A practical critique of social-scientific reason in the historical study of crime: the politics of historical criminology and its place in the historiography of crime and criminal justice
AffiliationSchool of Social and Political Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Roberto Catello
Significant conceptual, professional and institutional developments have taken place over the last fifty years or so at the crossroad of criminology and history that deserve critical scrutiny and examination. From the consolidation of a historiography of crime and criminal justice to the emergence of a historical criminology, the shaping of a historical dimension to the study of crime signals at once a ‘historical turn’ in criminology and a social-scientific turn in historical scholarship. Though historical sociology provides a plausible justification for both of these – incomplete – turns through the notion of a historical social science – which can be defined as a movement towards history ‘as’ social science and a movement towards history ‘in’ social science – it is analytically limiting to reduce crime historians and historical criminologists to sociological objects. Instead, it is possible to make sense of those who participate in the historical study of crime as political subjects and of crime histories and criminological histories as forms of political practice and modes of political participation. Borrowing from Hans-Georg Gadamer’s proposal for a social science modelled on the basis of Aristotelian practical philosophy, the thesis advances a practical critique of social-scientific reason in the historical study of crime and explores historical criminology’s current hopes in the historiography of crime and criminal justice. An intellectual field and academic space decidedly theoretical, that is, apolitical and ‘indifferent to the present’, the historical study of crime is presently witnessing the emergence of a historical criminology that claims to be conductive to practical knowledge, to knowledge that is present-oriented and politically useful. In the context of a rather ambiguous encounter between crime historians and historical criminologists, then, this thesis develops a practical discourse around historical criminology with the aim of problematizing the uses of history for the study of crime and of casting additional light on some of the social and political implications of doing social science while making use of history.
Keywordshistorical criminology; history in criminology; historical study of crime; historiography of crime and criminal justice; crime history; social science history; historical social science; history of the present; social history; practical critique; social-scientific rationality; practical knowledge; praxis
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