Radical Criminology - A Manifesto

Jeff Shantz


The present period represents an era of state capitalist offensives against the working classes and oppressed globally. It is played out in specific local maneuvers but is global in character. The main thrusts are austerity policies mean to break the infrastructures and resources on which the working classes and oppressed rely and to weaken possibilities for resistance and make people desperate and despairing. Conditions of austerity are effected through social and economic policies that limit the rights of workers on the labor market and at work and which remove alternatives to waged labor (such as welfare or low cost education). Along with austerity is the creation of crises and manufactured fear in the political fantasies of contagion (by terrorism, radicalism, or the foreign outsider). This fear is used to legitimize the deployment of repressive policies and practices (aggressive laws and policing patterns).

This is also a period in which the previous models of social change and resistance—notably Marxism/Leninism and the vanguard party, national liberation, and social democracy—have been discredited and/or discarded. New generations of people, with no particular prejudices, biases, or commitments toward the radical political models of the past and their associated claims on rightness (and righteousness) have become politicized on new terms and from new beginnings. This poses both great possibilities and great perils. On the one hand, there is the danger of starting over from scratch—of needlessly making the same mistakes that experience might avoid, of reinventing the wheel (as a flat tire), of pursuing false leads and getting caught in dead ends (reformism and adventurism, statism and electoralism, guerrilla moralism and vanguardism).

On the other hand, and more hopefully, there is the real possibility that new and more effective approaches will be developed, refined, and pursued. Forgotten voices and lost wisdom will once again be engaged in meaningful ways. This is already being realized in the widespread, and growing, engagement with anarchism, indigenous thinking, radical unionism, syndicalism, and horizontalism and direct action.

This period poses new challenges for intellectual workers, particularly academic social scientists. The challenges for criminologists (and criminology more broadly as a discipline) are even more pressing given that this is a period marked largely by punitive advances of capital and its (neo)liberal democratic management regimes. Criminal justice systems, and their diverse institutions, have been key weapons in the capitalist offensive against the working classes and oppressed. Criminologists, perhaps more than other social scientists, have an obligation to take a stand against the assaults of states on populations made increasingly vulnerable by the actions of economic and political powerholders.  . . .  A radical criminology must act in solidarity with those individuals and groups targeted by institutions of the state.


Manifesto; Critical Criminology; Radical Criminology; capitalism; anti-capitalism; prisons; incarcernation; anti-racism; decolonization; land struggles; dark green resistance;

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Attribution to include the author or artist's name, date of first publication,
and the name of our journal: Radical Criminology.
ISSN 1929-7904
(Print) | ISSN 1929-7912 (Online)