Top positive review
44 people found this helpful
on 22 July 2007
Right. I guess I should precis this review by stating quite explicitly that I'm a raging criminology geek. I was determined not to write a review until I had read the OHC cover-to-cover. And it has been well worth the experience. I went into the second year of a Criminology BSc with no criminological background, and decided to spend a couple of months before the start of term reading the third edition cover to cover. I feel that the background the OHC gave me provided a springboard for getting a first. The outstanding wealth and depth of knowledge has to be seen to be believed - I would happily be giving it away as a birthday present left, right and center if it wasn't for the sure and certain knowledge that doing so would get me a hearty slap from my non-criminological family.
I am starting a Masters (hopefully leading into a PhD) this October; given that the 3rd edition seemed to give me a huge amount, I decided to do my best to read the 4th edition cover to cover before October. My copy is now dog-eared, much-loved, and covered liberally in pencil scrawls. I feel far, far more comfortable at the prospect of going back into academia having spent just over a year in very non-academic work.
The one real tragedy for me is the conflation of Loraine Gelsthorpe's and Frances Heidensohn's chapters. In the third edition, they respectively covered Feminism and Criminology and Gender and Crime. In the fourth edition, they co-author a single chapter on Gender and Crime. I personally find it deeply frustrating that two beautifully written, detailed and very discrete chapters have been merged into one. Loraine Gelsthorpe's chapter on feminism and criminology was my introduction to feminist criminology - something I have every intention of carrying into my MPhil / (hopefully) PhD. I found the third edition's coverage of both gender AND feminism both highly appropriate, and absolutely fascinating. The conflation of the two chapters into one to my mind leaves something seriously lacking. And maybe the omission of a chapter on feminism and criminology says something and makes a statement in its own right. The chapter on gender and crime is very well written and contains aspects of both preceding chapters; but the idea that two discrete chapters each of forty pages can be combined into one chapter of forty pages without significant loss is ridiculous. I would recommend with all my heart that anyone with an interest in gender and crime / feminist criminology at least borrows a copy of the third edition. There is a wealth of additional colour and texture there that substantially fired up my interest in criminology.
Aside from that, the online chapters do add something invaluable to the fourth edition. It is a self-contained, beautifully comprehensive and more-than-sufficient edition in itself; but the addition of Jock Young, Barbara Hudson, David Garland and Ken Pease's chapters online do add yet another level of depth. Jock Young and David Garland in particular were two of the chapters that stood out the most to me from the third edition, and two of the chapters that I have gone back to time and time again. The OHC is richer for having them available. At the risk of harping on, though - I wish that Dr. Gelsthorpe's and Professor Heidensohn's chapters were on the OHC website too. They really are the one substantial omission in my eyes. And that - I promise - is the last of that particular tub-thumping spree.
In brief, I cannot recommend this book enough. To anyone, but particularly budding / current criminologists. There is such a wealth of detail in there, from the first two introductory chapters (sociological and psychological approaches) right through to the last two on community penalties and imprisonment. It is not heavygoing; it is not unduly challenging. With the possible exception of Media-Made Criminality, that is - which frankly lost me. Huge reams of statistics with remarkably little coherence to my eyes. Oddly enough, I felt the very next chapter (political economy, crime and criminal justice) is one of the best in the book, and by the self-same author.
Jock Young pulls off something similar - the only other chapter in the book to mildly vex me was the one on Cultural Criminology (done far better - though admittedly in a rather more inaccessible way - by Jeff Ferrell in the book Criminological Perspectives). And yet Crime and Social Exclusion in the third edition remains one of the most solid and interesting chapters in either book.
All in all, I've wittered enough. If your degree / course is worth thirty-whatever quid to you and you're willing to put in the effort, then go for it. If it isn't and / or you aren't, then don't. This book has the hallmark of quality stamped firmly right through it, and there's certainly nothing else criminological out there that can hope to compete in terms of either quality or value for money.