The Illusion Of Order Book Review Sample
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The Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing is a book y Bernard E. Harcourt. A major section of this book is spent challenging the ‘broken windows’ theory of crime. This is a theory that suggests that allowing small crimes and misdemeanors such as vagrancy and loitering to go unpunished encourages more heinous and serious crimes. The theory of broken windows theory is one that has in fact received massive media attention throughout the years. The theory has been credited with hugely shaping and influencing policing practices. The name” broken windows” comes from a relatively simple context. Broken windows signals a neighborhood or residence that cannot police itself and that therefore has high vulnerability to crime and criminal activities. Therefore, in order to stem crime, neighborhoods need to fix these “broken windows” and enforce some form of social control so as to prevent more serious and heinous crimes from taking place. This theory has hugely revolutionized policing practices not only in the United States but the world over where there has been an increased emphasis on police officers to be very ruthless when it comes to dealing with misdemeanor crimes and disorderly conduct.
Harcourt’s major argument is that the theory in spite of having been around for decades, has never been verified empirically. Harcourt claims that existing data imply that the concepts of the theory may be false. The theory relies on categories of disorderly people and law abiders that are unexamined as well as categories of disorder and order which according to Harcourt do not have any intrinsic reality that is independent of the punishment techniques implemented in the society.
Harcourt book is divided into several chapters with each chapter giving several reasons why such a flawed theory came to be applied so enormously in the criminal justice world and why it is faulty.
In chapter 1 of the book, the author provides a comprehensive roadmap that clarifies why progressive criminal theorists usually place emphasis on “the norm of orderliness”. Harcourt argues that these theorists are of the opinion that those punitive policies that essentially sanction departure from orderliness have the ability to reduce crimes by creating cultural shifts that are broader in size. These policies lead to the creation of categories that draw bright lines between orderly and disorderly behaviors as well as orderly and disorderly persons and through this, policing related to order maintenance appears to be a natural or even a necessary aspect. Harcourt (2009, p.18) however faults such theories arguing that the real definition and meaning of order and disorder may not be as fixed or as stable as these theorists assume them to be This is a point that Harcourt postulates has been ignored by these theorists.
This concept is further expounded in Chapter 2 of the book where Harcourt discusses how theorists have theoretically linked and delineated the concept of order and disorder. He is particularly extremely critical of theorists who have appeared to be biased against members of the community who belong to the lower class. Such theorists have argued that the cultural norms of the lower class coupled with urban decay, poverty and crime support or build one another. Harcourt argues that the fact that a majority of the theoretical proportions are socially constructed makes them weak and fragile and therefore not trustworthy.
Chapter three of the book also involves a critical analysis of other criminology authors and their assumptions. For example, Harcourt talks about the study of a researcher known as Skogan where he analyzes set of data and finds no significant relation between disorder, physical assault, purse snatching, rape and burglary when some other relevant explanatory variables are controlled or kept constant (Harcourt, 2009, p.78).
The fourth chapter involves an exploration into policing initiatives in cities and their levels of effectiveness. In regard to research studies on this aspect, Harcourt claims that crime should be treated as a mediating variable and not as the outcome.
In chapter 5, Harcourt engages in a comprehensive analysis and critique of the concepts of disorderly behavior, disorder, and order. Once again, his stance against the fixed categorization of the “disorderly” is conspicuous. This category is significantly unstable (Harcourt, 2009, p. 132). The main point that he tries to express in this chapter is that the activity of order maintenance usually leads to the creation of a subject, who are the disorderly and who are consequently construed to be as bad as or even worse than criminals. Simply put, disorder begins to be classified as degree or a class of crime (Harcourt, 2009, p.149)
This aspect of subject creation is further carried on in chapter 6 where the author explores the impact and effect of subject creation whereby they are seen to empower the punishers and make this who are subjected to punishment as unworthy. In addition, they facilitate and deepens divisions in the society.
In chapter 7 Harcourt claims that the traditional liberal response to disorder has been disarmed by the order maintenance approach adopted due to the appropriation of harm, that is, the treatment of activities were previously only seen as nuisance as threatening.
In Chapters 8 and 9, Harcourt gives alternative visions and approaches to social control. He calls for the society to be thoughtful and deeply deliberative when it comes to debating social control policies. He particular encourages people to go beyond the social meaning ascribed to various acts such as gang membership and prostitution and challenges the society and establish how policies, strategies and punishment mechanisms transform subjects and how the effects of these strategies and mechanism relate to the crime reduction goal.
Harcourt, B. E. (2009). Illusion of order: The false promise of broken windows policing. Harvard University Press.
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