chapter  1
Thomas Mathiesen: activism as an exercise of public intellect
ByVINCENZO RUGGIERO
Pages 7

Quoting from a novel by Jorgen Eriksson, Mathiesen describes a gathering of people from juvenile correctional institutions, youth hostels and hostels for vagrants, condemned houses and slums, mental hospitals and institutions for alcoholics and ghettoes for gypsies and immigrants. As an implicit critique of this teleology, Mathiesen not only focuses on social movements which orthodox Marxists would not deem relevant for the 'revolutionary process', but also elaborates and practices a strategy of action revolving around the idea of 'the unfinished', which provides an alternative to millenarian postponement of change. Mathiesen's originality today becomes apparent when we locate his 'abolitionist stance' within the debate around public criminology. Public criminology as practised by Mathiesen posits academic work as intellectual activism, as a form of cultural work engaged in a social conflict. Mathiesen and his book The Politics of Abolitionism, after forty years from its original publication, are still able to throw light on these vexed issues.