Over recent decades Conservatism has been a powerful, but curiously neglected and poorly understood, force in the shaping of public and political responses to crime in Britain. In this paper I develop a rational reconstruction of Conservative thinking about crime that seeks to make good this neglect. The central claim is that one finds in Conservative ideology both an emotionally and culturally resonant case for making police authority and penal control central to the production of order and arguments for sceptical penal restraint and non-penal modes of socialization. But from which aspects of its conceptual morphology do these two faces of Conservatism arise? Under what social conditions has each acted upon crime policy and penal practice? In answering these questions, the paper identifies certain virtues that Conservatism might bring to the development of a better politics of crime, as well as pinpointing its shortcomings and blind-spots.

 

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