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A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order
Crime and Social Justice No. 12 (1979)

Overview: Articles on Women


This issue of Crime and Social Justice addresses some of the burning issues of the day -- violence against women, the resurgence of right-wing ideologies, racism and youth formations, the origins of the penitentiary, and the future of the American Society of Criminology. Continuing our past policy, we include articles from England and Venezuela as part of our commitment to making Crime and Social Justice a journal of international concerns.

The history of punishment and penal discipline is an area of criminology where Marxists and other scholars have made a lasting contribution. Following Georg Rusche's pioneering work in the 1930s, there has been a lively and serious debate, involving such scholars as Thorsten Sellin, Dario Melossi, Ivan Jankovic, Gregory Shank, Michael Ignatieff and others, about the origins, purposes, and ideology of the penitentiary. This debate has been fueled in particular by the publication in 1977 of Michel Foucault's stimulating and controversial Discipline and Punish. This book has generated considerable discussion in Europe and North America. Hogg's article, "Imprisonment and Society under Early British Capitalism," makes a significant contribution to this ongoing debate and, in our view, lays the groundwork for further research and theoretical analysis.

For the first time since the special issue on women (Issues in Criminology, Fall 1973), we are giving more than token recognition of sexism and crimes against women. In the last few years, especially since the publication of Freda Adler's opportunistic Sisters in Crime (1975), there has been a noticeable increase in research and literature on this topic. This is not due, as Adler suggested, to the growing criminality of women, but rather to the growing organization and politicization of women. The publication of important theorists like Marlene Dixon, Juliet Mitchell, and Sheila Rowbotham, the exposure of occupational, medical, and psychological atrocities against women, and years of "speaking bitterness" have finally created shock waves in criminology.

Much of the current criminological literature about women is empirical, crudely couched in vague feminist and radical theories. The contributions in this issue attempt to put crimes against women on a firmer theoretical and historical ground. Klein's review of the literature on battery critically sums up the research findings, analyzes their ideological foundations, and indicates the limits and dangers of separatist feminist and bourgeois feminist theories. Julia Schwendinger and Herman Schwendinger's book review similarly takes the findings of recent liberal books on rape and holds them up to the scrutiny of a class analysis. Kress' essay, at the same time a criticism and a self-criticism, succinctly reviews the bourgeois feminist literature on crime and suggests how a class analysis provides both a different starting point and different conclusions. Finally, Rosa del Olmo puts these issues in a practical light by reviewing the efforts of socialist Cuba to bring under control the problem of prostitution that, under capitalist social relations, appears eternal and inevitable.

The current right-wing attack on working-class women (anti-abortion, anti-welfare, etc.) is echoed in the resurgence of law-and-order ideologies. This is an international phenomenon, as witnessed by the return of fascist parties in Europe, and the Klan and Nazis in the United States. Policing the Crisis, one of the most significant criminological studies in recent years, addresses the ideological content and political significance, particularly its racist component, of "mugging" in England. Horton's important review, while recognizing the book's strengths, reveals also the deficiencies of its class analysis.

The other book under review, Moore's Homeboys, is also a significant work, providing a complex, innovative portrait of crime and youth formations in Los Angeles' barrios. Like Policing the Crisis, it is a timely book, correcting racist stereotypes about Chicano "gangs." Trujillo's thorough review attempts to deepen Moore's eclectic, liberal theoretical framework.

Finally, this issue includes an update and correspondence on the current crisis in the American Society of Criminology, continuing the discussion of issues raised in our previous editorial.

Citation: Editors. (1979). "Overview: Articles on Women." Crime and Social Justice 12 (1979): 1-2. Copyright © 1979 by Social Justice, ISSN 1043-1578. Social Justice, P.O. Box 40601, San Francisco, CA 94140.