Sir Leon Radzinowicz was one of the last great exemplars of modern criminology. Yet he remains, 32 years since his retirement from the Wolfson chair of Criminology at Cambridge, an almost unrecognizably distant figure, largely unexamined, if not completely eclipsed, in the existing histories of the discipline. This, partly, is because many of the questions which Radzinowicz himself confronted are quite different from those which exercise criminologists today. But it is also, more decisively, because Radzinowicz’s status as a thinker has never quite recovered from the critical assault to which his radical antagonists subjected it. My aim in what follows will be to re-examine the validity of that assault and to clarify the significance, if any, of Radzinowicz’s ‘pragmatic position’ for contemporary criminological thought.
Dr Simon Cottee is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent and a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic.