Deviant Leisure: Criminological Perspectives on Leisure and Harm. Thomas Raymen and Oliver Smith (Eds)

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This book brings together a collection of critical essays that challenge the existing dogma of leisure as an unmitigated social good, in order to examine the commodification and marketisation of leisure across a number of key sites. Leisure and consumer culture have become symbolic of the individual freedoms of liberal society, ostensibly presenting individuals with the opportunity to display individual creativity, cultural competence and taste. This book problematizes these assertions, and considers the range of harms that emerge in a consumer society predicated upon intense individualism and symbolic competition.

Approaching the field of commodified leisure through the lens of social harm, this collection of essays pushes far beyond criminology’s traditional interest in ‘deviant’ forms of leisure, to consider the normalized social, interpersonal and environmental harms that emerge at the intersection of leisure and consumer capitalism. Capturing the current vitality and interdisciplinary scope of recent work which is underpinned by the deviant leisure perspective, this collection uses case studies, original research and other forms of empirical enquiry to scrutinise activities that range from alcohol consumption and gambling, to charity tourism; CrossFit training; and cosmetic pharmaceuticals. Drawn from researchers across the UK, US, Europe and Australia, Deviant Leisure: Criminological Perspectives on Leisure and Harm represents the first systematic attempt at a criminological consideration of the global harms of the leisure industry; firmly establishing leisure as a subject of serious criminological importance.


The touts are here to stay: ineffective interventions against touting are just a distraction

Alessandro Moretti, University of Leeds

This is an abridged version of a longer article, which is available here

Ticket touting has been the subject of much discussion across the media and within parliament in recent years. Widely understood as the practice of purchasing tickets in order to sell them for profit, it leaves many consumers who are looking for tickets to the big match, concerts or shows either paying well over the face value of the ticket, or having to miss out altogether. Unsurprisingly, this is big business, and the sums involved are vast (Davies, Duncan and Maguire, 2019). However, recent attempts to curb the proliferation of ticket reselling appear to suggest that the problem is being brought under control through increased regulation and scrutiny, including the threat of court orders, large fines and jail time for those responsible (Davies, 2019). Indeed, these developments have been roundly applauded by campaigners and consumer rights groups such as Twickets or the FanFair Alliance. Continue reading

Emerald Studies in Deviant Leisure: Deviance and Leisure in the Late-Capitalist City. By Thomas Raymen



Click image for a sample chapter

“Thomas Raymen brings together cutting edge social theory and immersive fieldwork, rendering Parkour a subject of serious intellectual import… A landmark text.” – Dr Travis Linnemann, of the School of Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University and ASC Critical Criminologist of the Year 2017.

Taking us on an ethnographic journey into the spatially transgressive practice of parkour and freerunning, Parkour, Deviance and Leisure in the Late-Capitalist City: An Ethnography attempts to explain and untangle some of the contradictions that surround this popular lifestyle sport and its exclusion from our hyper-regulated cities. While the existing criminological wisdom suggests that these practices are a form of politicised resistance, this book positions parkour and freerunning as hyper-conformist to the underlying values of consumer capitalism and explains how late-capitalism has created a contradiction for itself in which it must stoke desire for these lifestyle practices whilst also excluding their free practice from central urban spaces.

Drawing on the emergent deviant leisure perspective, this book takes us into the life-worlds of young people who are attempting to navigate the challenges and anxieties of early adulthood. For the young people in this study, consumer capitalism’s commodification of rebellious iconography offered unique identities of ‘cool individualism’ and opportunities for flexibilised employment; while the post-industrial ‘creative city’ attempted to harness parkour’s practice, prohibitively if necessary, into approved spatial contexts under the buzzwords of ‘culture’ and ‘creativity’.

This book offers a vital contribution to the criminological literature on spatial transgression, and in doing so, engages in a critical reappraisal of the evolution of the relationships between work, leisure, identity and urban space in consumer capitalism.

“Every once in a while, a social scientist comes along who is willing to defy convention and forge ahead with a radically different understanding of society and its problems. Thomas Raymen is one such social scientist.” – Simon Winlow, Professor of Criminology, Northumbria University


America, place your bets: US Supreme Court opens the door for nationwide sports betting

Thomas Raymen, Plymouth University

On 14th May 2018, the US Supreme Court made a ruling that has essentially opened the gateway for the nationwide legalization of sports betting. The decision struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a federal law made in 1992 banning sports betting. Within hours of the ruling, the prices of shares in UK-based bookmakers such as Paddy Power Betfair, who are deep into socialized forms of app-based remote sports-betting, rose by 10.4%; while 888Holdings share price spiked 14% (BBC News, 2018).  Continue reading

6th Edition of Oxford Handbook of Criminology includes Deviant Leisure

Deviant Leisure has made it into the latest edition of the Oxford Handbook of Criminology, collated by a new editorial team of Alison Liebling, Shadd Maruna and Lesley McAra. A new chapter by Keith Hayward and Oliver Smith examines the relationship between consumerism and crime, taking into account the explanations offered by cultural criminology, ultra-realism and deviant leisure perspectives.


Oxford handbook of criminology: turn straight to chapter 13!

Inclusion in one of the most authoritative collections of criminological thought is a significant achievement and signals the capacity for deviant leisure perspectives to contribute to debate across the discipline and to capture the imagination of a new generation of criminologists.




