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Confrontations : French Criminology seen by British criminologists (janvier 2004)

Jean-Paul Jean

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1The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, edited by Mike MAGUIRE, Rod MORGAN and Robert REINER1 and justly considered as the reference in the British criminology world because of the enormous knowledge it contains, has no equivalent in the French language. A simple review of the summary gives an idea of the extent of the scientific fields examined, and also by the way, that of the distance that must be covered before French criminology, traditionally dominated by sociology, becomes a « total » discipline.

2The general index of bibliographic references permits to make a list of the French authors quoted and thus to measure the real influence of the French criminology literature on the Anglo Saxon intellectual world. The fact that French books have been or not translated into English permits to identify precisely the choices (positive or negative) of British criminologists.

Authors listed in the index

3Michel FOUCAULT is the most quoted and commented : 11 quotations and some long analyses,

4Emile DURKHEIM: 4 quotations,

5Jacques DERRIDA: 2 quotations,

6Loïc WACQUANT: 2 quotations,

7Jacques LACAN: 1 quotation,

8…..André GORZ 1 quotation,

9X,Y,Z…, French criminologists: no quotation (not wanting to hurt anybody's feelings, each one may write the names of those he or she considers as being the French criminologist (or a less anglo-saxon meaning) that can't be ignored.

10Is this surprising or is this result rather « normal » (in a durkheimian sens), considering the cultural barrier and the difficulty to communicate between the Anglo Saxon world and the country best representing the ideas of « old Europe » ?

11In general, the « French school » is briefly recalled in two lines on the subject of criminology's history. It is stated that this school has developed the sociological and environmental approach of the causes of crime, thus minimising the individual determinants (opposed to the Italian criminology school, examined in detail just before). But no French sociologist other than DURKHEIM is quoted in the chapter dealing with sociological theories on crime. The text devoted to the comparative approach of « Criminal Justice » makes only one reference to the collective work directed by Ph. ROBERT and L. VAN OUTRIVE (see bibliography), solely to say that the non-English publications meaning the « original language », should not be overlooked (while the author, very modestly, quotes himself 22 times amongst the bibliographic references of his article). In the same state of mind, the chapter dealing with « white-collar criminality » evokes briefly, and only in order to « go further in another language than English », the founding book of Jean COSSON on tax evasion and the manual on penal business law of Mireille DELMAS-MARTY in its 1990 edition.

Authors well looked upon

12Whenever French authors are evoked, they are mentioned in relation to precise items, always issued from texts either written in English or translated into it. Emile DURKHEIM (p. 38), seen as the most important French sociologist of the beginning of the 20th century, is quoted because of his theories of anomy (p. 52), of the role of ritualized form of criminal trials on social cohesion (p. 69), and more largely, as having predicted that democratic societies would evolve into a regime of less severe penalties (p 236 2).

13Jacques LACAN and Michel FOUCAULT are quoted alongside with Simone de BEAUVOIR and Hélène CIXOUS, in the chapter (which is an anglo-saxon specificity) devoted to « Feminism and criminology » (p. 114). They figure as the main contributors to post-modern feminism, following a reasoning whose subtlety I was not always able to grasp. Michel FOUCAULT (p. 117 and 135) and Jacques DERRIDA (p. 124) are presented as the key authors of the concepts of this critical approach.

14Michel FOUCAULT had already been mentioned in the general introduction to British criminology (pp 13 et 21), on the subjects of the contribution of non-criminologists to criminology's history, of relations between crime and social order, or even on the function of prisons (pp 28-64). Logically, he is again and more frequently quoted in the article on « Punishment and Control » (pp 233, 234, 238-243 246, 255), one more time as a “key writer”, and with a lengthy recall of « Discipline and Punish, a hugely influential book ».

15Loïc WACQUANT is mentioned on the subject of mass imprisonment in the United States (« The two million prisoner society »), denouncing brutal repression on and criminalization of black minority (p 253) as well as « hypergetthoization » (p 466). André GORZ is evoked in the chapter on « Crime et social exclusion » in reference to the entrance of women to labour market (p 476).

