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Rethinking social capital in the desistance process: The ‘Artful Dodger’ complex

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journal contribution
posted on 26.08.2020, 08:10 by Chris KayChris Kay
Social capital has become a core component of our understanding of desistance in recent years. Some of this work however seems to present social capital as inherently positive, suggesting that increasing stocks in social capital is fundamental to the desistance process. Knowledge surrounding exactly how social capital is utilised within the desistance process, with the exception of acquiring social capital as a social good, remain underexplored. Through an analysis of the desistance narratives of young adult men serving community orders under the supervision of the probation service in England and Wales, this article argues that instead of being considered to be inherently good, social capital is perhaps better thought of as value neutral, consisting of both positive and negative aspects (some of which occur simultaneously). Desistance, then, is not simply about obtaining social capital (as many people with convictions possess stocks of social capital which supported their offending); rather it is about reorienting the type of capital one has available to them at any given time, from relationships which imbue ‘anti-social capital’ to those that imbue ‘pro-social capital’. Such a distinction has significant theoretical and policy interventions, arguing that it is pro-social capital which the literature makes reference to in terms of supporting desistance efforts. The article concludes by offering some tentative suggestions for future research, along with ways in which this distinction can further support how we operationalise desistance within criminal justice policy and practice.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Social and Policy Studies

Published in

European Journal of Criminology


SAGE Publications


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© The authors

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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Sage under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC). Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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Dr Chris Kay. Deposit date: 25 August 2020

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