A Critical Criminology of Market Societies


Polity Press


List of Figures

List of Tables



1 Social Transitions of the Late Twentieth Century: ‘Crime’ and Tear’ in Context

The Job Crisis

The Crisis of Material Poverty and Social Inequality

Fear of Falling and Fear of the Other

The Crisis of the Nation-state

Crises of Inclusion and Exclusion

Crisis in ‘the Culture’

Crises of Masculinity and the Gender Order

Crises of the Family and Parenting

2 The Ninth Transition: The Rise of Market Society

Market Structures

Market Culture

The entrepreneur as hero

The market not the nation-state

The market and the discourse of choice

The market and ‘self-interest’

3 Young People, Crime and Fear in Market Societies

Unemployment and Insecurity

Poverty in Childhood and in the Transition to Adulthood

Youthful Insecurity and Risk in Market Society

The War against the Young in Market Society

The Absence of Subcultures

Protest and Market Masculinity among the Young

Household Formation, Household Non-formation and Homelessness

The Omnipresence of Drugs and Alcohol

Winners and Losers in Market Society: Present and Future Prospects

4 Crime in the City: Housing and Consumer Markets and the Social Geography of Crime and Anxiety in Market Society

Images of Crime, Images of the City

American Exemplars: Chicago to Los Angeles

The Cities of Old Europe

Cities of the Industrial Revolution

The new urban police

Spatial and social sequestration in the industrial city

The ‘Modern City’ – Twentieth-Century Processes of Urban Development

Slum clearance and the new life

Post-war suburban utopias

The Problem Estate and the Demonization of Social Housing

The ‘City Centre’: Urban Pleasures and Precautionary Strategies

Residual Space in the Market City: Questions of Definition and Strategies of Negotiation

Difference and Poverty in the Market City

The Urban Spectacle in the 1990s

Urban Fortunes and Futures

5 Fraudsters and Villains: The Private Temptations of Market Society

I: Fraudsters


Fraudsters in the Post-Fordist Market Place

City Scandals in the 1980s

An Inventory of Financial ‘Crimes’ in Market Society

Welfare fraud

Tax fraud by individuals and businesses

The stock market

Fraud in the financial services market: pensions, mortgages, insurance

Bank fraud

Counterfeiting and piracy in the global market

The Criminological Classic: E. H. Sutherland and White Collar Crime

II: Villains

The ‘Full-time Miscreants’ of Fordist Society

The Analysis of Professional Crime in Fordist Britain

The Villains of Market Society

The Market in Protection in Market Society

6 Lethal Markets: The Legal and Illegal Economies in Firearms

The United States: Guns at the Frontier

Britain: Social Divisions without Firearms

Firearms Fear in other Market Societies

Gun Anxieties in the 1990s

7 The Market in Social Control

The Explosion of Penality in Market Societies

Explosions of Penality: Old Orthodoxies

Rusche and Kirchheimer: the political economy of prison and the reserve army of labour

Michael Foucault and Stanley Cohen: the carceral and disciplinary society

1 Blurring the boundaries of social control

2 Thinning the mesh and widening the net

3 Masking and disguising

Contemporary Discourses of Social Control: The Management of Risk

Theorizing Risk 1: Ulrich Beck’s Phenomenology of the ‘Risk Society’

Theorizing Risk 2: The Political Economy of Personal and Social Insurance

The New Industry in ‘Crime Prevention’ and Detention in Market Society

‘The public interest’ in policing and punishment

The private interest in policing and prisons

1 The private prison industry

2 Private policing

8 Crime in the Future(s) Market

The ‘Reality of Crime’ in Market Society

A Sociology of Everyday Life and Culture in Market Society

The Problem of the Public Interest

Liberal governance and ‘community crime prevention’

Transnational markets and the public interest



Author Index

Subject and Place Index


1Ernest Burgess’s zonal model of urban development

2City-states of Europe and the Middle East (3000 BC–1500 AD)

