Criminology The National Deviancy Symposia
Simon Winlow
  • LAST REVIEWED: 16 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0182


The first National Deviancy Conference (NDC) took place in York, United Kingdom, in 1968. The conferences continued intermittently until the end of the 1970s and were resurrected, again in York, in 2011. The early conferences were first conceived as a meeting place for those dissatisfied with mainstream criminology in Great Britain. British criminology was at the time dominated by administrative and state-centered approaches. The NDC was keen to draw on developments in sociology, especially advances in American symbolic interactionism, but there was also an obvious political orientation. The conferences sought to challenge power and dominant accounts of crime and deviance, and in so doing they created and carried forward the British tradition of critical and radical criminologies. The conferences themselves, and the key figures who organized and took part in them, changed the character of British criminology enormously and were to have a significant influence on the discipline globally. There has been no published work that has aimed to chart the development of the conferences and the motivations of those at the forefront of the movement. Instead, this article attempts to identify the key intellectual output of the symposia from 1968 to the early 21st century and a range of other sources that usefully contextualize the deviancy movement and its contribution to the sociology of crime and deviance.

Key Anthologies

Papers presented at the National Deviancy Conferences (NDC) have quite often been gathered together and published as anthologies. These anthologies represent the best available guide to the general tenor of debate, and they include many crucial papers that reflect the intellectual development of critical and radical criminologies from the 1960s onward. Cohen 1971 was the first to appear in print and contains key papers written by Ian Taylor, Jock Young, Maureen Cain, Stanley Cohen, Laurie Taylor, and Mary MacIntosh. Taylor and Taylor 1973 is the second anthology of conference papers and provides papers written by other notable figures in the movement, including Roy Bailey, Mary Wilson, and Paul Walton. Bailey and Young 1973 appeared at around the same time. There was something of a hiatus during the mid-1970s as key figures pursued important individual projects. At the end of the 1970s, two further volumes were published that suggested both intellectual evolution and schism within the core group of deviancy theorists. Produced in conjunction with the Conference of Socialist Economists, Fine, et al. 1979 represented a concerted attempt by some of the deviancy group to move away from the symbolic interactionism of David Downes, Paul Rock, and others and toward Marxist political economy. The National Deviancy Conference 1980 is aimed quite specifically at “radical practitioners” and looks at the ideological orientation and efficacy of pieces of legislation enacted during the 1960s to address various aspects of cultural change. Winlow and Atkinson 2013 offers papers presented at the 2011 revival conference. The other anthologies listed here are not based on papers presented at deviancy conferences but are included because their essays, many written by regular conference attendees, reflect the forms of analysis that were developing in the deviancy movement.

  • Bailey, Roy, and Jock Young, eds. 1973. Contemporary social problems in Britain. Farnborough, UK: Saxon House.

    This, the third publication from the early deviancy conferences, reflects the continuity and development of early core themes. The analysis of stigmatizing social processes and politicized responses to stigmatization is central to this collection, and Ken Plummer’s contribution, “Awareness of Homosexuality,” is perhaps the most notable in this regard.

  • Bianchi, Herman, Mario Simondi, and Ian Taylor. 1975. Deviance and control in Europe: Papers from the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control. London: Wiley.

    The European Group was formed in 1970 by Stanley Cohen, Mario Simondi, and Karl Schumann, and it remains in robust health in the early 21st century. Like the NDC, the group affords leftist social scientists the opportunity to engage productively with like-minded peers free from the influence of orthodox and administrative criminologies.

  • Carson, William, and Paul Wiles, eds. 1971. The sociology of crime and delinquency in Britain. Vol. 1, The British tradition. London: Robertson.

    Stressing the contributions of British criminologists, Carson and Wiles give a brief history of the sociology of crime and deviance. This collection has papers from some key contributors to the NDC and is particularly useful in examining the break that occurred between leftist deviancy theorists and mainstream administrative criminologists.

