Revisiting Margaret Thatcher’s law and order agenda: The slow-burning fuse of punitiveness.
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AbstractIn recent years, criminologists have devoted growing attention to the extent to which ‘punitiveness’ is emerging as a central feature of many criminal justice systems. In gauging punitiveness, these studies typically rely either on attitudinal data derived from surveys that measure individual support for punitive sentences or on the size of the prison population. We take a different approach, exploring the aims, content and outcomes of various Acts of Parliament passed between 1982 and 1998 in England and Wales. Our argument is that while a trend towards punitiveness is detectable, this was, in the case of England and Wales, attributable to wider discourses stemming from the New Right of the 1980s. This in turn promoted a new conception of how best to tackle rising crime. We show that while the year 1993 stands out as a key point in the growing trajectory of punitiveness in England and Wales, the ideas and rhetoric around ‘toughness’ in the criminal justice system can be traced back much further than this. Our article brings these matters to the attention of political scientists and demonstrates how historical institutionalist thinking can guide and inform interdisciplinary work at the interface between political science and criminology.
CitationFarrall, S., Burke, N., and Hay, C. (2016) 'Revisiting Margaret Thatcher’s law and order agenda: The slow-burning fuse of punitiveness', British Politics, 11(2), pp. 205-231.