THE COMPARATIVE METHOD IN GLOBALISED CRIMINOLOGY
The aim of this article is consider the current constitution, and likely future prospects, of the field of criminology, and to examine in particular how it might be becoming more global in nature. The term ‘criminology’ will be used broadly, referring to the academic field as a whole, and hence including the study of the causes of crime, responses to crime including criminal justice, as well as to the field’s many sub-disciplines. The article begins by considering international and comparative criminology, before reviewing previous work that has raised the prospect of a ‘global criminology.’ The focus then shifts to consideration of the question, ‘what is criminology?’, prompted in particular by the various essays in Bosworth and Hoyle (eds) (2011). It is argued that this question usefully draws attention to certain problems currently facing Anglo-American criminology, and contends moreover that these issues are related in certain respects to issues that will face criminology as it globalises. Drawing from work by Wenger (1999) and others, a novel way of conceptualising the field of criminology is proposed, namely as a group of ‘communities of practice.’ The article shows how not only does this approach help model some of the challenges facing Anglo- American criminology both domestically and globally, but that it also suggests some practical measures that could be undertaken to help overcome these problems.
Background to study
The context and history of comparative criminology Comparative criminology is as old as criminology itself. Beccaria, Bentham, Voltaire, Helvetius, Quetelet, and many others of the 18th-century Enlightenment compared and contrasted their own systems of justice with those of other nations. Their recommendations and findings were often influential in bringing about change in countries other than their own. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution owes some of its language and ideas to the writings of these thinkers (see Granucci 1969; Schwartz 1971). Yet, for most of the 19th century and much of the 20th century, comparative criminology was neglected as nations looked inward for solutions to their specific crime problems. It was not until the middle and late decades of the 20th century that interest again emerged in comparing and contrasting the problems of crime across nations. There are many reasons for this renewed interest. The most obvious is that the latter half of the 20th century saw the world become a smaller place, a transformation initiated by revolutions in communication, transportation, and information technology. At the close of the 20th century, nations are increasingly pressured to account for their actions, and the activities of nations are transparent as never before.
One can reasonably argue that transparency began in economic institutions, where trade and commerce demanded it. But the availability of information about various facets of national social life has flourished as well, some have argued, because of an abiding concern with the health of democracy.