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«FAMILIES OF NATIONS, VICTIMISATION AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS CRIMINAL JUSTICE PAUL A. NORRIS* School of Social and Political Science, University of ...»

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International Review of Victimology. 2009, Vol. 16, pp. 229–255

0269-7580/09 $10

© A B Academic Publishers - Printed in Great Britain

FAMILIES OF NATIONS, VICTIMISATION AND

ATTITUDES TOWARDS CRIMINAL JUSTICE

PAUL A. NORRIS*

School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

ABSTRACT

Comparing and classifying OECD member states has provided a fruitful avenue for public policy research over many years (see for instance Espying-Andersen, 1990; Castles, 1998). The enhanced coverage of ICVS-5 means that for the first time comparable data relating to victimisation are available for those countries which have formed the mainstay of comparative research in other areas of public policy. There is strong reason to believe that the historical, political and cultural issues which it is argued have influenced the development of welfare states may also help explain variations in criminal justice outcomes across industrialised democracies (Cavadino and Dignan, 2006; Norris, 2007).

Following the methodology of recent work in the comparative analysis of welfare systems (Obinger and Wagschal, 2001; Powell and Barrientos, 2004) this paper will consider country level victimisation rates from ICVS-5, using clustering techniques to identify groups of nations which exhibit similar levels and patterns of victimisation. It is argued that the clusters of nations present in the ICVS data reflect those found in other areas of social policy. Brief consideration is also given to how the application of typologies from social policy may suggest new questions, and provide new insights, to the study of comparative criminology.

Keywords: ICVS — cluster analysis — typology — Families of Nations

INTRODUCTION

The comparing of countries in an attempt to understand how variations in social, cultural and political factors may influence criminal justice issues has a long history in criminology (for instance, Krahn et al., 1986; Lynch, 1993; Sparks and Newburn, 2004; Van Wilsem, 2004). More recently, the increase in data which are comparable between jurisdictions has been accompanied by a growth in attempts to construct typologies (for instance, Eisner, 2002; Smit et al., 2008). Despite this increased interest, the use of typologies within comparative criminology appears underdeveloped compared to research in other areas of comparative social policy.

Since the seminal work of Esping-Andersen (1990) the development and interpretation of typologies has played an increasingly large part in comparative studies of welfare (Arts and Gelissen, 2002). Many of the typologies developed * Dr Paul Norris is Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Edinburgh, School of Social and Political Science, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD (p.norris@ed.ac.uk) within social policy have focused on specific policy areas. One notable exception to this is the Families of Nations typology outlined by Castles (1998).

The logic of the Families of Nations approach is that social and policy outcomes within a country are derived from 'affinities of decent, imperial ties, common legal or religious cultures, diffusion and K membership of political and economic unions' (Castles and Obinger, 2008: p. 324).

This article employs hierarchical cluster analysis and considers data collected as part of the International Crime Victim Survey (ICVS). It is argued that those groups of countries suggested by Castles to explain differences in welfare policy also appear to reflect differences between nations in terms of attitudes towards crime and justice as well as levels of victimisation. Two brief illustrations are provided to show how the use of typologies may help address research questions within comparative criminology. Firstly, the results of the cluster analysis are used to show how while England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate legal systems the differences between them, in terms of attitudes and victimisation, are relatively small when compared to differences between other jurisdictions. Secondly, consideration will be given to whether the argument that the United States may be considered exceptional with regards to crime and justice can, at least to some extent, be attributed to the choice of countries with which it is commonly compared.

THE WORTH OF TYPOLOGIES IN CROSS-NATIONALRESEARCH

The worth of typologies within social science is an area of widespread debate (Weber, 1978; Cousins, 2005; Arts and Gelissen, 2002). It is argued that typologies, especially those derived inductively from data, run the risk of being essentially descriptive and offering little in terms of understanding as to why outcomes vary.

In many ways, the usefulness of typologies within cross-national research is

inversely related to the maturity of existing research (Arts and Gelissen, 2002:

p. 140). In more developed research areas it may be expected that researchers will be concerned with attempting to unpick causal explanations which underpin differences between cases, rather than attempting to merely identify patterns of outcomes across cases. The data available to researchers wishing to undertake comparative work within criminology is often limited due to differences in how concepts are defined and measured across countries. This lack of comparable data would appear to have held back research and has often caused that analysis which has been undertaken to concentrate on a small range of indicators. For instance, homicide has commonly been used as an indicator of crime levels in comparative studies as its recording is believed to be less susceptible to biases caused by differences between criminal justice systems.