3Industrial regions of Europe c.1880

4Jock Young’s Square of Crime


1 Fordist and post-Fordist cultures of work 11

2 Percentage of female-headed households, no husband present, USA, 1950–1983 46

3 Percentage of women aged 20 to 39 living alone with children, European Community, 1991 47

4 Young people’s victimization by crime, Scotland, 1990 72

5 Suicide rates, young men aged 20 to 24, selected countries 88

6 Unemployment and long-term unemployment on official measures in fourteen major UK cities, July 1996 133

7 Rates of recorded crime in fourteen North of England police force areas, 1988, 1995 134

8 Some major reported frauds in the United States in the mid-1990s 142

9 Some major reported frauds in market Britain, 1988–1998 144

10 Four varieties of professional criminal organization 165

11 The markets in ‘protection’ in market society 170

12 Project and craft crime in market society 172

13 National rates of imprisonment, Western Europe, 1985, 1995 188

14 European prison populations (excluding Luxembourg), 1991–1995 188

15 The markets in employment and other financial opportunity in market societies 230


We are grateful for permission to reproduce the following:

Figure 1: Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The University of Chicago Press, from E. Burgess, ‘The Growth of the City’ in R. E. Park, E. W. Burgess and R. D. Mackenzie (eds) The City 1967.

Figure 2: Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press from Arnold Toynbee Cities on the Move (O.U.P., 1970).

Figure 3: Reprinted by permission of the publisher from Paul M. Hohenberg and Lynn Hollen Lees, The Making of Urban Europe 1000–1950 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press). Copyright © 1985, 1995 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.


At the end of the twentieth century, the bookstores are full of books on crime, though this title will certainly not find a place on the same shelves. In the massive Waterstones bookstore in the city of Manchester, England, where I lived through most of the 1990s, the ground floor display area was rearranged in 1995 so as to accommodate, right at the front of the store, several hundred new titles, on topics like Serial Murderers and Sexual Crimes of the Twentieth Century.1 Several of these new books are companion volumes to movies on release in the city’s cinemas or, in some instances, are simply the original text on which the movies are based. The movies in question – Shallow Grave, Silence of the Lambs, Reservoir Dogs, Natural Born Killers and others – focus heavily on interpersonal violence and murder and also place great emphasis – in the manner of many earlier cinematic genres – on the idea of the ‘criminal mind’ (not least, as a way of dramatizing the detection of the originating criminal act) but also – to a significant extent, these are movies which emphasize the idea and contemporary social presence of evil. Similar moral and psychologistic preoccupations are now also widely apparent on prime-time television – most notably, in Britain, in the extraordinarily powerful Cracker series, produced by Granada Television in 1994 and 1995, watched by over 15 million people, and featuring, inter alia, the forensic investigation of serial and sexual murders, some of them extremely graphically displayed (Crace 1994).2 The prominence of ‘Gothic’ themes in movies about violent death is not new in itself: there is a long history of interest in the cinema in horror and, indeed, in ‘transgression’ and evil. What may be definitive about the present genre of movies as well as the range of fictional and non-fictional titles in the bookstores about crime is the overwhelming focus on murder and killing represented in very contemporary and mundane, ordinary and, indeed, ‘respectable’ settings, and the powerful suggestion that these movies are a representation of the risks and dangers involved in everyday life at the end of the twentieth century. The bookstore display in Waterstones is straightforwardly called the ‘Real Crimes’ section.

Other than this, however, the murder movies and the Real Crime literature are distinctive for their insistent representation of the criminal in terms of one or other individualistic account – that is, of the individual criminal. Lurking not very far below the surface of these different representations of crime as ‘a form of behaviour’ are two themes of enormously long vintage in the analysis of crime, both in industrial and pre-industrial society – on the one hand, some version or other of an individual as being under the influence of evil (‘possessed’ by ‘the Devil’ or some other malign influence from outside society as we know it), and, on the other, some explanation of that crime in terms of the individualistic analysis of pathology or species underdevelopment as mobilized within evolutionary biology. In this respect, the violent crime movies and the Real Crime books are an expression of a search that has also been being encouraged throughout the 1980s and 1990s in some parts of the academy, especially on the part of clinical psychiatrists and behavioural psychologists, in North America. In the mid-1980s, for example, as David Kelley observed, there was a sudden explosion of such texts of widely differing quality released in the United States, ‘stalking the criminal mind’ (Kelley 1985). Kelley paid particular attention to the massive tome by Samuel Yochelson and Stanton Samenow, The Criminal Personality, which somehow managed to construct psychopathy as a general paradigm for the analysis of all criminal violence, whilst also wanting to insist on such violence as a voluntary and freely willed act for which all perpetrators should be held personally responsible. In the same year, Yochelson and Samenow’s text was to be superseded in many quarters by the publication of James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein’s Crime and Human Nature, and, in the 1990s, in North America and Britain, the analytically individualistic behavioural interpretation of crime has seen the development of ‘offender-profiling’ by forensic psychiatrists, specifically in its application to police detection (Cantor and Alison 1997), and also the attempt to use the framework of socio-biology to explain apparently social phenomena (like crime) in terms of measurable variations in the age, sex, intelligence and personality-formation of individuals (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990).3

