van Calster, Patrick (2015) Crime, Control and Complexity On the ‘Crime and Security Complex’ in Modern Western Society. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The dominant scientific methodology utilised by social scientists to study problems of crime and disorder is a macroscopic perspective that focuses on order and control; the molar. It assumes the ‘outside’ position of the researcher who focuses on functionality. Researchers construct their object of research as a distinct phenomenon and try to find links between it and its environment: the research object is assumed to be goal-driven. However, social reality is much more complex than this dominant perspective is able to research. This thesis argues that the molar cannot be fully understood without the
molecular, a concept that expresses the idea of the unpredictable: sentiments, such as misunderstandings, fears and aspirations are key. However, the molar and the molecular are inextricably connected and emerge at the same time. Consequently, small changes on the molecular level could have huge and unpredictable effects on the molar level. Then, it becomes key to study the emergence of systems of control, such as law and partnerships, in relation to these molecular liquidities. Such an approach might teach us how crime policies deviate from the goals intended and start to produce undesirable side-effects. The thesis explores an alternative epistemology for examining issues of criminological concern which centers the molecular. It presents three case studies to illustrate the way both levels are interconnected. The first is concerned with the messiness and unpredictability of everyday relations and interactions in a criminal network. The second explores two Dutch police partnerships. Molecular elements such as personal preferences, frustrations and tensions are found to have a significant impact on the outcome of these partnerships. The third examines a measure introduced to prevent anti-social behaviour in the Netherlands which made shopkeepers and security personnel co-responsible for detecting and punishing acts such as shoplifting and fraud. The case is embedded in civil, not criminal, law and it is the diffuse nature of quasicriminal law that leads shopkeepers to refer to internal rules to justify their own actions. The cases show that the molecular is crucial in understanding crime problems and possible solutions, and the thesis concludes that the molecular should form the basis of a new epistemology for criminology research.

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