Making the Modern Criminal Law

The School of Law is delighted to announce the publication of Professor Lindsay Farmer’s new book Making the Modern Criminal Law: Criminalization and Civil Order (Oxford University Press). Here, Lindsay discusses the background of the project and the aims of the book in relation to a conceptualisation of modern criminal law: The research for the book grew out of a four year AHRC funded interdisciplinary project on criminalization, focusing on the principles that might guide decisions about what kinds of conduct should be criminalized, and the forms that criminalization should take. This project aimed to tackle key questions about how the law was made and enforced: what principles and goals should guide legislators in deciding what to criminalize? How should criminal wrongs be classified and differentiated? How should law enforcement officials apply the law's specifications of offences?

Making the Modern Criminal Law is about criminalization in this sense – what and who should be treated as criminal under the law and the ways that this can be justified. It aims to make a contribution to the vital and important contemporary debates about the proper scope of the criminal law and of the kind of principles that should guide legislatures, courts and other law enforcement agencies in determining the scope of the criminal law. However, my starting point is rather different. Instead of beginning by asking what principle or principles should guide us in defining or limiting the scope of state action, I ask what I see as the prior question of how it is that the question of criminalization has come to be framed in these terms. And, going further, I look at the development of the institutional conditions that underpin and make possible our contemporary understanding of criminalization. This is a matter of placing the emergence of contemporary understandings of the ‘criminalization question’ in an account of the development of the modern institution of criminal law. The book is thus about the making of the modern criminal law in this much broader sense.

The book thus offers a historical and conceptual account of the development of the modern criminal law in England and as it has spread to common law jurisdictions around the world. It gives a historical perspective on the development of theories of criminalization. It shows how the emergence of theories of criminalization is inextricably linked to modern understandings of the criminal law as a conceptually distinct body of rules, and how this in turn has been shaped by the changing functions of criminal law as an instrument of government in the modern state. It is structured in two main parts. The first traces the development of the modern law as a distinct, and conceptually distinct body of rules, looking in particular at ideas of jurisdiction, codification and responsibility. The second part then engages in detailed analysis of specific areas of criminal law, focusing on patterns of criminalization in relation to property, the person, and sexual conduct.

Lindsay will be discussing his book at the launch event and seminar hosted by LSE's Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Theory Forum on Thursday 10 March.

Making the Modern Criminal Law: Criminalization and Civil Order is published by the Oxford University Press

Farmer book sleeve

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