The Aesthetics of Crime and Crime Control

Jeff Ferrell, Southern Methodist University

Attempts to understand the nature of crime and crime control have often relied on the old dualism of form versus content, and on the associated hierarchy of investigation whereby form must be stripped away so as to reveal the meaningful core of content. Emerging perspectives in the areas of social theory, cultural studies, sociology, and criminology over the past half century--and specifically in the field of cultural criminology over the past decade or so--have proposed a radically different ontology and etiology of crime and crime control. From this alternative view, form is content; dimensions of symbolism, style, aesthetics, and perception in fact define the dynamics of crime and crime control. Those adopting this alternative perspective investigate criminal subcultures as aesthetic or stylistic communities; explore the aesthetic foundations of crime control and legal authority; define style as the medium through which criminals and crime control agents interact; and consider the essential role of stylized media dynamics in constructing the contemporary reality of crime and crime control.

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Updated 05/20/2006