Inspiration: Jock Young


JOCK YOUNG (1942 – 2013)

Jock Young was my first ‘deviance’ tutor, alongside Stan Cohen ( what a lucky Kenny I was!).  I also taught with him between 1968 and 1975: together we were engaged with setting up the MA in Deviance and Social Policy. He was a major influence on my life – with his  extraordinary enthusiasm and energy, wry wit, he often seemed half crazed and slightly mad. A kind of cheeky passion sort of exuded from his fast-talking, fast-moving body. Jock’s lecturing mode – strutting, listing, shouting, laughing with only the scrappiest of notes – was inspirational.

UnknownJock’s book The Drugtakers was a little bible for me. Published by Paladin a little before Stan’s Folk Devils, it was brilliant on moral panics and deviancy amplification: and the drug world ofUnknown-1 Notting Hill. He was at this stage a very fine ethnographer, a dazzling theorist and a great enthusiast for getting rid of the old criminology. A life long outsider radical, he was one of the key figures behind the National Deviance Conference – with Stan Cohen and Mary McIntosh ( who both died earlier this year: what a year!), and others.  Soon he was writing ( with the deceased Ian Taylor and Paul Walton) The New Criminology: this was quite simply the key tex in the field for over a decade – and indeed has recently been reissued. I guess this was tImely, as Jock wrote a final commentary for it. It is now an undisputed major classic.

For well over two decades, Jock was a key character at  the University of Middlesex where he was both Professor and Head of the Centre for Criminology.In his ‘middle period’, he developed left realist criminology in a series of books including the Penguin Special: What is to be Done About Law and Order? ( with colleagues John Lea and Roger Matthews). Later he was to become Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York ( as well as Visiting Professor at the University of Kent).In his recent years he has written some very important books on the links between modernity and pathology (like The Exclusive Society (1999), The Vertigo of Late Modernity (2007) which put him in the ‘great traditions’ of social theory, and really make him one of the world’s most unique social theorists of social pathology and crime.   He is  guaranteed a place in posterity.In 1998 he was awarded the Sellin-Glueck Award for Distinguished International Scholar by the American Society of Criminology followed in 2003 by the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Critical Criminology Division. And in 2012 he was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award of the British Society of Criminology.

Sadly over the last decade or so I lost contact with him. The last time we met he was giving a lecture at Essex about 15 years ago, and he was not in truth very well then. Oddly, just last week I was reading Jock’s latest book The Criminological Imagination. It is so very Jock, and a fitting epitaph.

When he was young  Jock always said he wanted to be a zookeeper;  when he became a sociologist in the 1960’s, he wrote  about criminology as  ‘the ‘zoo keepers of deviants’. All his life he worked to break down this  cage in which we are all trapped. He remained to the end uneasy about the whole tradition of criminology; and saw the problems it dealt with (very badly) as symptomatic of much wider and deeper problems requiring much more profound social and economic change. His combination  of Marxism , Critical Sociology and Humanism always shone through. He will always be an inspiration to me.


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