By Mark Wakefield
Richard Quinney is a well-known critical philosopher, and has contributed significantly to the field of criminological inquiry. This presentation of him begins with a short background providing some personal information, then outlines a variety of his perspectives and ideas. I use four broad areas to sort through the numerous ideas, arguments, and perspectives Richard Quinney has proposed. The first, Critical Philosophy, is used as a foundation for the more narrow focus of criminological issues. It is broken down into three other sections; Failures of other modes of discourse; Contradictions of capitalism; and Ideology of capitalism. The second broad area is titled Critical Criminology, which is also broken down into three sub-sections; Sociology of criminal law; Legal order as an instrument of repression; and Similarities to other criminological theories. The third area is Richard Quinneys Humanist, and Religious Perspectives, which discusses a little about Quinneys theological roots from which he integrates into his critical philosophy. Finally, the fourth area is The Solutions, where he explains what is needed to solve much of the problem of crime in our society.
Richard Quinney grew up in Southeast Wisconsin and attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. He recently retired from Northern Illinois Universitys sociology department. He stated that during his time at UW he became intrigued with critical philosophy, and has never wandered far from it in his own search for understanding sociological issues (Quinney, 1998/int.). In 1991-92 he was awarded the "Presidents Award" for contributions to the field of criminology and positive influence on the current presidents career (Internet-2). He has written over a dozen books since the late 1960's, and continues to publish. He is quoted numerous times by others, primarily using his descriptions of what critical philosophy is, and what ideas it promotes. His critical perspectives are never absent in anything he has published. Along with his theological beliefs, he has no other focus away from his radical ideas, as he states "Critical philosophy is a form of life" (1974.a./10). Even in one of his more recent publications, a review of Todd Clears "Harm In American Penology," (1996/245) his critical perspectives are implied. His own theory is not a single theory, but a set of theories and ideas. The aggregate is sometimes referred to as radical criminology, as well as conflict criminology. He maintains that "it is an alternative, often dismissed way of viewing crime and deviancy" (Internet, 1998). Also, his theories, as implied above, are mostly descriptive in nature, in that they forward new ideas for broad changes of society, rather than testing individual hypotheses.
Throughout this synopsis of Quinneys ideas, and theories, a couple of things are beneficial to keep in mind for better understanding. Richard Quinney has a deep interest in the thoughts, discourse, and potential of Marxism. He, as will be developed below, constructs the argument that socialist society is not only a necessity, but in some form, inevitable. Quinney also has a very spiritual perspective. He has spent time in a monastery, and interacted with Buddhist philosophers. Both of these, his Marxist perspective and his theological roots, offer a relatively radical perspective on the issue of crime in our society.
Richard Quinney describes; "A critical philosophy is one that is radically critical. It is a philosophy that goes to the roots of our lives, to the foundations and the fundamentals, to the essentials of consciousness." It is the removal of myth, and/or false consciousness that is created by the "official" reality. In the course of critical theorizing, possibilities for new ways of living are generated. The reality of the world can be transcended, and new ways of "being" are entertained in the conscience. Critical philosophy does not seek only to understand the effects of the world as it is today, yesterday, but to think about how the world should be, independent of how it is, or was, or its current trajectory. For instance, much of todays policy considerations are attempts to form and reform our society, including those that effect the criminal justice system. What Quinney proffers is that we need more than alterations of the current political structure, we need a whole new structure. It is of less interest to him whether we restrict gun ownership or not, than is the need for an economy that is more socialist than capitalist. More social ills will be solved by the latter, than the former.
In addition, Quinney suggests that our understanding of the legal order in our society is limited by the same ideology upon which the legal order rests. Critical thinking, which includes, and is a part of radical thinking, allows the breaking away from the ideology of the age. Through this philosophy we can begin to question the current experience. He states "Certainly the present cannot be surpassed until the dialectic is applied to our thought" (1974.a/13). It is useless to only reveal the contaminations of an established reality, without following with an idea of what could be. Again, he is suggesting that our societys laws and moral codes (and he later proposes that they are not always "our" moral codes but those that serve the interests of the established order), create parameters that we must transcend to be able to explore the real potentials of society and how it can serve true human nature, not the human nature we now understand under current laws and structures. That is, there is more to human nature than can be seen or manifested than our current structures allow.
Furthermore, Quinney states that it is within this philosophy where an investigation of Marxist notions of human nature can occur. Marx approaches true human nature by examining those structures that obstruct our lives. It is precisely this reason that he turns to Marxist philosophy, as he states "Marxism is the one philosophy of our time that takes as its focus the oppression produced by a capitalist society." Also, Quinney declares, Marxism, contrary to popular thinking, is open to reflection and perception. As he asserts "Liberation is the ultimate objective of a critical philosophy.." (1974.a./15).
The following discussion introduces Quinneys thoughts on the failure of other modes of discourse, contradictions of capitalism as uncovered by critical philosophy, and the ideology of capitalism that is observable through critical philosophy.
