What’s Wrong with Penal Populism? Politics, the Public, and Criminological Expertise

David Garland

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article discusses “penal populism” and its conflict with criminological expertise. It considers the proper balance between professional expertise and community sentiment in the formulation of crime control and penal policy—especially in respect of policy measures where moral rather than instrumental considerations are involved. It raises theoretical questions about the nature of “public opinion”—does it exist other than as an artifact of survey instruments?—and its proper role in a democratic polity. And it considers the professional responsibility of criminological experts in relation to policy formation and political debate. The performance of public health experts during the COVID pandemic is presented as an instructive case in point. Can criminology establish itself as a credible form of social scientific knowledge worthy of public trust? And how should criminologists comport themselves when engaging with questions of public policy and political controversy?

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)257-277
    Number of pages21
    JournalAsian Journal of Criminology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2021


    • Criminological expertise
    • Democracy
    • Penal populism
    • Public health
    • Public opinion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Law


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