Criminology and Social Justice: Expanding the Intellectual Commitment
In an attempt to broaden the discussion about the intellectual goals and methodological approaches that define the field of criminology, this chapter presents the case for including the notion of social justice — both theoretically and as a matter of praxis — for consideration in the future directions that the discipline of criminology might take. This is done as a way to challenge the epistemological tendency to bifurcate the understanding of what criminology is where, on the one hand, a community of scholars advocate that criminology should be understood principally as a theoretical discipline concerned primarily with generating ideas about the social context of the law and the philosophical meanings associated with social contracts, norm violations, and other matters related to rights, privileges, and obligations; while on the other hand, an esteemed cohort of criminologists focus on producing applied or policy- oriented research that explores solutions to the problems of crime. The goal of this chapter is neither to engage in this debate nor to expose the problems associated with the existence of fractions in the field; rather, it argues that scholars, policy-makers, interventionists, and activists, regardless of their orientation to the primary function of criminology, should prioritize the intellectual work in the discipline that contributes to the creation of a more just society.
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