It is impossible to ignore the way in which these cinematic and televisual representations, and the accompanying forensic and socio-biological literature, are helping to construct and legitimize a form of commonsense and populist criminology, with a much more influential social presence in many societies (certainly in Britain – for example, in daily newspaper crime reports) than at any time since the 1950s. It is a form of commonsense criminology organized around ‘the criminal’ and, particularly, ‘the criminal mind’ as an ‘object of analysis’, and also complicit in the task of identification, prevention and containment of the individual criminal. It is closely associated, in what sociologists would call ‘a discourse’, with a new penological project that is concerned with the identification and incapacitation of the ‘dangerous offender’ as well as with new ways of surveillance – social insurance, the minimization of the personal risk arising from the sudden emergence of dangerous individuals in the broader society (Feeley and Simon 1992). It is also a kind of individualistic and ‘commonsensical’, practical criminological discourse which is winning the attention of vast cohorts of students enrolled on undergraduate and graduate programmes in criminal justice in North America, as well as, increasingly, in Britain, Australia and elsewhere.

The advance of these various forms of ‘analytically individualist’ criminology has occurred almost without comment or response, so far as many well-established figures in the criminological and social scientific academy based in Western universities are concerned.4 In the United States, throughout much of the last twenty years, the social scientific study of crime has been conducted under the influence of the ‘symbolic interactionist’ and ‘social constructionist’ traditions, focusing, not on ‘the crime’ itself (whose reality is sometimes denied or ignored) so much as on the processes which construct certain behaviours as crime, and the social reactions which such behaviours and crimes provoke (Becker 1963; Lemert 1967). In other parts of the social science academy, influenced by more critical traditions (especially, in the early 1970s, by some form of Marxism) the concern was to locate such crimes as an expression of the contradictions (and especially the rank inequalities) inherent in a capitalist political economy, and to see any or all attempts to control such forms of primitive rebellion and resistance as confirming evidence of the real oppression at the heart of ‘liberal’ capitalist democracy (Center for Research on Criminal Justice 1975; Quinney 1969, 1970, 1973, 1974). The influence of North American labelling theory and symbolic interactionism, and, to a lesser extent, the particular versions of Marxism and conflict theory which were developed in North America, was high in the 1970s, both within North America and elsewhere in the Western academy – but, in the subsequent twenty-five years, this intellectual tradition has withered on the vine or, alternatively, merely been institutionalized within the academy as a part of the catechism of ‘political correctness’.

Social, economic and cultural developments in Western societies since the late 1960s have been momentous, though it is fair to say that the direction of change has not been that which was emblazoned on the banners of ‘1968’, other than for those for whom ‘the cause’ was simply that of enhancement of personal liberties (the free market society which is the subject of this book certainly advances a version of this ‘libertarianism’, no matter how much it withdraws the personal liberty of material security from large numbers of people). Inasmuch as the objectives of ‘1968’ were anti-capitalist, then the developments since then have violently contradicted the aspirations of that generation. ‘Socialism’ itself as a utopian alternative to capitalism (in both its master definitions – the achievement of greater equality in the distribution of goods and of life-chances, and a planned economy dominated by the State acting for the general public interest) is dead, not least because of the collapse of the only existing experiment with that form of societal organization, the Soviet Union. In the last years of the twentieth century, no serious political or social commentator speaks of an alternative to living with ‘a free market’, which seems to be well entrenched as the only conceivable model of economic survival and/or development. In these ‘new times’ – dominated by what I will be calling a post-Fordist market society – the issue which is then posed for social commentators (including those in the academy who conceive of themselves as having a special position from which to advance some kind of critique) can be expressed in very familiar terms: ‘What is to be done (or said)?’

