) structuration theory, especially in The Constitution of Society. Henry outlined a sociolegal theory concerning the relationship between social forms and social action, initially defined as "integrated theory" (Henry, 1983). The actual term "constitutive theory" came from a suggestion by Christine Harrington (1988) in her constructive critique of Henry's 1983 work. It became the motif for subsequent renditions (Henry, 1987a; 1987b) and was incorporated into other work in Brigham and Harrington's series "After the Law" (e.g., Hunt, 1993).

In June 1989, during a chance meeting at the 25th Anniversary meeting of the Law and Society Association in Madison, Wisconsin, Dragan Milovanovic shared similar insights. He had been developing theories in the sociology of law, particularly Lacanian postmoderism and psychoanalytic semiotic approaches (Milovanovic, 1992; 1993a; 1993b; 1994a; 1994b; 1994c), and in his studies on law and the prison (1988; Milovanovic and Thomas, 1989).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Constitutive Criminology: Origins, Core Concepts, and Evaluation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.