  • Cohen, Stanley, ed. 1971. Images of deviance. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

    Images of Deviance is the first collection of papers to come from the early deviancy conferences. Jock Young’s contribution is of particular interest; here, Young develops for the first time his concepts of deviancy amplification and moral panic.

  • Cohen, Stanley, and Jock Young, eds. 1973. The manufacture of news: Social problems, deviance and mass media. London: Constable.

    This book was to have significant influence on the development of critical media studies and cultural sociology. The book contains chapters from core NDC members, and its basic focus is the media’s tendency to distort of the actuality of crime.

  • Fine, Bob, Richard Kinsey, Sal Picciotto, and Jock Young. 1979. Capitalism and the rule of law: From deviancy theory to Marxism. London: Hutchinson.

    A joint endeavor with the Conference of Socialist Economists, this was the second NDC publication of 1979. By that time, those on the Marxist left of the NDC were putting forth an unsparing critique of the liberal symbolic interactionists, who formed the other core block of the movement. Notable here is Jock Young’s abandonment of left idealism and his move toward left realism.

  • Hall, Stuart, and Tony Jefferson, eds. 1976. Resistance through rituals: Youth subcultures in post-war Britain. London: Hutchinson.

    The Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies has had a crucial role in shaping post-1970s social and cultural analysis, and this is one of its most notable publications. Both Hall and Jefferson attended deviancy conferences and have acknowledged the intellectual debt owed to key figures in the NDC movement.

  • Mungham, Geoff, and Geoff Pearson, eds. 1976. Working class youth culture. London: Routledge.

    This edited collection is heavily influenced by the NDC and shares a close association with the work of the Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies. The volume deals with the transformation of youth and development of working-class youth cultures synonymous with this period of British history.

  • National Deviancy Conference, ed. 1980. Permissiveness and control: The fate of the sixties legislation. New York: Barnes and Noble.

    This book is indicative of the general move away from interactionism and toward a concerted critique of political economy. Here, the group puts their collective energy into challenging what they call the myth of 1960s permissiveness.

  • Rock, Paul, and Mary MacIntosh, eds. 1974. Deviance and social control. London: Tavistock.

    Another anthology produced by the broad deviancy group, this book clearly displays the collective intellectual debt owed to 1960s interactionism and especially the work of Edwin Lemert and David Matza. The book includes contributions by Stanley Cohen and Stuart Hall, who was to become a leading figure in the Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies.

  • Taylor, Ian, and Laurie Taylor, eds. 1973. Politics and deviance: Papers from the proceedings of symposia held by the National Deviancy Conference. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

    Politics and Deviance is the second collection of papers from the NDC. Across the volume it is possible to identify the early intellectual foundations of the NDC in symbolic interactionism and Marxism. In this volume, themes of labeling and deviancy amplification receive significant coverage.

  • Taylor, Ian, Paul Walton, and Jock Young, eds. 1975. Critical criminology. London: Routledge.

    This work follows The New Criminology (see Taylor, et al. 1973, cited under Early Monographs Written or Co-Written by Cohen and Young) and similarly represents a major contribution to the development of critical criminology and left realism in particular. Perhaps most notable here is the critique of New Deviancy theory and its perceived idealism and romanticism.

  • Wiles, Paul, ed. 1976. The sociology of crime and delinquency in Britain. Vol. 2, The new criminologies. Oxford: Robertson.

    An intriguing follow-up to the earlier volume (see Carson and Wiles 1971), this collection serves as something of an early retrospective of the development of the various deviancy theories of key NDC figures.

  • Winlow, Simon, and Rowland Atkinson, eds. 2013. New directions in crime and deviancy. London: Routledge.

    Based on papers presented at the 2011 NDC, this collection results from the efforts of a generation of deviancy theorists aiming to rejuvenate critical criminology and offers papers by Steve Hall, Walter S. DeKeseredy, Nigel South, Avi Brisman, Molly Dragiewicz, and Oliver Smith.

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