Whose account counts? Politics and research in youth justice

Authored by: Jo Phoenix

Youth Justice Handbook

Print publication date:  October  2009
Online publication date:  February  2014

Print ISBN: 9781843927174
eBook ISBN: 9781315820064
Adobe ISBN: 9781317821755


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This chapter is about how, since the late 1990s, UK governmental priorities and objectives have structured a particular relationship between knowledge production (i.e. research) and professional practice, such that youth justice research and practice now serve the demands of policy. In order to contextualize this discussion, the chapter starts by recounting an abridged history of the relationship between governmental objectives, policy, practice and research during the 1980s. The basic argument is that, whereas academic inquiry and knowledge production continue to exist outside the realm of government and are not necessarily linked to the development of professional practice, research within these realms is increasingly utilitarian and instrumental in character. Simply, ‘official’ research on youth justice (i.e. that which is funded and/or consumed by government or governmental organizations) is used more and more primarily to legitimate the direction and effect of successive political interventions into the field of professional practice and, more specifically, the system expansion that has occurred in the last ten years. Hence, ‘official’ research on young lawbreakers and youth justice is narrowly focused and excludes questions outside the framework of specific policy or practice innovations, just as youth justice practice is increasingly ‘disciplined’ by the dictates of these claims to knowledge that underpin policy.

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