Criminal Justice Theory: An Introduction

By Roger Hopkins Burke | Go to book overview

1 Introduction
Modernity and criminal justice

This is a book about criminal justice theory. Students of criminal justice and the law – and in reality other disciplines as well – are invariably overwhelmed by the word ‘theory’ which they seem to subconsciously associate with the esoteric or even the mythical and scary ‘rocket science’ with the outcome being an inherent resistance to the subject matter. Theory nevertheless in reality means ‘explanation’ and is simply about how and, most importantly, ‘why’ we do some things and in the form that we do.

There seems to be no academic consensus as to what exactly constitutes a ‘criminal justice theory’ but this text approaches the task by explaining from different, often competing, but sometimes complementary, perspectives why the various components of the ‘criminal justice system’ operate in the way that they do and in whose interest. This book thus considers the theoretical underpinnings of criminal justice and its institutions and in doing so considers the areas of legal philosophy and ethics, explaining criminal behaviour (criminological theory), policing, the court process, punishment or penology and youth justice. The theories discussed are significantly all the products of an era encompassing approximately the past three centuries which has come to be termed the modern age and it is a time period which has its origins in a period of great intellectual ferment and activity known as the European Enlightenment.


The European Enlightenment and the rise of the modern age

The European Enlightenment involved the development of a whole range of thought concerning the nature of human beings, their relationship with each other, institutions, society and the state, and in doing so, provided the guiding ideas of the modern age. This is not to say that all of these ideas have stood the test of time and circumstance, but before the eighteenth century, the human world and the ideas that underpinned it are distinctly less recognisable to modern observers than those which emerged and struggled to gain acceptance in that tumultuous period.

Many of the ideas of the Enlightenment stressed commonalities among people and, in doing so, threatened the social domination of the aristocracy and the established Church. Before this time the common people had been encouraged by the church to simply accept their lot in life but with the rise of Protestantism and

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Criminal Justice Theory: An Introduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Criminal Justice Theory i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • 1- Introduction - Modernity and Criminal Justice 1
  • 2- Explaining Crime and Criminal Behaviour 29
  • 3- The Philosophy of Law and Legal Ethics 58
  • 4- Policing Modern Society 84
  • 5- The Legal Process in Modern Society 111
  • 6- Punishment in Modern Society 144
  • 7- Youth Justice in Modern Society 172
  • 8- Conclusions - The Future of Criminal Justice 194
  • Notes 215
  • References 222
  • Author Index 249
  • Subject Index 256
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