One very popular option in the academy in recent years has been that of close description – particularly, I would argue, the close description of ‘the discourses’ – the cultural signs and languages of ‘the texts’ of the form of fast-changing society of consumption which has emerged in the wake of the demise of more long-established and (in retrospect) rather unchanging societies based on the priorities and demands of mass industrial production. For many academicians, it has been attractive to describe the changes that have so quickly occurred through the language of ‘postmodernism’. There has been continuing ambiguity in much of the social scientific debate as to whether ‘postmodernism’, as a term, should be understood as a reference to the form of analysis of social science itself (that is, an epistemological argument, about what is said to be the impossibility of any kind of ‘foundational’ analysis, analysis constructed on what are seen to be redundant ‘modernist’ foundations, like class, gender and race) or whether postmodernism is simply a description of the condition of the culture (as in the work of Fredric Jameson or Zygmunt Bauman) for systematic analysis according to clear principles (which do not themselves simply ‘melt into air’).5 As several commentators have observed, the pursuit of forms of social and cultural analysis in which there are no agreed foundations may be akin to the pursuit of a personal life within which there are no a-priori limits, or no clear moral basis from which to proceed. So, in the sphere of sexuality, for example – an explosive consumer item in the contemporary international market place – the postmodern analyst may choose simply to record and/or ‘deconstruct’ the fast-moving new images and enticements. But, of course, as Ian Hacking (1997) observes in a recently published lecture, this kind of postmodernist social (de)constructionism leaves the analyst with no position on child sexual abuse or other forms of sexual cruelty or coercion.

The concern in this text is to explore one of the most obvious areas of discontent in post-Fordist societies – those established, ‘developed’ societies which have been so fundamentally transformed by the demise of mass manufacturing industry over the last quarter-century – the ever-intrusive fear and reality of crime. I want, on the one hand, to advance an analysis that makes sense of, or explains, many of the varieties of actually occurring behaviours (burglaries, car theft, the use of guns, the sale of drugs) which certainly are very firmly defined by their victims (as well as by an anxious media) as crime. But I want to locate my analysis against the background of the rapidly transformed social and economic relations of the emergent post-Fordist society. I will be concerned to understand these new social relations, in significant measure, as a product of the competitive individualism that has been widely identified (on a broad canvas – from the problem of ‘road rage’, so pressing an area of popular concern in the late 1990s in Britain – through to the widely feared emergence of ‘in-your-face’ incivility in many other public encounters – in the United States as well as in other market societies) as an essential feature of ‘market culture’ itself. I will also want to register the way in which the advance of the logic of market competition insinuates new systems of social classification and evaluation into just about every workplace as well as into the biographies of just about every working citizen – namely, through the measurement of performance within particular markets, the classification of individuals as ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ – a process which, as Oliver James (1995) has shown in respect of the struggles of young people in Britain in the mid-1990s, is at the core of the defensive/aggressive individualism which many young people exhibit in a ‘winner–loser culture’. Taken alongside Edward Luttwak’s (1995) analyses of the constant turmoil and change that the liberalized markets (or ‘turbo-charged capitalism’, in Luttwak’s own memorable phrase) impose on workplaces and workers alike, we begin to get closer to an understanding of the cultural conditions of violent crime and property crime alike. The theoretical argument I want to develop will take ‘the post-Fordist market’ as a vital and, indeed, hegemonic feature of modern-day experience, especially for young people confronting the challenge of transition into ‘adulthood’ and ‘independence’ – that is, as a social fact that is inescapable for young people. Given the fact of ‘post-Fordism’, indeed, those same young people constitute the first youthful generation of the entire post-Second World War period with a declining set of material expectations (in respect of employment and remuneration), by comparison with those of their own parents and the cohorts of young people who immediately preceded them in the crucial period of adolescence. It is in no sense my argument that this truth constitutes the rationale per se for the explosion in the rise of crime that is reported in societies like Britain, where an experiment in free market economics has been in full flow since 1979. The unfolding of the post-Fordist transformation in each of the hitherto Fordist societies has occurred alongside the development of a set of other ‘crises’ or fundamental transitions, moving at different speeds and with different priorities, along many other dimensions in these different social formations (for example, the relations of the sexes, and especially the gender-order in the home and in the workplace), and in respect of the broader cultural universe through which individuals in each society have interpreted the fundamental and deep transformation of the forms of organization (of those households, workplaces, and broader social relations) that occurred, in the 1980s and 1990s, in most Fordist societies.6 I will begin the analysis, in chapters 1 and 2, with an extended summary account of nine discrete transitions in the forms of social life that were definitive under Fordist conditions in the earlier twentieth century – intending to show how these different transitions, though always interconnected in the personal experience of any one individual and the ‘shared culture’ of specific social groups, also have a definite autonomy, with their own logic of ongoing development and change.

