«It is about a society in free fall.
To reassure itself,
it repeats endlessly...
³So far, so good²
³So far, so good²
³So far, so good²
It is not the fall that matters
It is the landing.»
LA HAINE - Mathieu Kassovitz
There is a fundamental problem with dealing, let alone writing a dissertation, on abolitionism; a problem rooted in the gap between what we see and what we know. For perhaps it is only what we think we know. The starting point for this dissertation, written in two different places, and in fact between two different «realities», is to present something real, tangible and visible which clashes furiously with preconception. Furthermore, what is perhaps beyond question is that penal abolitionism and the debate that surrounds it provokes great emotion and passion. It is in my intention to seek to outline some of the concepts that provoke this response.
In an era when centralisation and State have reached the most explosive point of historical negativity and the scientist and intellectual function in a system that rewards for their mental conformity (Said, 1994 and Chomsky, 1995), the process of decomposition is becoming general and disrupts traditional values and institutions. But it is the same process that creates new themes of conversation, new ways of struggle and new forms of organisation by demanding a brand new approach not only in Theory but also in Praxis. For it is the highly industrialised, late capitalist society that is «beginning to endanger the very physical foundation of existence of people in society» (Mathiesen, 1983: 5).
On the other hand, the language of abolitionism seems to be at least strange, and the politics of abolition, more or less, utopian. It is not strange that abolitionists were always considered as the «threatening Other» even within the frame of the so-called critical or radical criminology. Clearly speaking, the penal abolitionist fights a battle in a conceptual war with, so far, countless victims; living dead people who are «warehoused» in the «gardens of law», and thousands of suicides in a never declared war on the platform of the «language of the prevailing law and order».
The suspicion of critical criminology towards abolitionism can easily be explained; it is the «bankruptcy» of the existed socialism that afflicted the spirit of utopia - with the dialectical and dynamic meaning of the word - and hope, the vision and the search for radical solutions, the idea and the programs that look forward to a social renaissance.
But the movement of Abolitionism offers the opportunity to see an alternative vision and abolitionists hold the eternal faith to the alternative offer; in every case and problematic situation, indifferently to what extent is it imposed, there lies always the alternative resolution, the «other way». For the struggle of abolitionists is not only a struggle for the abolition of the criminal justice system; it is a struggle for verification of human rights.
As we are close to the turn of a new century, there still exists the necessity for a new beginning; a new beginning intellectually, spiritually and politically in our criminological thought (Quinney, 1975). And for a really radical criminology we need not radical mediums but radical approaches; that means that the very «why» of it must be radical. However, the path of abolitionism is in fact a «hard road». But, poetically licence and to use Herman Hesse's terminology (Siddartha, 1922) the path of abolitionism is the path that leads to the essential «Befreiung» (Liberation), which is the conditio sine qua non for «Freiheit» (Freedom). It is a lively time for abolitionism; the socio-political situation is not as bleak and difficult as many defeatist representatives of «critical» criminology might suggest. And, bearing in mind that main elements for a «good» theory are the clarity of conception, the accuracy and the logical integration (Parsons, 1961), penal abolitionism will succeed.
This dissertation has two clear aims:
a. to produce an accurate, clear and in depth picture of penal abolitionism and
b. to demonstrate the questions raised by abolitionism and critically evaluate them.
Tout court, conventional criminology is a failure, abolitionism must then be the answer; for the clarity of thought, honesty of heart and buoyancy of spirit.