Critical Criminology

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 39–55 | Cite as

Critical Criminology in the Life and Work of Eugene Victor Debs

  • Kenneth D. Tunnell
  • Edward L. W. Green


The American socialist, Eugene Debs, made a profound impact on American politics during the first half of the twentieth century. Although socialism and the public’s knowledge of Debs have waned since then, we argue, in this paper, that Debs, his writings and his life’s work are relevant to criminology—particularly critical criminology—yet neglected during the formative development of critical criminology. In this paper, we describe Debs’ biography and politics. We document his first-hand experiences with the legal system (including incarceration), his consistent critiques of capitalism and his written and spoken texts that empirically link American-style capitalism and its captains to US politics. Last, we describe Debs’ only published book on prisons and prison life and its unfortunate omission from the criminological canon yet argue that Debs’ life and written and spoken word remain central to social justice.


Social Justice Corporate Crime Critical Criminology Socialist Party Capitalist Class 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Brewer, G.D. (1910). The fighting editor, or Warren and the Appeal. Girard: G.D. Brewer.Google Scholar
  3. Carlson, P. (1983). Roughneck: The life and times of Big Bill Haywood. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  4. Cash, J. (1971). Man in black. New York: Columbia Records. Recorded February 16.Google Scholar
  5. Cleaver, E. (1968). Soul on ice. New York: Dell.Google Scholar
  6. Currie, H. W. (1976). Eugene V. Debs. Boston: Twayne Publishers.Google Scholar
  7. Debs, E.V. (1902). How I became a socialist. New York Comrade. April. Reprinted in Radosh (1971): 19.Google Scholar
  8. Debs, E.V. (1903). The Negro in the class struggle. International Socialist Review (November). Reprinted in Radosh (1971): 62.Google Scholar
  9. Debs, E.V. (1905). Appeal to Reason. July 8. Reprinted in Morgan (1962): 86.Google Scholar
  10. Debs, E.V. (1910). Working class politics. International Socialist Review (November). Reprinted in Radosh (1971): 28.Google Scholar
  11. Debs, E.V. (1912). Sound socialist tactics. International Socialist Review (February). Reprinted in Radosh (1917): 37.Google Scholar
  12. Debs, E.V. (1914). The gunmen and the miners. International Socialist Review (September). Reprinted in Radosh (1971): 44.Google Scholar
  13. Debs, E. V. (1918). Debs and the war: His Canton speech and his trial in the Federal Court at Cleveland, September, 1918. Chicago: National Office Socialist Party.Google Scholar
  14. Debs, E.V. (1927/2000). Walls & bars: Prisons and prison life in the “land of the free.” Chicago: National Office Socialist Party/Charles H. Kerr.Google Scholar
  15. Durkheim, E. (1897/1951). Suicide: A study in sociology. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  16. Ferrell, J. (1999). Cultural criminology. In K. S. Cook & J. Hagain (Eds.), Annual review of sociology 25 (pp. 395–418). Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.Google Scholar
  17. Geis, G. (2008). Ben L. Reitman, MD: Colorful critical criminologist. Contemporary Justice Review, 11(3), 271–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goffman, Erving. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  19. Green, E. L. W. (2013). For President—Convict No. 9653: A review of Walls and Bars as a historical contribution to the contemporary dearth of prison ethnography. Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology, 1(2), 384–389.Google Scholar
  20. Hammer v. Dagenhart. (1918). 247 U.S. 251.Google Scholar
  21. Irwin, J. (1970). The felon. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  22. Jackson, G. (1970). Soledad brother. New York: Coward-McCann.Google Scholar
  23. Karsner, D. (1919). Debs: His authorized life and letters. New York: Boni and Liveright.Google Scholar
  24. Karsner, D. (1922). Talks with Debs in Terre Haute. New York: The New York Call.Google Scholar
  25. Lindesmith, A. R. (1947). Opiate addictions. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  26. Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mechtenburg-Berrigan, J., & Kramer, R. C. (2008). State crime and Christian resistance: The prophetic criminality of Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister. Contemporary Justice Review, 11(3), 249–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Morgan, H. W. (1962). Eugene V. Debs: Socialist for President. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Quinney, R. (1970). The social reality of crime. New York: Little, Brown & Co.Google Scholar
  30. Quinney, R. (1980). Class, state, and crime. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  31. Radosh, R. (1971). Debs. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  32. Richards, S. C. (2013). The new school of convict criminology thrives and matures. Critical Criminology, 21, 375–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ross, J. I., & Richards, S. C. (2002). Behind bars: Surviving prison. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books.Google Scholar
  34. Salvatore, N. (1982). Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and socialist. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  35. Sutherland, E. H. (1940). White collar criminality. American Sociological Review, 5(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tannenbaum, F. (1922). Wall shadows: A study in American prisons. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons.Google Scholar
  37. Tannenbaum, F. (1938). Crime and community. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Taylor, I., Walton, P., & Young, J. (1973). The new criminology: For a social theory of deviance. New York: Harper & Row.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tunnell, K. D., & Hamm, M. S. (2009). Singing across the scars of wrong: Johnny Cash and his struggle for social justice. Crime Media Culture, 5(3), 268–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tussey, J. Y. (1970). Eugene V. Debs speaks. New York: Pathfinder.Google Scholar
  41. Weber, M. (1947). The theory of social and economic organization. (A. M. Henderson & T. Parsons, Trans.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RichmondUSA
  2. 2.ManhattanUSA

Personalised recommendations