A New Criminology: Somewhere over the Rainbow

  • John Eldridge


It is not easy to summarise the issues surrounding the study of deviancy in their particular manifestations in British sociology. Geoffrey Pearson has coined the term ‘misfit sociology’, and as an epithet it has a pleasing ambiguity (G. Pearson, ‘Misfit Sociology — the Politics of Socialisation’, in Taylor, I., Walton, P. and Young, J. (eds.), Critical Criminology, 1974, and The Deviant Imagination, 1975). The following quotation gives the sense of his meaning and at the same time might suggest why adequate summary is difficult to accomplish:

This area of scholarship is an odd theoretical cocktail, constructed out of sociology, psychiatry, criminology, social administration, media studies, law, social work, political science, cultural criticism, social psychology and even some strands of popular culture and music. This inter-disciplinary misfit finds its focus in the study of deviants but it is more than an inter-disciplinary exercise . . . Schur has lumped many of the strands together as the labelling perspective’, although the sociology of labelling is only one of its elements. Within the same domain one finds what passes for ‘phenomenology’ and also a sort of ‘Marxism’. Anti-psychiatry has left its mark and Schur, again, points to the affinities with existential psychology. To add to this mix one of the central contributions in this area owes a considerable debt to Durkheim. Here, clearly, is an area of high theoretical dispersion, a zeitgeist of sorts which allows for an apparent harmony between some widely differing perspectives. It is also rightly or wrongly a theoretical jig-saw which has earned the reputation of being ‘radical’.

(Pearson, 1975, p. 51)


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© John Eldridge 1980

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  • John Eldridge

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