Competing Dystopia Kafka and Orwell on Contemporary Criminal Justice

Kevin D. Haggerty, University of Alberta

Years ago Stan Cohen invoked the works of Orwell, Kafka and Huxley to suggest that literary figures had much to teach criminologists about the dystopian potentials inherent in criminal justice policies and practices. My paper focuses on the different lessons that Orwell and Kafka can teach us about contemporary dimensions of criminal justice. More specifically, each author provides an insightful understanding of contemporary tendencies, although from somewhat different perspectives. Orwell's vision of "Big Brother" provides the dominant metaphor for our contemporary surveillance society. His model is most applicable to the logic that drives many contemporary aspects of public policing. In contrast, Kafka's work should be understood as providing a dystopian representation for how average citizens might come to view the criminal justice system, which to outsiders seems to be increasingly opaque, inequitable and capricious.

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Updated 05/20/2006