The permanent revolution: New labour, new public management and the modernization of criminal justice

McLaughlin, Eugene; Muncie, John and Hughes, Gordon (2001). The permanent revolution: New labour, new public management and the modernization of criminal justice. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 1(3) pp. 301–318.



The soundbite `tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime' was crucial to both the ideological rebirth of the Labour Party as `New Labour' and its landslide victory in the 1997 General Election. Indeed, one of New Labour's most remarkable political achievements, during its first term of office, was to have forged a `Third Way' law and order position that has successfully challenged the idea that social democratic political parties are by definition `soft on crime'. This article outlines and evaluates the key strategies underpinning New Labour's core governmental project of `modernization through managerialization' in criminal justice. Throughout, a focus on crime reduction and youth justice is maintained, since addressing these `wicked issues' is pivotal to realizing New Labour's long-term objective of commanding the centre ground of law and order politics in the UK. We argue that an institutionalization and normalization of managerialism is taking place to `resolve' the contradictions, tensions and disconnections generated by the Conservatives' incomplete public sector reform project and to create the basis for achieving the long-held ideal of a cost-effective, efficient, `seamless' criminal justice system. In the conclusion we discuss the implications of the open-ended relationship between the unrelenting managerialization of criminal justice and the on-going politicization of law and order associated with New Labour's electoral promise to be 'tough on crime'.

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