On Historical Criminology: Criminology and Criminal Justice Between Modern and Late-Modern Culture

Thomas Gilly, ERCES France Paris

This paper attempts to work out the historical roots of the paradoxical situation which is characteristic for post- or late-modern criminology and criminal justice. It addresses the epistemological and historical conditions of its intelligence and the reasons that might explain it. In post- or late-modernity criminology and criminal justice are disconnected one from each other. This figure is closed to the contradiction which results from the post-modern condition of the criminal justice, on the one hand, and criminological culture which is still a part of modern culture, on the other. This figure is the key that opens the door to a new understanding of modern criminology and its history: The history of criminology is the history of its normative and axiological taboo, its efficiency and its artificial nature, but its also the history of criminology's original project and its failure. With the end of criminology's illusion: the absolute belief in both the possibility to construct crime as a real fact without referring to its normative and ethical dimension and to explain it by referring exclusively either to the formal social reaction or the personality of the offender, starts a new program which places criminology at the heart of one of the less considered and most unsolved problems of our times, the problem of common morals and supra-individual values.

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Updated 05/20/2006