Failures of other modes of discourse
In this discussion, Quinneys critiques of other modes of discourse concerning human nature within criminological issues are briefly stated. More importantly, however, is the concluding summary of why he does not entertain any other discourse of criminology other than the critical perspective at the end of this section.
In Quinneys book "Critique of Legal Order" (1974.a), he summarizes his criticisms of other modes of criminological discourse. He has massed together a spectrum of discourse into three general areas; positivism, social construction theories, and phenomenological inquiry. He then discussed their inadequacies.
He critiques the positivistic mode of inquiry by claiming that it fails to question the order of society, its only focus being the mechanical calculation of facts. The positivistic mode ignores reflexive thinking, and proposes a "value free" explanation of reality. That is, he cites positivistic discourse as lacking the essential understanding of the social structure that the individual is restricted by. By this lack of examination of the order of society, it lends itself to the perpetuation of the established order. It tries to explain reality within the present construction of society. Positivism fails to consider transcending the established order. Too much attention is given to changing the criminal, and not enough to changing the system. Inadequacies are noted, but the overall social order is not questioned. Furthermore, a natural alliance exists between the ruling class and the positivist theorists as both seek to control, enforce, and justify the parameters of the established order. He maintains positivistic thought cannot provide us a conception of human liberation, as it only perpetuates the established order (p.4&5).
Quinneys critique of social construction modes of understanding asserts that social scientists who describe social phenomenon through the perceptions of the social actors, people within society, fail to examine the world in itself. However, he states it makes a move toward progress from positivism, in that it begins to examine the need for reflexivity in theory. The "knower" must be conscious of the world from which he/she draws influence/and constructs assumptions. He credits the social constructionist mode for attending to the issues of ideology; however, they ultimately neglect, fundamentally, concepts of ideology and false consciousness. By portraying the world through the eyes of the subjects, the theorists failed to question the reality imposed by the established order. By doing so, they only work to describe reality, within the fixed system. He states "The legal order, accordingly, is a human activity. It is an order created for political purposes, to assure the hegemony of the ruling class" (p.7). Social constructionists work to explain the effects of the current situation/order on those who have become deviant, however, they do not criticize the established order. This is the major critique of the social constructionists work; simply, they do not suggest changes to the structure that cause the strains on human nature that they examine.
He states that the phenomenological mode of inquiry departs from others, in that its intention is to focus on examining the process by which we understand the world. It states that understanding objects of the world only exist within our consciousness. That reality is independent of our consciousness. Heidegger has termed this type of inquiry as meditative thinking. Quinney adds that phenomenological thought does work to transcend our presumptions of the world, and humanity. It works to leave an openness to understanding in a totally different way. Through this course we may transcend the reifying of the established order, and re-construct over and over, getting closer and closer to a world that is consistent with true human nature, and that will allow us to live alongside the world of technology, but not be "..imperiled by it." This mode of discourse fails however, to reach the goals of transcending the existing order. It does question the basic assumptions from which we try to gain understanding of the world, but it does not criticize the established system (Quinney, 1974.a/p.10).
In summary, Quinney, along with others that he cites for support, suggest that criminologists have intentionally looked to the individual offender for answers for why crime happens. They intentionally exclude the state, which draws the parameters of behavior that if crossed are deemed criminal. Quinney and others suggest that criminologists have the same interests as the state, to justify the established order of repression and domination. In one of his writings he includes a statement made by Lloyd Ohlin in 1956 that reported the need for prisons, as they provide "..an opportunity for controlled sociological observation and comparative analysis which is very much needed.." This seems to suggest that elimination of the prison would remove a critical source for criminological research. If a system were to evolve that inherently reduced crime to very low levels, many criminologists would be out of work. They need the complexity of the current oppressive system, as that system places criminologists in a special role of understanding the ills of that system that is supported by the wealthy ruling class. In other terms, with the current social structure, criminologists are needed by the dominating class, the wealthy class, and their governmental supporters (Quinney, 1974.a/p.43).
Quinney explains that social science emerged as a reaction to political and social changes occurring in the late 1700's, and early 1800's. He proposes that "The social sciences never broke from their reactionary background," and that "To this day social scientists...tend to favor existing social arrangements." (1974.a/p.18). Because the social order has been regarded as good, the question for social theorists has been, how is it to be protected and maintained?
In fact, he states that government commissions often direct the attentions of sociological inquiry of crime. The Violence Commission of 1969 is one instance where scholars are said to have abandoned their intellectual dignity for narrow self-interests. Criminologists plainly stated that causes of violent crimes were in part caused by undue pressures placed upon certain segments of society, especially the poor, and the blacks, by social institutions. They also stated that changes needed to occur within the existing frameworks, and nothing was said about overall changes being needed (Quinney, 1974.a/p.43-44).
The preceding discussion explains that many criminological discourses evade what Quinney believes is the more important issue, the restrictions and barriers of the current social order. In this next section, an outline of that social order he finds so important to understanding deviancy is presented, starting with the contradictions of capitalism and ending with the ideology of capitalism.
