Theorising Criminalisation through the Modalities Approach: A Critical Appreciation


New scholarly paradigms in the study of criminal law come along rather rarely. Despite extensive published work on this core topic in the educational curriculum and intellectual programme of the legal academy in most countries, the basic conceptual tools which inform its exposition and analysis in mainstream scholarship have remained relatively stable over the last half century. Moreover, they have not evolved in proportion to the development of the field at large. Valuable attention to rethinking the conceptual parameters of the field has come from contextual, historical, feminist or otherwise critical scholarship (Ashworth 1991; Farmer 2016; Fletcher 1978; Loughnan 2012; Naffine 2009; Norrie 2014; Wells and Quick 2010); and—as the contributors to this fine essay note—from site-specific areas of criminalisation. But, the conceptual basis for theorisation remains a pressing concern. This is particularly so given the recognition, in much of the most innovative recent scholarship, that the field of criminal law cannot be fully understood independent of the dynamics of criminalisation conceived as a broad social practice. This development is giving a new spin to the longstanding focus in theoretically informed criminal law scholarship on the question of responsibility (Ashworth forthcoming; Ashworth and Zedner 2014; Duff et al. 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014; Farmer 2016; Horder 1992; Lacey 2016; McSherry, Norrie and Bronitt 2009; Norrie 2016; Ramsay 2012).

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Published: 2018-09-01
Pages:122 to 127
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How to Cite
Lacey, N. (2018) “Theorising Criminalisation through the Modalities Approach: A Critical Appreciation”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 7(3), pp. 122-127. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v7i3.557.

Author Biography

Nicola Lacey is School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy in the Law Department at LSE. From 1998 to 2010 she held a Chair in Criminal Law and Legal Theory at LSE; she returned to LSE in 2013 after spending three years as Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, and Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory at the University of Oxford. She has held a number of visiting appointments, most recently at Harvard Law School.  She is an Honorary Fellow of New College Oxford and of University College Oxford; a Fellow of the British Academy; and a member of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum. In 2011 she was awarded the Hans Sigrist Prize by the University of Bern for outstanding scholarship on the function of the rule of law in late modern societies and in 2017 she was awarded a CBE for services to Law, Justice and Gender Politics.