Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Justice, Community and Civil Society: A Contested Terrain

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Justice, Community and Civil Society: A Contested Terrain

Article excerpt

JUSTICE, COMMUNITY AND CIVIL SOCIETY: A CONTESTED TERRAIN Ed. Joanna Shapland, Cullompton Willan (2008) ISBN: 978-184392-299-5

Justice, Community and Civil Society is a rich and comprehensive addition to ongoing debates within Criminology on the relationship between criminal justice and its 'publics'. The book brings together key scholars operating at the interface of how criminological knowledge is not only disseminated, but also understood at the community and civil society levels. In this sense the book is a welcome respite from the contested binary of criminology and policy insofar as it gives promise of re-animating the debates on community, and civil society and the complex linkages between comprehending crime, and administering its control. Not only does the book provide a rich array of insights from international jurisdictions on how the criminal justice, community and civil society nexus operates. The book also provides for a much needed account of the value and merit of the comparative method as it relates to this specific area of debate.

The academics brought together over the 230 or so pages write with great experience of how various societies overcome the ongoing and increasingly problematic dilemma of responding to the public's demand for justice. The most in-depth chapters focus attention on France and Northern and Southern Ireland. Both societies have undergone considerable political change in the last 10 years. On France, the chapters serve to remind this reader that notions of community should never be taken for granted: 'the word 'community' seems to be almost banned from French political, legal and even professional vocabularies' (p. 48). By contrast, and at the other end of the spectrum, two robust chapters on Northern Ireland and Ireland reveal another perplexing picture of community. On Northern Ireland, it is the very term 'community' that has come to dominate the political landscape. That is, through the lens of community, Northern Ireland comes to 'see like a state' (p. 162).

Further chapters on Germany and the Netherlands draw the reader to a normative question: is it the case that in instances when rational dialogue with 'publics' withers and disappears, then this is largely because participation in, acceptance of, social democracy, has been replaced by a rapacious rise in criminalisation and crime control. …

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