Adventures in Criminology by Sir Leon Radzinowicz

By Sir Leon Radzinowicz

Sir Leon Radzinowicz is likely one of the key figures within the improvement of criminology within the 20th century. This account of the advance of criminology intertwines his own narrative as a criminologist with the development of criminology itself. His adventure won from a profession which has spanned 70 years because the Twenties, deals a profound assessment of ways the knowledge of crime and criminals, of legal justice structures and penology has replaced, and of the tensions and dilemmas those pose for democratic societies.

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What he and his school meant by positivism was not the philosophical system of positivism but the positivist method of study and perception, and more precisely its empirical approach, an approach which was also common to fascism. This was obviously more of a dialectical twist than a serious argument. His second attempt at clarification was no less fallacious and possibly even more perilous. It was concerned with the central issue of the position of the individual in relation to society and the state.

Taking a very broad view of the subject I distinguished three phases in the evolution of penal ideas. First, the primitive phase, which extended to the Middle Ages and exhibited extreme cruelty and capriciousness in dealing with suspected or convicted criminals. Second, the classical phase engendered by the impact of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. And third, the positivist phase with its three layers: anthropological, socio-psychological and juridical. Without being conscious of it, I made use of this categorization thirtyeight years later in my Ideology and Crime: A Study of Crime in its Social and Historical Context (1966).

Carl Stooss, strange as it may seem, became a lawyer almost malgré lui. In his delightful autobiographical sketch, which reveals his engaging personality, he informs us that ‘As I had no scientific, artistic or technical gifts, I became early in 1868 a jurist, in fact without following a disposition or a vocation’. Once he decided to follow this path he followed it at the exclusion of any other pursuit. He was not attracted by extensive travels abroad, not keen to agitate for the adoption of his penal views in endless conferences and congresses, not interested in political discourse or campaigns.

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