I do not want to suggest that any one of these logics of development can be reduced, in a straightforward social scientific model, to ‘the basic’ facts of the economy itself: I do not think that ‘unemployment’ causes (sic) ‘crime’ in some mechanical and deterministic fashion. What I do want to argue, however, is that there has been an absolutely fundamental transformation in the organization of economic life in most Western societies over the last quarter-century (very often summarized as the move from economies organized around production to economies organized around consumption) and that this transformation has had absolutely fundamental effects on the forms and the substance of social life. The effects of this transformation on ‘crime’ itself – including, here, the actually occurring behaviours that the victims of such behaviours certainly define as real crime (burglary, theft, assaults, use of guns, trading in drugs, and many other behaviours which also find their way into the sets of criminal statistics produced every year by local and national police forces) will be one of the main areas of concern of this text. But I should add that it is in no sense my concern to advance the argument that the regulated mixed economies of the Fordist period (which I will discuss, in chapter 1, as a particular historic form of ‘market society’) were free of ‘crime’: what matters is the kinds of crime with which they were associated – in reality as well as in the popular imagination – and the real probabilities of criminal victimization in such societies. So I also will be concerned in this text to examine the ways in which the culture of the new post-Fordist societies (including, indeed, the ‘postmodern’ cultural market place itself), articulated around the sovereignty of the individual as a consumer of private goods, plays into the spiralling sense of anxiety and of danger that is a feature of everyday life in most newly marketized post-Fordist societies. Once again, it will not be my concern to argue, like some contemporary social scientists of great renown, that the facts of ‘risk’ and uncertainty about the future shape and direction of social order are entirely new – it makes good sense to see here the return of many aspects of life in late medieval Europe (like the widespread demands, in effect, for the reintroduction of the nightwatchman) – but it will be my concern to try and capture the specificity of the configuration of risks and uncertainties that are so central a feature of the culture of the new post-Fordist market societies. As a graphic illustration of this argument, I include a specific and detailed discussion in chapter 6 of the phenomenon of firearms crime, and the heightened anxieties which are produced amongst citizens of market society with respect to the perceived increase in prevalence of this form of violent crime in different market societies. Not least of my concerns is to encourage a way of thinking the issue of some forms of contemporary crime themselves as ‘market phenomena’: as being complicit (as firearms crime in the United States clearly is) with the more or less unregulated marketing of particular products (cheap handguns and a ready supply of willing salespeople) in particular market societies at particular times, but also with the kind of competitive individualism which the culture of market societies encourages.

I see this text as a contribution to the continuing debate amongst social scientists as to the character of the transformation that has so fundamentally unsettled the Grand Compromise that was the Keynesian welfare-state mixed economies in the mid-twentieth century. But I also hope the eight connected essays here will constitute a kind of textbook for any student of criminology who wants some kind of resource through which to make sense of the ‘crimes’ that are so staple a feature of the everyday news of post-Fordist societies, without wanting to reduce all such media reports simply to ‘a moral panic’ or alternatively falling back on those moralistic and clinical populist criminologies of our time, contemplating, on the one hand, the unexplained explosion of pathologies or the Devil himself. At the end of one century and the beginning of another, we might all hope for a better and more sophisticated explanation of the specific relationship between the explosive development of market society and the problem of social order itself.