The Defences of the Weak (Routledge Revivals)

A Sociological Study of a Norwegian Correctional Institution

By Thomas Mathiesen

© 1965 – Routledge

258 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415622363
pub: 2013-08-08
US Dollars$46.95
Hardback: 9780415535199
pub: 2012-04-19
US Dollars$155.00

About the Book

This is a sociological study of a Norwegian penal institution. The author spent two years in the institution, observing and interviewing inmates and staff, the target being to learn the extent to which American prisons fit with prison life in a different culture. He gives a fascinating answer to the question: Norwegian prisons were, at the time of the study, miles away from their American counterparts. The conflicts between prison officers and inmates were certainly there, but they took a very different form. Rather than engaging in deviant practices and norms, emphasising more or less solidary opposition against the staff, the Norwegian prisoners criticised the staff and the prison fiercely on the basis of their own norms; rather than engaging in deviance, they turned the common practises and norms of Norwegian society against the staff, engaging in a kind of moral surveillance of those in power. He coined the phrase of "censoriousness" to this approach from the "bottom" of the prison. Mathiesen spells out the major causes of this different approach, from characteristics of this particular prison to broader social forces.


‘Mathiesen makes an extremely significant contribution to the understanding of the prison community…’ British Journal of Criminology

‘Mathiesen exploits his material…with great skill and deserves to be widely read.’ The Guardian

‘…(The book) offers a great deal of relevant and valuable discussion for the development of research into penal institutions in industrial societies.’ Prison Service Journal

‘The book is valuable for the light it sheds on the awkward relationship which exists between the custodial staff and the treatment experts in the prison.’ The Law Journal

Table of Contents

Preface. Part 1: Introduction. 1. The Problem. 2. Some Definitions and Propositions. 3. Preventive Measures and the Preventive Detention Institution. Part 2: The Rise and Functions of Censoriousness. 4. The Staff Context. 5. Staff Distribution as Seen by Inmates. 6. Elements of a Patriarchal Régime. 7. The Disrupted Society. 8. Censoriousness: Models of Justice. 9. Censoriousness: Models of Efficiency. 10. Censoriousness: A Concluding Statement. 11. Problems of Defensive Effectiveness. Part 3: Some Conclusions. 12. The Defences of the Weak. Appendix: Methods and Techniques. Bibliography. Index.

About the Series

Routledge Revivals

Are there elusive titles that you need and have been trying to source for years but thought that you would never be able to find?

Well this may be the end of your quest – here is a fantastic opportunity for you to discover past brilliance and purchase previously out of print and unavailable titles by some of the world’s most eminent academic scholars.

Drawing from over 100 years of innovative, cutting-edge, publishing Routledge Revivals is an exciting new programme whereby key titles from the distinguished and extensive backlist of the many acclaimed imprints associated with Routledge will be re-issued.

The programme draws upon the illustrious backlists of Kegan Paul, Trench & Trubner, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Methuen, Allen & Unwin and Routledge itself.

Routledge Revivals spans the whole of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and includes works by some of the world’s greatest thinkers including Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Simone Weil, Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers and Max Beloff.

If you are interested in Revivals in the Behavioral Sciences, please visit

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General