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(p. 98) 4. Penal populism and epistemic crime control 

(p. 98) 4. Penal populism and epistemic crime control
(p. 98) 4. Penal populism and epistemic crime control

Ian Loader

and Richard Sparks

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date: 18 June 2021

Questions of crime and security today often seem dominated by a contest between populism on the one hand and epistemic crime control on the other. These positions appear to press conflicting claims: the former seeks to speak for ‘the people’, or ‘victims’, or ‘law-abiding citizens’ who have been ill-served by remote penal elites; the latter (e.g., the evidence-based policy movement) claims that emotive irrationalism in crime policy should be countered by institutions that enhance the power and influence of experts/knowers. Our aim in this chapter is to reconstruct the visions of crime governance to be found in populist and epistemic ideologies and to clarify what is at stake in disputes between them. In so doing, we question the assumption that they are competing alternatives. We argue, instead, that populism and technocracy are twin pathologies of our contemporary anti-political malaise, both of which ‘disfigure’ the ideal and practice of democracy by neglecting the normative force of democratic procedures.

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