Contradictions of capitalism
Central to Quinneys position, is the contradictory nature of a capitalist economy. An economy where the labors of many produce the profits of a few. With such a system, a surplus of labor must exist. The surplus of labor, and the domination that ensues causes the social ills that work to decompose the very system that produced them.
Quinneys theory on the causes of crime surround the conflict between socioeconomic classes in the political economy of the capitalist society. He suggests that alienation, inequality, poverty, unemployment, and spiritual malaise are by-products of the capitalist political economy. The study of crime, says Quinney, should involve an investigation into these products of capitalism. Quinney shapes his argument by describing how the very development of a capitalist economy creates conditions where struggle is a natural component. He states that for a capitalist system to operate, the capitalist class must exploit the labors of the working class (1980.a/p.106).
In his book "Class, State, & Crime" (1980), Quinney asserts that crime is a product of the conditions of the social structure (p.107). Social life in the capitalist society, likewise, is related to the economic conditions and resulting class structures that evolve from the circumstances of the capitalist system (p.108). Notably, it is the state that maintains the capitalist order through laws. Criminal laws have evolved to become the form of control used by capitalist societys required surplus labor, an oppressed and dominated class. These laws have served to quell any threats to this system of exploitation and repression. Quinney asserts "..the state is able through its Department of Justice officially to repress the dangerous and subversive elements of the population" (p.109). Also, "Criminal justice and the surplus population are thus symbiotically interdependent" (p.113).
In general, the capitalist structure is developed by the interests of the capitalist class, or those who retain the means for production and reap the profits of others labor. They require a surplus of labor to sustain shifts, and changes in the economy. The state works through a legal order to control the members of the repressed surplus labor, to protect the interests of the overall structure. Herein lies the contradiction of capitalism. However, another means of control of this system is discussed below, it is the use of the conscience of members of the society to conform to the rules and customs perpetuating the system. It is a network of ideologies.
Ideology of capitalism
To understand how a system of domination and oppression can, not only exist, but also develop without constant efforts to overthrow the ruling class, Quinney suggests you must understand how the ruling class controls the repressed. Primarily, control is done through the governing of consciousness of the population. One method is to legitimize the actions of the ruling class, and the state that supports them. Part of what is legitimized is Quinneys notion of crimes of domination. These are corporate actions that include price fixing, and pollution, all in the effort to maintain their status and the capitalist order. Also, crimes of control are legitimized. These are the crimes law enforcement uses to carry out "justice." They include affirmative measures to provoke crime, forms of surveillance, and denial of due process. Social injuries such as sexism, racism, and economic exploitation are also legitimized. In short, these actions/events are not defined as criminal because they work to develop a capitalist political economy (Quinney, 1980.a/p.110).
The ruling class induce their own hegemonic ideology to protect themselves, legitimize the system, and thereby maintain the established order. "Manipulating the minds of the people is capitalisms most subtle means of control." Recognizing that violence often incites counter-violence, the capitalists limit the use of state violence as a means to their goals. In fact, the most perfect repressive system, wouldnt need violence, instead acceptance of legitimacy would take its place (Quinney, 1974.a/p.137).
Quinney asserts that capitalist dictatorship is a total dictatorship. They govern the very ideology of the people. They dictate the visions of the future, working, consuming, thinking, and overall living. "The dictatorship is economic, political, cultural, and psychological at the same time: it is total." He quotes Karl Marx, "The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it." Quinney adds that it is through the construction of the ideology of legal order that control of domestic order is accomplished (1974.a/139).
The public opinion of crime is fundamental to the ideology of law. When the existing order becomes threatened, the focus on crime increases. It is a way in which the ruling class diverts attention, and also gains justification for utilization of criminal sanctions to regain stability. The public, however, must believe that their interests are being protected, and not the ruling class alone. By focusing on certain forces, such as criminals out of control, rather than other forces such as systematic oppression, the ruling class is able to act according to their own interests and avoid the public becoming conscious of their own repressive conditions (Quinney, 1974.a/149).
Quinney (1974.a) cites two studies done in late 60's that show Americans wanted police to have more freedom to use the force they deem necessary, and that the emphasis should be on getting all the criminals behind bars, even at the expense of a few innocent. All this is a reaction to the capitalist ideology that protects the established order. Public opinion is tied to this ideology. There is a misgiven trust to so-called experts that know more than the common folk. The more freedom the police have, the more ability the system has to protect itself. Of course he follows others in targeting the media as a primary source for distribution of capitalist ideology, from which public opinion is formed.
His own outline of his critical ideas includes the ideology of crime created by the dominant class. Dominant ideologies make believe that; *Street crime is the worst form of crime *Crimes are committed exclusively by the lower class *There does exist a criminal type of individual *Middle/Upper classes are predominantly non-criminal (Internet).
