Karagiannidis Abolitionism and the Process of Criminalisation

«Crime is not the object but the product of criminal policy. Criminalisation is one of the many ways for constructing social reality.»

Louk Hulsman, «Critical Criminology and the Concept of Crime», 1986

In an abolitionist point of view, it is extremely essential to deal with and concentrate our research on the process of criminalization. It is exactly the understanding of this process that will offer us the platform to understand the notion of crime itself. Therefore, Richard Quinney is right when asserting (1994) that, what is important in the study of crime is everything that happens before crime occurs. And what occurs before crime is a divertible human process that creates and classifies simply human acts; the process of criminalization.
Formulated in bold terms, we should say that, while the other strong part of critical criminology, the Left Realism, believe that community has an active role during the process of criminalisation (Lea, 1992), abolitionists see the process as a wholly state generated process (Matthews, R. and Young, J., 1992).
According to Raymond J. Michalowski (1977), the process of the primary criminalization has been structured on three basic model of social organisation; the consensus module, which could be regarded as the conservative one, the pluralist model, which could be seen as the liberal, and finally the conflict model, which is the radical model of social organisation.
In the first place, the consensus model is closely related to positivism and supports the consensus formation and foundation issue of criminal law. The organising principles of the model are (Michalowski, 1977:23);
a. The law reflects the collective will of people and is merely the written statement of the collective will.
b. The law serves all people equally. It neither serves nor represses the interests of any particular group of individuals.
c. Those who violate the law represent a unique subgroup, which fails to live according to the standard definitions of right, and wrong agreed upon and followed by the majority of society's members.

The consensus model offers the positivist paradigm for the study of crime; it accepts the unacceptable view that law serves all the people equally and reflects an abstract collective will. However, the paradigm in question fails to explain the existence of the «white-collar» criminality and other organised forms of «crime», like for example state organised crime, which hardly can be defined as crime committed by «a unique subgroup».
In the second place, the pluralist model holds «liberal» views. The model emphasises upon the complexity of society's structure; those in fave of the model believe that society consists of diverse social groups and conflicts among them are often. Regarding the principles of this interactionist perspective, Raymond J. Michalowski wrote (1977: 33);
a. Criminality is a quality, which resides not in behaviour, but in the response to it.
b. Behaviours responded to as criminal are given the label of criminal and the individual whose behaviour is labelled as criminal is also labelled criminal.
c. Individuals are labelled as criminals through a process of interaction and there is a tendency for individuals to be identified with that label.

According to the pluralist model, the diverse social groups agree to dispute settlements by using law as mechanism for conflict resolution. In Chambliss and Siedman words

«While society is no doubt made up of interest group with divergent goals and values, it is in everybody's interest to maintain a political framework, which permits these conflicts to be resolved through peaceful bargaining, always reserving the right of the minority group through peaceful persuasion and dissent (Chambliss, W.J. and Siedman, R. «Law, Order and Power», 1971, page 51 - as quoted in Michalowski, 1977: 24).

The pluralist model is more complicated and less unsophisticated than that of consensus, but it is based on illusions. What the advocates of the model in discussion like to forget is the fact that the legal system is not value-neutral and that the legal mechanisms for conflict resolution are not at all above disputes themselves. The legal system reflects the needs and supports ex officio the interests of the sovereign political-economic class. Tout court, the official ideology and the interest of the ruling class came through up with and invent the pluralist model.
Finally, it is the conflict model that fits precisely to the abolitionist principles. The conflict model is the radical model; society consists of diverse social groups being in a non-stop conflict state of affairs. As a model for the study of law and society, the conflict perspective emphasises on the coercive and repressive nature of the legal system; therefore it is applicable to the abolitionist rationale. The legal system is just the «teeth» of those with power and supports the maintenance of their power (Baratta, 1989). Actions that put in danger the maintenance of their power can easily be characterised as deviant acts and be criminalized.

«The legal system is an apparatus that is created to secure the interests of the dominant class. Contrary to conventional belief, law is a tool of the ruling class. The legal system provides the mechanism for the forceful and violent control of the rest of the population. In the course of battle, the agents of the law (police, prosecutors, judges, and so on) serve as the military force for the protection of domestic order. Hence, the State and its accompanying legal system reflects and serves the needs of the ruling class. And it may be added that the legal system prevents the dominated classes from becoming powerful. (Quinney, 1975: 192-193).

According Michalowski (1977: 26), the organising assumptions of this model are;
a. Society is composed of diverse social groups while existing differing definitions of right and wrong and the conflict between these social groups is one of political power.
b. Law is designed to advance the interest of those with power to make it. The law is not value neutral forum for dispute settlement.
c. A key interest of those in power to make and enforce the law is exactly the maintaining of their power.
More to the point, law is not a body of rules established through consensus by those who are governed, but it serves the interests of the ruling class; «those who benefit from such a conception, those who rule» (Quinney, 1975: 192). Therefore, criminal law is State's instrument for maintaining and perpetuating the existing social and economic order. In Richard Quinney's words (1975: 195);

«The criminal law is used at home by the ruling class to maintain domestic order. Ruling class interests are secured by preventing any challenge to the moral and economic structure of the ruling class. In other words, the military abroad and law enforcement at home are two sides of the same phenomenon: the preservation of the interests of the ruling class. The weapons of control are in the hands of the ruling class. Their response to any challenge is force and destruction. The weapons of crime control, as well as the idea and practice of law itself, are dominated by the ruling class. A stable order is in the interest of the ruling class».

In this respect criminology must either be abolished or it should change its very subject matter. The focal point for criminology as a science must be neither crime nor criminal; it is exactly the social and political vehicles of criminal policy that are needed to put into our magnifying glass. In Chambliss» words «if we are to explain crime, we must first explain the social forces that cause some acts to be defined as criminal while other acts not» (1976: 102).
In an abolitionist point of view, crime has no ontological dimension or value (Hulsman, 1986 and Haan, 1990) and criminalization is a nice way of constructing social reality. According to the Dutch abolitionist Louk Hulsman, when someone wants to criminalise, this implies that he;

«a. Deems a certain occurrence or situation as undesirable;
b. Attributes that undesirable occurrence to an individual;
c. Approaches this particular kind of individual behaviour with a specific style of social control, i.e. the style of punishment;
d. Applies a very particular style of punishment which is developed in a particular (legal) professional context, and which is based on a scholastic (last-judgement) perspective on the world. In this sense, the style of punishment used in criminal justice differs profoundly from the styles of punishment in other social contexts;
e. Wants to work in a special organisational setting, e.g. criminal justice. This organisational setting is characterised by a very developed division of labour, a lack of accountability for the process as a whole, and a lack of influence of those directly involved in the ³criminalized² event, on the outcome of the process» (1986: 33).

The abolitionist reasoning of the criminalization process is based on dialectic principles and follows an interesting induction. If the above «chain» of thoughts broke there will be no «crime». There will be no need to construct a «crime», thus no invention will take place. That is to say that «crime» does not exist before its criminalization and after this process it exists as a construction, an invention of criminal justice system.


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