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Rule of Law and the Political Economy of Criminalisation: An Agenda for Research

NCJ Number
Punishment & Society Volume: 15 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2013 Pages: 349-366
Nicola Lacey
Date Published
October 2013
18 pages

This research examines the relationship between the rule of law and criminalization in late modern societies.


This article argues for an institutional approach to criminalization scholarship, drawing on historical and comparative methodologies, and on the resources of several disciplines including law, sociology and political science. It goes on to sketch the sort of research agenda which is implied by that approach, with a view to laying the intellectual building blocks for a broad political economy of criminalization within modern societies committed to the Rechsstaat/rule of law. The article describes how this framework developed out of recent work in the apparently discrete fields of historical and of comparative studies, of doctrinal analysis of criminal law, and of socio-political analysis of criminal punishment in modern societies. The main outlines of these projects are set out in the first part of the article, which then moves on to consider how they may be brought into dialogue so as to inform the construction of a further research agenda. This agenda, which seeks to contribute to the building of a general understanding of the place of criminalization and punishment within the governance frameworks of various kinds of social order which share a commitment to Rechtsstaat/rule of law ideals, is sketched in the third part of the paper. In conclusion, the article argues that such a research agenda implies an expansive conception of punishment and society scholarship. Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.