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Criminology Concepts, Fall 1999

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: December 6, 1999
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

Concept 4: Military Action to Police Action

Information on this concept was taken from pp. 243 ff. of Williams III and McShane's Criminology Theory, Austin T. Turk's "Political Criminality."

Black Letter Definitions

"military action to police action":

Ultimately power comes down to "sovereignty" - control of the territory. Once the territory is militarily secure, occupation guarantees the sovereign's control and then turns to policing, which "transforms power into authority." (Austin T. Turk, op.cit, at p. 251)

Austin Turk talks about social reality at a macro level: the level of sovereignty and territories, which leads us to global social reality, global crime. Ultimately, at the global level, sovereignty rules. She with the most guns rules the territory, and few are willing to agress unless they have enough guns to win. That basically defines our globe as "structurally violent," since what matters most is who's got the most powerful guns.

Yes, there are global courts of justice, but they have the power to make rulings only when countries consent to their rule. About all we've been able to agree on as universal crime is piracy and torture, and we aren't quite sure what torture includes. Kind of like obscenity, hmm?

This is, of course, one of the complaints of the third world countries, that by the time they got to the discourse table all the developed countries had already staked out their claims and stock piled their guns.

Turk recognizes and describes the fundamental power of sovereignty as military power - the guns to which I referred. Turk also describes the increasing appeal to legitimacy as military conquest turns to occupation and occupation turns to policing. In the policing stage there is much more concern with legitimizing the policing institutions as legitimate, with legitimizing the hierarchy of authority and power by which some rule and others "accept or resist being their subjects." (p. 262, last line of conclusion)

Questions to Spark Ideas

  1. On p. 258, Turk notes that "[t]he concept of legitimation has traditionally been taken to mean not only that people acept the power structure in which they live, but that it is right for them to do so. . . The key notion is that, now or ultimately, the interests of authorities and subjects are identical." Does that sound like consensus?

    If we can agree that the interests of authorities and subjects are the same, then that sounds like consensus. But there is an unstated assumption that there is some choice, since we cannot be considered to agree if, in fact, we have no choice. The authority/subject split would seem to allow no room for conflict. Authorities make the rules; subjects obey them. These are two separate interest groups. And we are likely to find that dominance not consensus is involved.If you

  2. We have now reviewed a number of theories, albeit hastily and sketchily, but enough to recognize that whether we see the world of criminology from a consensus or from a conflict perspective matters. How might each react to an appeal to legitimacy?

    Conflict theory presumes that there are conflicts in social reality, conflicts between individuals, conflicts between groups, conflict over resources, over power, over acceptance. But at some point, if we are to exist as a society we must balance out the tension between individual freedom and community needs. We might consider that an agreement to some acquiesence to authority, and that would be "legitimate," if in fact it were in actual agreement, without any unstated presumptions.

    Consensus theory