Cousins (2005) and Arts and Gelissen (2002) argue that it is important that typologies are not considered an end in themselves but are instead seen as a stepping stone to explanation. Thus, discovering clusters of countries which appear to exhibit similar outcomes is only of use if those groupings provide an insight into the factors which may have caused these outcomes to occur. As Esping-Andersen (1997: p. 179) has argued 'the point of generalisation [as occurs when countries are clustered together] is economy of explanation — to be able to see the forest rather than the myriad of unique trees'. In terms of criminology, if groups of nations which share similar victimisation levels or attitudes are identified the question becomes what other commonalities exist between these countries which could explain the similarities in the criminal justice sphere. Therefore, the decision to base this work on a well developed existing typology would appear helpful. The clusters of countries which are argued to exist within the Families of Nations typology are based on long-standing social, economic and political characteristics. If similar groupings are present with reference to crime and justice then it could be argued that these patterns could be related to the factors on which the original typology is based.

If, as Esping-Andersen argues, typologies should provide useful generalisations of the real world, then it is important that any clusters identified provide a reliable representation of the concepts they purport to represent. Any typology developed will therefore be most useful if those countries which cluster together are relatively homogeneous while the differences between clusters are clear cut. If the countries within clusters are highly diverse or it is difficult to distinguish between the clusters identified, then the typology is likely to be of limited use for developing explanation.

THE USE OF TYPOLOGIES IN COMPARATIVE

CRIMINOLOGY

Grouping together countries is often used as one approach to try and overcome concern about the reliability of comparisons between individual countries, and as a means of highlighting the most salient patterns within the data (Newman and Howard, 1999: pp. 12–13).

Previous research involving ICVS data has often seen countries classified into broad categories which reflect geography and levels of economic development (for instance, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia and the New World). This classification reflects a broader pattern within comparative criminology, with many groupings of nations being based on geographic proximity. Neighbouring countries are often similar in terms of socio-economic issues. As these factors have been found to be important drivers for crime and criminal justice policy, broad geographies would appear a sensible basis on which to begin to cluster nations within criminology. However, countries can often be seen to belong to more than one geographic region, and the decision about which region a country belongs to may have a profound effect on the results of an analysis. For instance, Australia could be classified as a member of the New World, the Southern Hemisphere, or Oceania and the nature of the countries with which it is grouped would vary substantially depending on which classification is used. Additionally, while neighbouring countries are often similar, they are not forced to be related in terms of their political or legal systems. This means that clustering countries geographically could lead to groups which are heterogeneous in terms of those factors which may help to explain differences around victimisation, criminal justice policy and attitudes towards crime.

It seems highly plausible that many criminological issues (such as the role of law in day to day life, the definition of criminal behaviour, and expectations for punishment) will be related to a country's legal system. Reflecting this, several authors have classified countries in terms of their legal system and considered how this may be related to different criminological measures (Mukherjee and Reichel, 1999; Nelken, 2000). It is however possible to argue that many issues relating to crime and justice will be influenced by a much wider range of cultural and social factors than will be captured through an exclusive concentration on legal process.

Moving beyond the legal sphere, and reflecting how crime is often seen as a function of wider social, economic, or cultural issues, many pieces of research have classified countries based on their level of socio-economic development (Lewis, 1999; World Health Organisation, 2002). However, as with clustering countries based on their legal tradition, much of this research suffers from developing classifications based on one, or very few, measures meaning that the groups suggested remain heterogeneous in terms of other potentially important explanatory factors.

An alternative approach to classifying countries involves focusing directly on levels of crime or other outcomes of interest. This method commonly involves ranking countries in terms of how they score on a particular issue (for instance, a country's level of imprisonment or homicide rate) and then grouping together countries which appear close together in the resultant distribution (Butchart and Engstrom, 2002; Van Dijk, 2008). The cut-off point for a particular grouping can often appear arbitrary, based either on absolute values, or on a country's position within the distribution (i.e. five clusters may be suggested based on the different quintiles within a distribution). Such an approach can lead to erroneous results, with countries which are actually very similar (in absolute terms) being placed in different clusters.

Two recent pieces of research have considered whether the typology of Esping-Andersen (1990), developed to explain differences in welfare policy, is appropriate to explaining differences between countries when studying crime and justice. As outlined further in the following section, there are strong reasons to believe that the cultural and political differences which explain differences in welfare policy may also be important in shaping criminal justice policy and criminal behaviour. Cavadino and Dignan (2006) consider whether penal policy, and levels of imprisonment in particular, vary systematically across the different types of welfare regimes suggested by Esping-Andersen. They conclude that those countries which have the least inclusive and most individualistic welfare systems also have the most punitive penal systems.



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