Critical philosophy, including the three components presented above, lead into the more narrow discussion of crime in society. Richard Quinneys argument is broad, radical, and sometimes abstract (in that he contrasts the current conditions of society with one that does not exist yet). However, the bulk of his theory is developed within the concepts of "sociology of criminal law," and "legal order." In almost every publication of his, these subjects are more than merely mentioned. These concepts are presented below, but first, in order to facilitate cohesiveness in understanding them, Quinneys basic critical criminological premises are outlined.
For Quinney, and other critical criminologists, to think seriously about crime is to think radically. For them, any other consideration serves only to perpetuate the established order. The legal order today, as described through the sociology of law, makes morality "...a technical question" (Quinney, 1974.b/p.31). Quinney states, the initial thrust of the first territorial state is where we acquire the major impetus for laws; that desire to tax, create an army, maintenance of bureaucracy, and keeping the population as subject. For instance, the frontier towns found order from self ratified rules. Once the frontier became more populated, the U.S. government sent in its troops to defend against the native Americans, and judges came too. Laws that were once to protect common beliefs, including religion, came to protect property, and the state profited off of the system it established (Quinney, 1974.b/39). They profited primarily through taxes, licenses, fees, and fines.
Quinney states that trying to understand law and crime without radical thought is to perpetuate the current system of domination. Once the paradigm of the engineered ideology is left behind, Quinney suggests, there are six basic propositions that seem obvious. They are:
Having clarified the basic premises of Quinneys critical criminology, we can now move on to gain a better understanding of the foundations of his propositions. In the next section, sociology of criminal law, legal order as an instrument of repression, and similarities to other criminological theories are discussed.
Sociology of criminal law
Quinney works to develop and expand upon an area of understanding, tantamount to critical criminology, called sociology of criminal law. Within this perspective, the central focus is the need, development, and justification for law in society. It is an examination of how law is thought to have evolved, and what justifies contemporary law. Quinney declares because law "...gives behavior its criminality," it cannot be ignored as far as its formulation and administration. He attempts to address the question, "what are the influences that shape our laws?"(1969/Preface)
He states that communities develop laws related to, and surrounding, beliefs and values. For instance, the Massachusetts Bay colony developed their laws from scriptural sources the Puritans believed and lived by. It was natural to do so, as it was consensual. He also refers to the Volstead Act of 1920, a result of rural puritan interests over a developing urban culture. He states the act was "..a dramatic attempt to control morality through criminal law" (Quinney, 1969/p.7).
Quinney states that sociologists accept the necessity of law, and pluralistic organization without question. The problem is, according to him, only a few are able to influence the formulation of law. Therefore, laws do not necessarily serve to protect the accepted, consensual, good in society, instead they are developed by a few with the most influence/power. He asserts "Law serves the powerful over the weak; it promotes the war of the powerful against the powerless." (Quinney, 1974.a/24).
Basically, the sociology of law is the domain assumption by social scientists that law is necessary, and that it is the only way in which society can be protected from the overlapping interests of individuals. This assumption creates a paradigm where social scientists begin their inquiry. They fail to look at the morality of the legal order itself, and instead seek to study how it effects society, and then to refine those effects, to use law to manipulate a desired goal of social harmony. This way of thinking, Quinney proposes, is like running with blinders on, or disenabling a broader view of alternative potentials for social, human, existence. "A sociology of law as presently conceived and practiced cannot break out of the ideology of the age. It can only confirm the existing order; problems of the age are only exacerbated by the sociological-scientific study of law."(Quinney, 1974.a/26)
The whole underlying notion of the sociology of law is that law and sociology are seemingly, according to contemporary views, bound together. One cannot be looked at without considering the other. What happens in contemporary American society, is that we automatically assume the necessity of laws, and therefore the existing order.
In "The Problem of Crime," (1970) Quinney discusses how laws and social norms are often conflicting, or are not consistent with each other. He states that a large portion of society does not accept many of our current laws. He illuminates the disparity between laws that are based on moral, cultural norms, and those that do not have custom as its purpose...such as trade laws (economics) (p.29). Even when laws are derived from morals, they are usually the products of special groups who have more influence in guarding their morals than other groups. To these "other" groups, some laws are not considered legitimate, they do not pertain to their particular cultural norms - thus a selective obedience occurs (p.30). Groups that occupy the power positions, legislate the content of criminal law. Thus criminal law protects that small minority of the powerful, by proscribing behavior they interpret as threatening, or "wrong." Also, laws do not always keep up with the changes that occur in society. "Blue laws" are an example of those that lag behind social changes. More importantly, sometimes law serves to influence changes in society. They often form without any moral impetus at first but are later supported by the morality they outlined. For example, civil rights laws helped to spread a type of moral code to places they did not exist before the laws there reflected them (p.31).
