Jock Young

British sociologist and criminologist (1942-2013)

Jock Young (4 March 1942 - 16 November 2013) is a British sociologist and criminologist and former professor at the Middlesex University. Along with Ian Taylor and Paul Walton, he wrote the groundbreaking book The New Criminology: For a Social Theory of Deviance in 1973. More than any other criminologist of his generation, Jock Young shaped the nature and direction of the discipline and has been at the forefront of almost every major development in the sociology of crime and deviance over the past four decades.


  • Humanitarianism … occurs where a powerful group seeks to curb the activities of another group in their own better interests. They define them as a social problem and demands that action be taken to ameliorate their situation. This is complicated in the case of marihuana smoking, in so far as those individuals who make up the social problem would deny that any real problem exists at all.
    I would argue that the humanitarian motive is exceedingly suspect; for it is often—though not necessarily—a rationalization behind which is concealed either a conflict of interests or moral indignation. For example Alex Comfort in The Anxiety Makers has charted the way in which the medical profession have repeatedly translated their moral indignation over certain ‘abuses’ into a clinically backed humanitarianism. For example, masturbation was once seen as causing psychosis, listlessness and impotence, and various barbaric clinical devices were evolved to prevent young people from touching their genital organs.
    • “The role of the police as amplifiers of deviancy,” Images of Deviance (1971), p. 31
  • I would suggest that there is a tendency in our society to cloak what amounts to moral or material conflicts behind the mantle of humanitarianism. This is because serious conflicts of interest are inadmissible in a political order which obtains its moral legitimacy by invoking the notion of a widespread consensus of opinion throughout all sections of the population.
    • “The role of the police as amplifiers of deviancy,” Images of Deviance (1971), p. 31
  • The drug user evokes an immediate gut reaction, while most criminals are immediately understandable in both motives and life style. For the criminal is merely cheating at the rules of a game which the policeman himself plays, whereas the bohemian is sceptical of the validity of the game itself and casts doubts on the world-view of both policeman and criminal.
    • “The role of the police as amplifiers of deviancy,” Images of Deviance (1971), p. 31
  • Moral indignation, … the intervention into the affairs of others because we think them wicked, must necessarily be replaced by humanitarianism, which, using the language of therapy and healing, intervenes in what it perceives as the best interests and well-being of the individuals involved. Heresy or ungodliness become personal or social pathology.
    • “The role of the police as amplifiers of deviancy,” Images of Deviance (1971), p. 32

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