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"Human Rights and the Human Sciences: The Case of Criminology"

Event Date: 
Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law, U.C. Berkeley.  12:30-2:00 p.m.; SBSG 1517

Abstract: The claim I would like to explore is that human rights has replaced the liberal state as the implicit normative axis of the social sciences using criminology as an exemplary case.  Social science has flourished in close relationship to liberalism in the 19th and 20th centuries, with liberal societies investing heavily in it, and non-liberal societies either investing considerably less or banning it altogether (Greece under the Colonels, Franco's Spain, Stalinism).  Even the major splits between liberals and conservatives in most academic subjects, including criminology, turn on how the liberal state can obtain a grip on crime without snuffing out liberty.   All schools of criminology are basically variants on Nikolas Rose's definition of liberalism as governing people through their liberty.  However, the crisis of mass incarceration illustrates the limits of this relationship and both the need and opportunity for social science to reframe its normative axis to human rights as a global transnational legal project.*