In his own contributions to the perspective, he emphasizes an awareness and consideration for interest structures. In our society, he maintains, the interest structure is characterized by the unequal distribution of power and conflict (Quinney, 1969/preface). "Law is created by interests," and he suggests that this should be more the focus than how much law maintains interests. Moreover, seldom is law the product of a whole society, instead it is the product of a specific group, one that has the most influence in translating their interests to policy (1969/p.17). Here lies the impetus for undergoing examinations of the constructs of law, or sociology of law; to find out what interests are being served, and whom do they belong to. Quinney and other critical criminologist find it is the interests of the ruling class, and not the population. What is created is a legal order based on capitalist interests. The following discussion of the legal order that has evolved expands that very notion.
Legal order as an instrument of repression
The ideology of capitalism, and the sociology of criminal law, as presented above, both converge on the issue of legal order as a mechanism for control of the repressed. In this section, Quinneys argument becomes more specific in regards to the coercive measures of the state and ruling class. It is within this issue that Quinney joins criminologists in the study of crime. His argument is that legal order is the basic framework from which a system that generates suffering, and therefor disobedience, can devise measures to control threats to maintain its existence.
Quinney suggests that the states promotion of capitalism works to create a surplus of labor. Social welfare programs such as education, and health care satisfy some of the needs of the working class, and work to legitimize the system. Crime control has as its function to control those that are not "pacified" by employment or social welfare programs. Moreover, the states expense of crime control will increase as capitalism increases. Quinney states that confinement in prison is merely one way of controlling the surplus of labor that capitalist economy produces and needs (Quinney, 1980.a/p.114). He further states that we are led to believe that existing laws are a construct of consensual contract, and serve the majority interests, and values. Instead, they are the tools of the ruling class to protect the status quo. (Quinney, 1974.a/p.140).
He develops his argument by reporting that there is consensus on the influential control of foreign policy by the wealthy. Also, he states that there is plenty of evidence that they have overwhelming influence in domestic policy as well (specifically in protective labor legislation, regulation of business, social security, and recognition of labor unions) (Quinney, 1974.a/p.56). He then explains that the wealthy, consistent with foreign and domestic policy, have influential control over crime policies as well. He declares "..crime fighters are indeed influentials drawn from an elite segment of American society. The majority enjoy an income that is without question considerably higher than the national average"(Quinney, 1974.a/p.57). What Quinney asserts here, is that, whether it is the ruling class directly who influence policy, or those who benefit from the system, is circumstantial. They are all the ruling class that benefits from the established order. The economic and political nature of criminal policy making in America is that which is determined by the ruling class. The functions of the system are the goals of the capitalists, to protect the established order through maintaining/insuring domestic order (Quinney, 1974.a/p.59).
Quinney dissects a number of governmental commissions that addressed the crime problem in America. In each he displays the type of people who made up the commissions, and the results of each. In each case he suggests that the aims of the ruling class were supported by a commission constituting the ruling class members themselves. For instance, the 1960's Omnibus Crime Bill was a triumph of the American corporate ruling class. It worked to conceptualize criminal reality in a way that "..assured its own existence." Certain pieces of legislation that resulted from the reports were directly aimed to protect the established order. For example, rioters and potential rioters were placed under surveillance. Rights of defendants were reduced to enhance prosecutorial proceedings. Again, the government committee was said to have included "...elite representatives from all established interest groups" (Quinney, 1974.a/p.74).
Quinney has as his objective, and he states he is in the company of most critical philosophers, to develop a "critical-Marixian" analysis of crime control in capitalist society. This will undertake an extrapolation of basic Marxism, as Marx said little about criminal law and crime control. He acknowledges that legal order contains more than criminal law, however, he states that criminal law is the fundamental to that order. He states "it is the coercive instrument of the state and its ruling class to maintain the existing social and economic order (Quinney, 1974.a/p.15).
In short, legal order, the defining of deviancy and control over those who fit those definitions, is used merely as a tool to control threats to the capitalist system, by those who benefit the most from that system. Moreover, the legal order is assumed by the population through the use of ideology, to represent the collective interests. Finally, the criminal justice system is simply, as Quinney suggests, an instrument of control within the legal order. The next discussion summarizes some extrapolations of, similarities to, and support for Quinneys theories of crime.
Similarities and integration of other criminological theory with critical criminology
Though critical criminology is a broadly independent theory of crime, it has some similarity to other theories. Concentric zone theory is one. Capitalism, as it evolved, brought people to where labor was needed, and urbanization resulted. The social ills produced by urbanization (capitalism) have been used by Quinney as evidence of capitalistic production of crime. He states the modern dilemma of crime is really an artifact of industrializations urbanization of America. In rural society, crime was dealt with by mostly informal and primitive systems of justice. With the massive move to cities, more elaborate and dysfunctional formal systems emerged. The urban society "bred" new types of problems, such as vagrancy, prostitution, drug use, and even stealing, rape, and murder (Quinney, 1970/p.169). Moreover, because of the heterogeneity of urban cities, all the forces of the world work together against a sense of community so necessary to an effective system of norms that control individual behavior. Race, ethnicity, economic disparity, all add to the crime problem of the inner city (Quinney, 1970/p.170).