‘Swipe, Bet, Done’: The Socialisation of Gambling and the Casualisation of Money in Accelerated Culture

Thomas Raymen, Plymouth University


Over the past three decades, the gambling industry has undergone a significant process of deregulation. While this has largely been a global phenomenon, few governments have embraced these changes as enthusiastically as those of the UK. In 2007, the introduction of the Gambling Act (2005) effectively liberalised the industry by withdrawing prohibitions on the television advertising of sports betting, casinos and poker. Since then, Ofcom (2013) have reported that there has been a 600% increase in gambling advertising, with the industry spending £456 million on TV advertising between 2012 and 2015 (Chapman, 2016). Major sports broadcasters of Association Football have even squeezed in a new advertising segment immediately prior to kick-off, enticing viewers to place last-minute bets with up-to-the-minute odds on the first team or player to score. This aggressive liberalisation has significantly enhanced revenues for the gambling industry; lucrative profits that are contingent upon a multitude of intensifying financial, social and personal costs to the gambler. The most recent statistics from the Gambling Commission (2016) indicate that British gamblers incurred a record £12.6 billion in losses last year, a number that has been consistently rising since 2011. Online gambling accounts through poker, casino and sports betting account for a third of these losses, while punters lost £1.7 billion on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) alone; machines that have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling for their addictive nature and rapid gameplay, allowing players to stake as much as £100 every 20 seconds. Continue reading

Inside the murder box – exploring some of the more extreme realities of our culture

Rowland Atkinson – University of Sheffield

Our culture is creating spaces of exception – places and experiences that allow us to dehumanise and exert our total will over others, or representations of others. This is the argument that Tom Rodgers and I made in this article which can be read fully and freely via the link.

This is a two-page summary of that article for the lay reader, an attempt to distill a fairly complex argument into a few paragraphs. Around us today we see the mainstreaming of more extreme forms of sexual and violent conduct. This is a fairly well-worn point to make. But the point today is that we do so through ever more easily accessed interfaces that include video game consoles, mobile phones, tablets, networked televisions and so on. Access to these points of access is also more or less unregulated, as any parent of a teenager will tell you. Alongside these means of accessing media the content of these spaces is not only more explicit, violent and largely unregulated, it is often interactive in environments that are photo-realistic (videogames) or involve interacting with other people (such as the use of webcams connected to remote places at which we can make requests for ‘whatever we want’). These spaces are relatively new, but more importantly they invoke a different kind of engagement with others that invokes a capacity to engage our desires, to rampage, to rape, to degrade, to observe. Whether we believe the impact of these engagements with real and virtual environments and actors is another question, but certainly the idea of spaces of cultural exception in which we can, and are encouraged to do whatever we want by providers of these services raises important questions about who ‘we’ are and where as a globally linked culture, we are going and the harms involved in these technologically mediated social changes.

Many accounts of crime and harm stress the decline in the volume of crime and in homicide globally. These trends are well evidenced but belie the fact that many forms of violence persist, have enormous variability between countries and key victim groups as well as being frequently under-reported. The idea that we are becoming more civilized can be undone fairly swiftly by some easy web searching. If we chose to do so we can experience any form of sexual conduct, real and staged forms of violent atrocity and the ‘fails’ and voyeurism of much online culture. These image- spaces in which violence and harm is experienced and indeed celebrated are important aspects of our culture today. In light of these changes it seems important to consider the kind of ‘state of suspension’ we find ourselves in as we unendingly flit between both the reality and infinite digital spectacle of crime, violence and social harm around us via online media.

In the article we tried to develop the concept of a ‘murder box’. The murder box is a way of thinking about how we privately engage in what are ultimately mass experiences of harm, extreme and sadistic pleasures that are increasingly shared aspects of our social condition. We can slip into violent sandbox games (the usual example to offer here is Grand Theft Auto precisely because it is a very good example of these possibilities) or choose from enormous menus of what sexually interests us. By association, hyperlinks and recommendations our initial tastes and ideas can be reformed and connected to more extreme practices. Crucially, our experiences are shaped in what feel like enclosed and private spaces of experience that allow us to do away with the idea that we are morally obliged to others or that we risk some kind of infraction. A quick read of the straplines for many pornographic websites reveals a world in which we are invited to do what we want, to experience anything with an unending supply of avatars, actors or passive (mostly female) participants who are there just for us. In the world of videogaming the trope of all-powerful, hyper-masculine destroyer is too frequent to be noticeable, as is the vague use of a background state of emergency that justifies extreme violence to ‘terrorists’. Whether we might be concerned about these experiences is another question. Who is being harmed? Who cares? Could such outlets for raw desire help to reduce ‘real’ violence? Kids get old pretty quick these days, they can handle this. Many such responses seem to suggest we are in denial about the relationship between our new-found freedoms to do what we want online and retaining a hold on notions of humanity, reciprocity, altruism or behaviour that is conducive to a sense of togetherness and positive identity. Such ideas may indeed feel like fuzzy nonsense to you, or perhaps they need to be rendered in such terms because the enormity of challenging or redirecting these cultural shifts (embedded in many ways in what some refer to as geek masculinity) either appears impossible or because we would not want to see these spaces closed down because of our own needs. These are uncomfortable possibilities but plausible nevertheless.

When I used to lecture my criminology students I would tell them that snuff movies were not real but that the possibility that one had been made was an open question. Today it is possible for a child with a wifi connection to watch a series of beheadings. The desensitising and traumatising possibilities of these available media do indeed seem worrying. Worse, the desire for profit underlies the ways in which uncomfortable or appalling forms of pornography are produced for sale via monthly subscriptions across globally networked internet systems. The idea that simply nothing is wrong here or that this is just ‘ok’ seems, to put it mildly, hard to sustain. The next question, what we might do about the hidden harms of our culture, is much harder.