The task of drawing an inventory

16It is possible to make an exhaustive inventory of French author's publications taken into account by the « Oxford Handbook of Criminology », extracting them from a total of more than one-thousand references, duly classified through each of the 31 chapters. This reconstructed inventory gives an idea of the « database » of French criminologists whose works are apparently available on the market of ideas of British criminology; it is also short enough to be quoted entirely.

17COSSON, J. (1978), Les industriels de la fraude fiscale, Paris : éditions du Seuil

18DELMAS-MARTY, M. (1990), Droit pénal des affaires, Paris : Presses universitaires de France

19DELUMEAU, J (1990), Sin and Fear : The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture 13th-18th Centuries, New York : St Martin Press

20DERRIDA, J. (1978), `Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Science', in Writing and Difference, Chicago : Chicago University Press

21----------------- (1981), Positions, Chicago : Chicago University Press

22DURKHEIM, E. (1952), Suicide, London : Routledge and Kegan Paul

23------------------ (1964), The Division of Labour in Society, New York : Free Press

24----------------- (1984), `Two laws of Penal Evolution', in S. Lukes and A. Scull (eds), Durkheim and the Law, Oxford : Basil Blackwell

25FOUCAULT, M. (1967), Madness and Civilisation, London : Tavistock

26-------------------- (1970), The Order of Things : an Archaeology of the Human Sciences, London : Tavistock

27-------------------- (1972), The Archaeoly of Knowledge, London : Tavistock

28-------------------- (1973), The Birth of the Clinic, trans. A. Sheridan, London : Tavistock.

29-------------------- (1977), Discipline and Punish : The Birth of the Prison, Harmondswoth : Penguin (and Penguin : New York Pantheon and London : Allen Lane)

30-------------------- (1978), The History of Sexuality, vol 1, An Introduction, (1986) vol. 2 The Use of Pleasure, trans. R. Hurley, New York : Random House

31-------------------- (1979), `On Governmentality', Ideology and Consciousness, 6 : 5-23

32-------------------- (1991), `Governmentality', in G. Burchill, C. Gordon and P. Miller, The Foucault Effect : Studies in Governmentality, Chicago : University of Chicago Press

33GORZ, A, (1999), ReclaimingWork : Beyond the Wage-Based Society, Cambridge : Polity Press

34LACAN, J. (1996), `A theoretical introduction to the functions of psychoanalysis in criminology', Journal for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society, ½ : 13-25.

35ROBERT, P., and VAN OUTRIVE, L., (eds) (1993), Crime et Justice en Europe, Paris : L'Harmattan

36WACQUANT, L. (1996), `The Comparative Structure and Experience of Urban Exclusion in Chicago and Paris', in K. McFate, R. Lawson, and W.J Wilson (eds), Poverty, Inequality and the Future of Social Policy, New York : Russel Sage Foundation

37--------------------- (2001), `Deadly Symbiosis : When ghetto and prison meet end merge', in D. Garland (ed), Mass Imprisonment : Social Causes and Consequences, London : Sage

38ZAUBERMAN, R. (2000), `Victims as Consumers of the Criminal justice System ?', in A. Crawford and J. Goodey (eds), Integrating a Victim Perspective within Criminal Justice, Aldershot : Ashgate Dartmouth.

39One conclusion must be drawn at this point. In spite of the participation of French researchers and university professors to European and French-Canadian networks, it appears that the interest of British criminologists for French authors is aroused only when the latter publish in English, and moreover with British and sometimes American publishers…

40Is it necessary to justify further the creation of Penal Field before attempting, later on, a « joint venture » with the British Journal of Criminology …?

41Traduction d'Ana-Maria FALCONI.

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1 Oxford University Press 3rd edition 2002, 1227 pages.
2 “Two Laws of Penal Evolution” (1902)
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Jean-Paul Jean, « Confrontations : French Criminology seen by British criminologists (janvier 2004) », Champ pénal/Penal field [En ligne], Archives, mis en ligne le 17 mai 2010, consulté le 23 mars 2017. URL :

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Jean-Paul Jean

Attorney General to the Court of Appeal of Paris And guest professor associated to the University of Poitiers

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