The Myth of the ‘Crime Decline’ : Exploring Change and Continuity in Crime and Harm book cover
1st Edition

The Myth of the ‘Crime Decline’
Exploring Change and Continuity in Crime and Harm

ISBN 9780815353935
Published March 31, 2019 by Routledge
202 Pages

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Book Description

The Myth of the ‘Crime Decline’ seeks to critically interrogate the supposed statistical decline of crime rates, thought to have occurred in a number of predominantly Western countries over the past two decades. Whilst this trend of declining crime rates seems profound, serious questions need to be asked. Data sources need to be critically interrogated and context needs to be provided. This book seeks to do just that.

This book examines the wider socio-economic and politico-cultural context within which this decline in crime is said to have occurred, highlighting the changing nature and landscape of crime and its ever deepening resistance to precise measurement. By drawing upon original qualitative research and cutting edge criminological theory, this book offers an alternative view of the reality of crime and harm. In doing so it seeks to reframe the ‘crime decline’ discourse and provide a more accurate account of this puzzling contemporary phenomenon. Additionally, utilising a new theoretical framework developed by the author, this book begins to explain why the ‘crime decline’ discourse has been so readily accepted.

Written in an accessible yet theoretical and informed manner, this book is a must-read for academics and students in the fields of criminology, sociology, social policy, and the philosophy of social sciences.


Table of Contents

Introduction: A Picture in Search of a New Frame

Chapter One: Constructing the Statistical Quilt for the Comfortable Dream: Exploring the ‘International Crime Decline’

Chapter Two: Context is Everything

Chapter Three: Invisible Crimes and Non-Criminalised Harms

Chapter Four: A View from Life on the Precipice

Chapter Five: Paradigmatic Dominance and Eyes Wide Shut: Beyond Positivism and Constructionism

Chapter Six: Dreaming Comfortably: Theorising the ‘Crime Decline’ and Modernity’s Dream Myth


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Justin Kotzé is Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Teesside University. He was awarded his PhD in 2016 and has previously published work in the fields of ex-prisoner reintegration and the historical sublimation of violence. Justin is the co-editor of Zemiology: Reconnecting Crime and Social Harm (2018).


"Kotzé theoretically and rigorously skewers the myth of the 'crime decline' as a 'baseless assertion built on insufficient data'. In doing so he punctures liberal, dream-like notions of 'better angels of our nature' exercising some mystical and ameliorating influence on the harm that is still so catastrophically caused by our underlying social and economic system and the toxic subjectivity that it creates. Beautifully written and intellectually challenging, it also serves to remind every Criminologist of the debt that we now and will continue to owe to Ultra Realism for re-invigorating a discipline that was theoretically atrophied."

Professor Emeritus David Wilson, Centre for Applied Criminology, Birmingham City University.

"Justin Kotzé does what few criminologists are willing to do these days. He pushes past the cloying sensitivities of contemporary social science to offer an admirably honest account of the genuine problems that continue to blight our most impoverished and disorderly boroughs... he carefully and convincingly dismantles the crime decline narrative. Compelling stuff."

Professor Simon Winlow, Northumbria University

In The Myth of the Crime Decline, Justin Kotzé carefully unpicks one of the predominant narratives of mainstream criminology. Using cutting edge social theory and original data, this book demands that we move beyond positivism or constructionism as explanatory frameworks for our contemporary condition and examine the complexity of a criminological reality that is far from static. Kotzé draws us into a rapidly changing criminological landscape, illustrating how adaptive and new forms of crime are facilitated by technological advances, rendering the creaking mechanisms of crime surveys and many categories of crime and deviance obsolete. Beneath the statistical radar, and against a backdrop of socioeconomic precarity, these new forms of criminality are often entrepreneurial, ruthless and effective, resulting in a range of invisible and unmeasured harms. This book is essential reading, and an antidote to the orthodoxy of optimism that has paralysed the social sciences in recent years.

Dr Oliver Smith, Reader in Criminology, Plymouth University