This in fact is very similar to Durkheims and Mertons theory of anomie. In his book "Providence; The Reconstruction of Social and Moral Order" (1980.b), Quinney states that "when work ceases to fulfill the human need for expression and communication, we no longer realize ourselves through creation." The alienation from work and self will carry over to all parts of our life. Our lives, as well as production, has been surrendered to alien hands and subverted from us. We are not the beneficiaries of our own production (1980/p.2).
Also, like Durkheim, Quinney believes that crime is a necessary part of social revolution. It reflects the changes taking place in society, and is a result of maladaption to social controls (Quinney, 1970/198). It is because of the crime problem in America, that Quinney thinks criminologists should be suspect of the social-economic system in place, namely capitalism.
Quinney even joins, at some points in his argument, with the demonic perspective. He stated that after the enlightenment and bourgeois liberation, religion had lost its immediacy. What was left was the demonic state where the separation of life from the sacred gave free reign to social ills brought about by the potential evil nature of human beings (Quinney, 1980.b/p.8-10).
In addition, Quinneys understanding of the sociology of law is shared by others. For instance, in William Chambliss The Law of Vagrancy, written in 1964, he states, referring to the destruction caused by the black plaque "This decimation of the labor force would necessitate rather drastic innovations in any society but its impact was heightened in England where, at this time, the economy was highly dependent upon a ready supply of cheap labor" (p.288). Chambliss went on to explain how the laws of vagrancy reflected the needs of the social arrangement, specifically the economic structure. Quinney specifically cited where Chambliss stated that the vagrancy laws forced laborers to accept low pay though contrary to other acts of mandatory minimum wages (Quinney, 1969/p.58). He used Chambliss essay as a part of developing his notion of the sociology of criminal law.
In Chiricos and Delones Labor Surplus and Punishment (1992) Quinneys proposition that legal order is used as a repressive tool, was cited as support in their argument that harsher punishment is related positively with the amount of surplus labor. They stated "Quinney contended that criminal justice is the modern means of controlling surplus populations" (p.424). Conversely, that entire article serves to support any and all of Quinneys critique of the capitalist structure.
Other authors have used Quinneys critical perspectives, attesting to its current popularity.
Finally, and probably the most conspicuous is the interconnectedness of critical theory with social conflict theory. Quinney himself states that his theory is based, to a large extent, on sociological conflict theory (Internet). These integrations and sharing of commonality in theory helped to better understand Quinneys propositions. However, there is much more foundation to his beliefs and arguments that has not been addressed so far in this presentation. The next section attempts a brief summary of Quinneys theological perspectives that profoundly influence his understandings and explanations of society.
Richard Quinneys Religious Perspectives
There is more to Richard Quinneys theory on crime than a critique of capitalism. There is more to Richard Quinneys perspectives in general, than can be fully covered here. Quinney has spent much of his life developing a religious, humanist understanding. His religious perspectives influence his development of thoughts on all other issues. That is why, although this fundamental part of Quinney can only be partially uncovered here, his perception of the supernatural must be discussed in any attempt.
Quinneys critical philosophy is developed through religious beliefs and converges upon Marxist thought, yet Marxism is mistakenly considered by many as anti-religious. Sociology in general and critical philosophy specifically, has close ties to the study of the supernatural and coinciding practices that effect social arrangements. In fact, a poll in 1964 of 6,762 members of the American Sociological Association, of which 3,441 replied, discovered that more than 25% "...of the sociologists who responded had thought, at one time or another, of becoming clergy men" (Gouldner, 1980/p.24).
In fact, Quinney states that he viewed Marx as more of a prophet than others did, most of whom he claimed gave Marx a materialist focus. Marx foretold how capitalism would detach us from our human spirit. He asserts that in spite of the other focus given to Marxist thought, it is consistent with Jewish, and Christian theology (1980.b/p.4). He explains that Marxs references to religion that cited it as the "opium for the repressed society" were aimed towards the religion of Prussian Germany, infested with Lutheran dogmatism (1980.b/p.6).
Quinney explains that the evolution of capitalism necessitated the suppression of religion. It was not merely a split, or dividing of the two concerns, government and religion, it was a removal of those religious understandings that conflicted with the development of the capitalist economy. The capitalist state, once a source for solving problems derived from the capitalist system, has exhausted its abilities to contend with the social problems that exist. The population has not been able, as it once was, to gain any spiritual rewards from the "spirit of capitalism." Advanced capitalism leaves us with no other alternative but to sift understanding through historical perspective, which will lead us back to the question of Purpose. Quinney adds, we will never hide from the question of why we exist, what is our purpose. To attend to the social world outside of this as our focus, is futile. He states it is within our consciousness to ask, and we all do (1982/p.27).
He emphasizes numerous times that religion, which transcends life itself, must be a part of culture. They cannot be separated. The confusion and strain comes from trying to create distinct boundaries between secular and religious being. Religion cannot be separated and is the very base of culture, from which comes modes of production (Quinney, 1980.b/p.19).
Quinney argues with those who, like George Gilder, propose that "the deepest truths of capitalism are faith, hope, and love, and then make the fantastic leap of joining these values with the business of capitalism"(1981/p.55). He contends that this line of thought requires the dismissing of the consequences of capitalism, the exploitation of one class by another.
He reminds us that reality is a human construct. In order to understand human nature, we must question our assumptions of reality. He states that suffering is ubiquitous in our world, it is everywhere. Whether psychological, or physical pain, pollution, hunger, homelessness, or poverty in general, it is all suffering. All of this suffering, says Quinney, is a result of the reality we have constructed. A reality that is within a framework that only exists within our minds. So, he states, it is there that we need to turn to transform human being, and our "...webs of meaning" (Quinney, 1991/p.4). He quotes a number of Buddhists, and a couple Christian spokespersons in constructing his idea of transformation. Simply put, it is an emptying out of all that you think you know, and understand, and realizing that reality is only what man has constructed. He states "True reality is emptiness." Human nature as we understand it, as common knowledge proposes, is only human nature within this framework. Transcendence is going beyond the framework, going beyond what is "known." He quotes a Zen master; "In the beginners mind there are many possibilities; in the experts mind there are few". He stresses the phenomenon of taking in ideas and thoughts, becoming attached to them, and consequently assuming them to be reality (Quinney, 1991/p.5).
However, he argues that the only true way to obtain true awareness of human reality is to lose the condition of the human ego. A separation from self-centeredness, a realization that all is one. "The truth is that no amount of theorizing and rational thinking can tell us much about reality" (Quinney, 1991/p.6). Zen Buddhism refers to the true reality as "nothingness, emptiness, the void" (Quinney, 1991/p.7). He asserts that criminology has been a distortion of the reality, as has many other bodies of knowledge. He uses the words of a humanist (Skolimowski) who stated that objective, scientific approaches to understanding, over a number of years has become "..cold, dry, uncaring, always atomized, cutting, analyzing." Explicitly he states that spiritual preparation is key to dealing with social issues. The problem he proposes is that our constructed reality is that of separation and consequently suffering (Quinney, 1991/p.8). He believes that we are coming around to regaining our original purpose as humans.
When all of social science fails us, we will turn to Hermeneutical understanding of the world (one that has special emphasis on biblical interpretation). We will begin to reconstruct our symbols and language, in order to better interpret the world, one that includes religion. We need to end the two world split between the sacred and the secular (Quinney, 1982).
Quinney declares that social science has failed us by systematically excluding the metaphysical understandings that guide us. It has led us to a systematic justification of the established order, and not to a needed understanding of human existence that includes the metaphysical. We exist within old theories that serve the present practices of capitalism, a structured, deliberate paradigm (Quinney, 1982). In a recent article of his Crime, Law, and social Change (1995) Quinney argues that the criminal justice system stresses the use of what he calls "negative peace - the threat and application of force to deter or process acts of crime," instead of "positive peace - elimination of the structural sources of crime and violence within society such as, poverty, inequality, racism, and alienation, all of which lay the foundation for crime."
He also asserts that Marxist theory is making its way into the minds of contemporary sociology. It is "forging its way past the barricades of the left and right polity." It is within Marxist thought that we can be reunited with everyone, and everything, all becoming one. Harmony will then prevail, and the only question left is why do we search for meaning/purpose. When faced only with a mortal understanding and anticipation of death, as the current moral structure organizes our conscience, we are at a loss in finding any meaning or connection to the world/universe. It is a part of human anxiety over the finality of our existence (Quinney, 1982).
There is much, much more to Quinneys humanist/religious perspective. He has written publications that speak solely on this issue. In fact, at one time he had spent two weeks in a monastery in Iowa and presented his experiences in an essay. The above only touches on some of his religious perspectives that deal with critical philosophy. It was enough to serve the purpose of providing a little background to his way of thinking, and the issues he contemplates. In the next section, Quinney develops what he considers so necessary to criminological thought, a framework for change and solution.
Solutions To Our Crime Problem
Quinney has worked to develop an understanding of how the current political and economic system in America, capitalism, has been destructive to social harmony, and has stated that other criminological perspectives failed, because they did not suggest any alternatives to the established order. This section explains what he suggests we should do to solve the problem of crime. It is no small order.
Quinney proposes there is but one answer. We must move toward a socialist society. He states that with every advance in capitalism, there is an opposition that works against the advancement. As we progress within capitalism, more is needed from the "machinery of the criminal law.." to maintain order, and quell opposition (Quinney, 1974.a/166).
According to Quinneys argument, crime will continue as long as capitalism exists (Quinney, 1974.a/168). Moreover, it is capitalism itself that has created contemporary crime problems. The system cannot work to solve its own problems that it creates as it advances. However, to rid of the sources of contradiction, oppression, and manipulation that result in crime, is to dissolve the capitalist system. Furthermore, those who stand to lose a lot, the ruling class will not go quietly into the night. They will continue to attempt to mystify reality, and work to promote legitimizing increased coercion through legal order to protect itself (Quinney, 1974.a/168).
