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“Let no one despise your youth”: A sociological approach to youth justice under New Labour 1997‐2010

Philip Whitehead (School of Social Sciences and Law, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK)
Raymond Arthur (School of Social Sciences and Law, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 26 July 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The youth justice system in England and Wales has been subjected to numerous transformations since 1997 under New Labour governments. Most approaches to the field during the period under review address the fine details of what is a politically and organisationally modernised domain. Even though this paper steps inside the system to observe some of its transformative developments, it aims to begin at the other end which enables a more rounded sociological approach to youth justice under New Labour to emerge which facilitates the production of a more detailed evaluation and understanding of the field.

Design/methodology/approach

This other‐end approach draws upon two main bodies of sociological theory, namely, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, which are put to work to enrich the analysis. It should be made clear that the main concern is not to produce a blueprint for a new youth justice system, but rather to draw attention to some exploratory and explanatory tools to evaluate the period under New Labour from 1997 to 2010.

Findings

Since 1997, the focus of the youth justice system has been placed upon individual and family responsibility, tougher on crime than its causes, and the creation of more efficient systems management. Furthermore, youth and criminal justice has been preoccupied with risk assessment and prediction. This has resulted in a system that is ambiguous in terms of what it is trying to achieve.

Originality/value

The main concern is not to sketch a blueprint for the future, but rather to analyse features of youth justice to which these theoretical and sociological traditions of Weber and Durkheim are explored in order to explain the complex dynamics of youth justice make a substantive contribution by enlarging our critical understanding.

Keywords

Citation

Whitehead, P. and Arthur, R. (2011), "“Let no one despise your youth”: A sociological approach to youth justice under New Labour 1997‐2010", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 31 No. 7/8, pp. 469-485. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443331111149897

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited