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International Socialism, spring 1960


Paul Marcus

Crime and Treatment


From International Socialism (1st series), No. 1, Spring 1960, pp. 30–31.
Transcribed by Christian Høgsbjerg, with thanks to Paul Blackledge.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Social Science and Social Pathology
Barbara Wootton
George Allan and Unwin. pp. 400. 35/-

The increasing crime rate in Britain today is matched only by the increasing numbers of criminologists devoted to increasingly diverse and diffuse explanations of this phenomenon.

Barbara Wootton is concerned with a general detailed critique of these explanations and, in particular with an analysis of the impact and validity of the use of psychiatric and psycho-analytic terms and methods, both as description and treatment of the criminal.

The result is devastating. With considerable clarity and precision she demolishes pretensions, inaccuracies and inadequacies of concept, method and analysis such staple ingredients of latter-day criminology as ‘the broken home’ and ‘maternal deprivation’. She is equally able distinguishing between the valuable insights of psychiatry and the wholesale employment of pseudo-psychiatric techniques among the bureaucratic army of semi-professionals which has proliferated around the attempt to contain and treat crime.

In addition, among the most striking evidence she provides is an inkling – a somewhat inarticulate one, however – of the class basis and attitudes involved in the differential treatment of differing kinds of the motoring offender compared with the lead-stealer, the expense account fiddler and the man who gets caught taking home a spanner from work.

In spite of the brilliance of much of Barbara Wootton’s work and its value as piece of shock-treatment in the literature of criminology, this book continues a tradition in this particular field, which tends to deal mechanically with the relationship between individuals and society. Causal relationships are assigned within the conflicting areas of individual development and environment. The latter is then taken wholly in such terms as housing, employment, health, poverty and so on. The social demands that capitalism inflicts, the kind of values which imply the kind of relationship between the individual and the society into which he grows – the institutions of a capitalist economy and ethic – remains an unfilled area of inquiry. Unfulfilled because it implies a radical criticism of the society we live in and the goals it sets for human beings.

Most of the workers in this field recognise a connection between man and his community. Few make it.

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