Symbolic justice: The status politics of the american probation movement

John Hagan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper addresses in substantive terms an emerging debate between Marxian and Weberian perspectives on crime and law. It is argued that the cooptive character of the American probation movement and its impact on juvenile and criminal law is an anomaly for orthodox Marxian theory and its preoccupation with coercive strategies of crime control. Revisionist Marxian perspectives similarly fail to account for the growth of this movement. An alternative Weberian approach is then articulated. It is found that probation legislation evolved at a federal level in juxtaposition to American temperance legislation, drawing its base of support from status groups reluctant to support the latter social movement, as well as from the leadership and rank and file organization of a voluntary association, the National Probation Association. The attention of a Weberian approach to such factors of organization and status helps to correct a one-sidedness in the Marxian class analysis of crime and law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-309
Number of pages15
JournalSociological Focus
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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