postmodern criminology | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminology

Postmodern criminology is a theoretical approach that challenges traditional ideas about crime and justice by emphasizing the role of language, power, and subjectivity in shaping criminal behavior and the criminal justice system.

Postmodern criminology is rooted in the broader postmodern philosophy, which rejects the idea of objective truth and emphasizes the role of language, culture, and power in shaping our understanding of reality. In the context of criminology, postmodern theorists argue that crime and justice are not objective concepts but rather socially constructed ideas that are shaped by cultural norms, historical contexts, and power dynamics.

One of the key ideas in postmodern criminology is the notion of “hyperreality.” This refers to the idea that our understanding of reality is not based on objective facts but rather on constructed images and symbols that are mediated through various forms of media and communication. In the context of crime and justice, hyperreality suggests that our understanding of crime is shaped by media representations of crime and criminals rather than by actual crime statistics or empirical evidence.

Postmodern criminologists also emphasize the role of power in shaping criminal behavior and the criminal justice system. They argue that power dynamics play a key role in determining who is labeled as a criminal, who is punished for their crimes, and who can shape public discourse about crime and justice. For example, postmodern theorists might argue that certain groups, such as racial minorities or the poor, are likelier to be labeled as criminals because they lack the social and political power to resist such labeling.

Another important concept in postmodern criminology is the idea of subjectivity. Postmodern theorists argue that individuals are not simply passive objects that are acted upon by external social forces but rather active subjects who actively construct their own realities through language and discourse. In the context of crime and justice, this suggests that criminal behavior is not simply the result of external social factors but rather a product of individual subjectivity and agency.

Postmodern criminology represents a significant departure from traditional criminological theories, emphasizing the importance of objective facts and empirical evidence. While postmodern criminology has been criticized for its emphasis on subjectivity and its rejection of objective truth, it has also contributed to a more nuanced understanding of the complex social and cultural factors that shape criminal behavior and the criminal justice system.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2023


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