Framework project group

Currently, the Institute is involved with a framework research project

Social control, criminal justice system, violence and prevention of victimization in highly technological society

headed by Renata Salecl.

Criminology has been – since its very beginning, so to say – thrown in the field, where numerous scientific “paradigms”, disciplines, “schools”, perspectives, theories, doctrines and methods meet and cross each other or overlap. In this regard, criminological research is almost condemned to multi-, inter- or trans-disciplinary approaches, particularly in its need to consider huge range of differing (and also divergent or conflicting) intellectual “products” of human mind. However, specific nature of criminology – in comparison with other social or human sciences – is not only in its peculiar “objects”, but also in the way how they are studied, explained, interpreted, understood, evaluated and, finally, treated. Well, as far as the actual project of our research group is concerned, it has to be stressed that its scientific importance seems to be manifold or multidimensional. To begin with, the research project refers to exploration of numerous novelties in Slovene (post)transitional society (and of course in other relevant or comparable post-modern capitalist social formations), which have not been studied so far, for instance various changes referring to extent, structure and dynamic of crime, and to functioning of formal and informal social control (e.g. growth of corruption, white-collar crimes and other a- or antisocial acquisitive activities of agents being generally well educated, intelligent, influent, respectful, rich and strongly supported by informal social networks). On the other hand, the attention of research group is focused also on similarities and differences between de iure incriminated (legally forbidden) or de facto criminalized behaviour patterns and other, apparently normal, “natural” or “socially acceptable” activities (especially on the level of accumulating wealth, obtaining money and using physical force or constraints). What is more, scientific concerns/aims of the research group are not limited – unlike the majority of the Western mainstream academic criminology – to the study of officially defined and especially to formally sanctioned crime (and its perpetrators), for they focus also on “structural violence”, i.e. complex – and, as a rule, ideologically camouflaged – phenomenon, which is much more widespread, serious, harmful and dangerous than human actions being labelled as criminal offences. The width (and specificity) of the research agenda of our research group could be detected also in its approach to the study of “social control”, i.e. “the central fact and the central problem of society” (Robert Park). Namely, social control mechanisms are researched not merely from the perspective of their effectiveness in preventing, reducing or repressing criminal or deviant acts, but also in the light of (local and global) reproduction of the capitalist power relations. Moreover, within the current research project special attention is paid to the influence or impact of information technologies and neurobiological sciences on the legal conceptions, public and media representations, evaluations, prevention and sanctioning of crime. Needless to say, for criminology, the introduction of neuroscience and genetics into criminal law proceedings presents a great challenge. While, at first, it looks that this will improve the legal procedure and offer new possibilities to deter crime (or to intervene early in order to change/prevent potential criminal behaviour), in reality the research into criminal genetics often leads to various form of exclusion or marginalization, especially on economic and racial ground. In conclusion, research efforts of our group are directed mainly to the themes that usually drop out from other social sciences (and quite often also from the focus of Western academic criminology). Undoubtedly, crime (in its various – and, obviously enough, increasingly media covered – manifestations) has become a very serious social – political, moral and economic – problem in Slovene (post)transitional society (provoking widespread indignation, anger, resentment, hatred, cynism, apathy or hypocrisy). In this regard, what matters most is the so called economic (or business, managerial, financial or entrepreneur) crime and manifold forms of corruption. This phenomenon is more or less closely connected to anther – also very disturbing – problem, namely with the crises of the formal (and, all in all, also informal) control mechanisms, particularly criminal justice system being evidently systematically (over)tolerant towards extremely harmful acquisitive (or rather plundering) activities of the protagonists (“white collars”), which are, as a rule, not characterized by “deficits”, presented by modern (either sociologically or psychologically oriented) “positivist” criminology as the main generators (“causes” or “factors”) of criminal (mis)behaviour. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that research efforts of our group are to a great extent directed to this particular problematic, e.g. in terms of studying cultural, economic, political, legal, moral and institutional phenomena referring, on the one hand, to the “obscure attractiveness” of unlawful/immoral ways of “caching the cash” (as fast and as easily as possible), and, on the other hand, on the ineffectiveness/impotency of the debilitated national state and fragmented civil society in their prevention and repression. In this regard, one of the aims of our research is to explore (and show) possibly the basic structural and ideological/cultural determinants of the prevailing/dominant preconceptions, representations and value judgements referring to property, material wealth (and its incarnations, bearers or personifications), money, success, prestige, status (”social distinction”) and self-respect. Moreover, the research attention is paid to central “players” of criminal justice system (e.g. police, public prosecution, judicature and private lawyers). Also, in that perspective, the rationality and justification of many (e.g. obviously anachronistic or archaic) incriminations should be critically reflected and analyzed, along with the existent regime of sanctioning being still founded primarily upon prison sentences (as punishment par excellence), while other possibilities are usually neglected, e.g. monetary sanctions, confiscation of unlawfully obtained wealth or community service (socially useful work). In addition, the importance of the research project (for the development of Slovene society) can be detected in the study of structural violence being probably the greatest obstacle in improving the individuals’ and collective quality of life. Although we do know very well that the influence of critical criminological research seems to be quite modest or limited (if any at all), we insist on transferring empirical findings, theoretical insights and practical suggestions into our pedagogic activities (at under- and postgraduate studies), on publishing articles and books, and on presenting research results at scientific, expert and professional meetings. Briefly, that is what we can do and what we want to do.

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