A whole host of pundits, journalists and bloggers have chipped in with their views on the causes of the UK Riots, while The Guardian is doing an excellent job of tracking the state’s response, but where is the commentary from professional sociologists and criminologists? There seems to be a lack of empirically and theoretically informed analysis coming from the professionals in these fields.
I find this annoying – because there are a lot of criminological and sociological researchers out there who have a lot of empirical knowledge they could bring to the debate, but on the whole I haven’t heard that much commentary on the riots from the professionals who are still, as it stands, primarily publicly funded.
In fairness, some sociological commentators have chipped in – Zygmunt Bauman has offered us his critical account of the underlying causes – unsurprisingly telling us it’s all abut the fact that post-modern Capitalism calls on us to limit our reflexive-projects of identity construction to the sphere of consumption rather than politics and production, and David Harvey, although more of a Marxist Geographer, has also penned an account of the relationship between the crisis in late capitalism and the riots.
But where are the actual criminologists – where are their contributions?
Well probably the best specific online criminology blog is the Bent Society Blog – (the link is to their category – riots), and I suspect that most of these posts are written by Mike Sutton – This post makes some sensible observations about the actual role of new media in reducing street- crime overall but leading to increasing spikes of copy cat incidences. Richard Wilkinson, co- author of the spirit level has also ‘come out’ and highlighted the link between high levels of inequality and increasing violence
But what about other Criminologists and Sociologists -such as the serious ‘theory generators’ such as Jock Young, one of the leading Criminologists in the country and author of the ‘Vertigo of Late Modernity’ – nothing? Stephen Lyng – who developed the theory of Edge Work?
And what about the other professional criminologists working on the ground – there are hundreds of them in the country – where are you in this debate and why aren’t you contributing, surely those criminologists working in the field of youth criminality, surely they could spare an hour to help fill the knowledge-gap that exists over this issue with some informed, evidenced based insight and perspective.
I mean I am not expecting full blown ‘I have all the answers’ contributions, but at least critical responses to ideological accounts of the causes of the riots being given by the Tories that provide us with links to evidence that warn us off such simplistic analysis – along the lines of what this post from the JRF does…. I know the research is out there – so why aren’t people that know the same as I do, but know it better, and get paid more than me, and are better practised at articulating themselves, why don’t they contribute to this important debate?
It may be that Professional Criminologists are just too busy, but a few comments shouldn’t take that long; it may be that the issues are too complex, but then they can always be broken down (communicating as well as generating knowledge is in the job description, right?)
It may be that the media just isn’t asking – and I can believe this of the BBC – but not of the Guardian, and then there’s always social- media – professionals don’t have to wait to get their research to a wider audience these days.
Or could it be that criminology is just part of the system and that critical criminology is just dead in the water? Could it be that Universities put pressure on their staff to not to contribute to current debates for fear of political reprisals and it’s only the really big names who are retired or in a position to be able to retire who can was political?
Or maybe it’s just pure old self-interest – it’s their knowledge and their damn well only giving it to those precious few people who can afford to pay for it?
As a final note I can’t accept that Universities don’t allow this knowledge to be disseminated in watered down form via the media – if this were the case we wouldn’t have programmes such as the excellent thinking allowed by Radio Four.
So can someone please tell me, in the case of the debate over the UK riots, where have all the Criminologists gone?
P.S. I fully accept I may have missed something – this is a genuine call for info. – If anyone knows of links to material that is not journalistic, please let me have them!