Moreover, you will not find adequate change in liberal reforms. Whether from republican or democratic origin, reform programs only work to maintain capitalism. From the beginning with the change from laissez-faire to corporation regulation, including FDRs New Deal, and to contemporary liberal policy, maintaining the established order was the objective. Quinney states, "Capitalism itself is the problem. Liberal reforms, therefore, can do little more than support the capitalist system, which is also to say that the capitalist problem (and its associated forms of exploitation) cannot be solved within the liberal reformist framework."(1974.a/170).
No where else, according to Quinney, is the lack of attention to the capitalist system in reform efforts, and the resulting consequences of neglect more apparent than in the criminal justice system. Crime commissions, interests groups, business leaders all rally around reform of policing, courts, and corrections to address the needs of our changing society. Each of these reforms does little to solve problems. They only work to stifle problems that are created by a capitalist system that is advancing (Quinney, 1974.a/171).
The socialist alternative to capitalism, and its resulting legal order, is not a Utopia. Quinney first explains that it can take on various forms as it is created. The very process of its creation will shape its full form. However, fundamental socialist ideas are;
In addition regarding legal order, Quinney states it may be a surprise to many, but "Marx considered democracy to be the basis of socialism" (Quinney, 1974.a/189). In addition, concerning Quinneys contempt of capitalisms coercive control through legal order, Stanley Diamond writes "Law and order is the historical illusion; law versus order is the historical reality". Quinney adds to this argument, "law is the antonym rather than then the synonym of order" (Quinney, 1974.a/190). In short, as he states in "Criminal Justice in America," (1974) the only way to solve the crime problem is to change the system (p.24). He also proposes that by moving away from the existing order we, by default, engage in a socialist revolution (p.25).
In his recent book "Criminology As Peacemaking" (1991), Richard Quinney proposes a framework for a solution to end suffering. The frameworks name is the same as the title of the book. Criminology as peacemaking seeks to reduce suffering and as a consequence, crime. It is a criminology that has as its basis a "..human transformation in the achievement of peace and justice." This transformation takes place through changing our social, economic, and political structure. Peace within us and in our actions will create peace in our results. Furthermore, Quinney and Pepinsky argue that the American criminal justice system fails to overcome violence because it uses violence as a means to that objective. Also, war has the same objective as crime fighting does. In short, peacemaking criminology seeks to become a part of the worldwide movement for peace and social justice (Preface).
In addition, he proffers that suffering can only be soothed through concluding separation. Six afflictions are said, by a Buddhist master, to be the cause of suffering; ignorance, desire, pride, anger, jealousy, and greed (Quinney, 1991/p.9). Developing kindness and compassion towards others is the answer to avoiding those afflictions. This obviously implies the need to conclude separation of one from the rest. In concrete terms we need to work to ease the suffering caused by hunger, homelessness, sickness, exploitation of the vulnerable, ignorance, and oppression. "Peace can only come out of peace" he argues (Quinney, 1991/p.10).
He proffers that peace is intricately attached to justice. He quotes the Old Testament; "Justice will bring about peace, right will produce calm and security" (Quinney, 1991/p.11). Quinney asserts that we have already seen the beginning of such humanistic notions of criminology as peacemaking in programs employing conflict resolution, mediation, reconciliation, abolition, and humanistic action. It is a type of criminal justice that seeks to end suffering, thereby eliminating crime. A non-violent criminology (Quinney, 1991/p.12).
In the remainder of his book "Criminology as Peacemaking," he turns to practitioners, and other "believers" to present the concept in practice. Throughout are accounts of social workers, and criminal justice practitioners who describe the path to end suffering, through peaceful resolution, and compassion.
Richard Quinney has constructed a very broad and sometimes abstract theory of crime in capitalist society. However, his theory does more than address the crime problem, his theory suggests changes to not only the way we live, but necessarily the way we think. Reality is a human construct he argues. To attend to the issues within the existing construct is to legitimize that construct, to uphold its existence. Quinney works to show that the present construct in our society is destructive to human nature. He does not have a narrowly focused theory, as his concerns are at a macro level. It is a waste of time for him to attempt to understand individual details of our society, as our society is founded on domination, and exploitation.
Serious inquiry to the problem of crime cannot be anything but radical, in that it must question the existing order. He suggests a Marxist alternative, as it is the most developed political- sociological discourse that addresses the problems of capitalism.
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Internet. (Extracted August 27, 1998)www.nwmissouri.edu/nwcourses/martin/deviance/critcrim/tsld002.htm. (A presentation of critical ideas outline "slides.")
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Quinney, R. Professor of Sociology, NIU. 1998. Interviewed by Mark Wakefield. Nov. 28, 1998. Tallahassee, FL (via telephone).
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