'Merton With Energy - Katz With Structure': The Criminology of Transgression and the Sociology of Vindictiveness

Jock Young, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

This paper involves a critique of neo-liberal notions of crime and punishment pointing to the similar existential dynamics of transgression and vindictiveness. It insists on placing such a phenomenology in the structural context of late modernity which gives rise to pressing crises and transformations in the First World/American Dream. Such a process revolves around the concept of bulimia where people are subject to inordinate cultural incorporation but face enormous structural barriers to the realization of their dreams, desires, fantasies. This involves not only frustration at their exclusion from meritocratic rewards but more crucially where their desire for secure identity and lives of meaning, excitement and self-fulfilment are constantly thwarted. The unequal material society has now its more showy counterpart in the spectacle of spotlight and celebrity. In these circumstances widespread resentment occurs throughout the social structure leading both to transgressive crime and penal vindictiveness.

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Updated 05/20/2006