This is a superb book. Well argued, very well written, not the best annotated study I have read, but a cogent, lucid piece of prose with a very compelling argument.
Norman Dennis, writing from a perspective of an ethical socialist demolishes the myth that poverty and unemployment cause crime. He is essentially attacking a report by authors commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to inquire into Income and Wealth in England and Wales. The report itself is however, representative of the whole theory which holds that crime is the result of poverty and unemployment and is thus 'no-one's fault'.
Using the same information as the authors and drawing from other published sources, Dennis categorically shows that the arguments do not hold up to any serious scruting. He deplores the extension of marxist and so-called socialist academics theories away from attacking the capitailist superstructure and into areas of discrimination and inequality. His capacity to do so is supported by his position as a long-term member of the Labour Party and his academic credentials.
For Dennis, explanations of crime should be more focussed on the sexual liberation of men since the 1960's and the changing values of the elites in British society which allows for sexual freedom or licence withou responsibility. By turning the focus of social policy makers onto women who suffer because of this behaviour industrialised societies are in effect promoting an estrangement of men from responsibility, an effect which has been enhanced by the changing nature of employment from traditional male manual labour to more female orientated tasks and services. This combined with the impact of contraceptive devices has allowed for increasing restlessness among (particularly young) males which has been excused in Dennis' view by the no-fault theories.
While Dennis' argument is compelling there are some flaws in his argument. His critique of social liberalisation is a clever denunciation of an increasing individualistic society. For him, the cry is a return to the family. I am not trying here to equate his view to the 'Back to Basics' nonsense of the Major Government for Dennis' view is clearly more complex than that. He asks for a return to a more authoritative socialist type of society rather than looking for a strengthening of the existing laws to ensure that relationships carry responsibility for actions as well as the rights to enjoy them.
Another error is the complete failure to examine the exceptions to the nicey-nice view of working class life that he so eloquently portrays. He ignores the infidelity that certainly existed, he ignores the whole question of back street abortions, and most crucially he does not examine at all the whole issue of prostitution which was certainly not the sole perogative of the middle and upper classes.
Despite thos criticisms this really is a well written and argued little book. Recommended for anyone with an interest in crime and social policy. Also one of the cleverest critiques of the emerging social and economic liberalism currently sweeping around the world.