Source: (1998) Social & Legal Studies. 7(1):7-25.

The article is prompted by an apparent paradox. In Germany, working relations between state criminal justice agencies and non-state institutions within a locality are often extremely close, relying upon networks of communication and a degree of mutual reliance, which in Britain would undoubtedly invoke reference to the idea of ’community’. In Germany, however, criminal justice professionals rarely describe this in terms of community. Though the emergence of locally based criminal justice initiatives has been later and less extensive in Germany than in Britain, there have been significant institutional developments in this direction over the last decade, particularly in the fields of crime prevention and victim-offender mediation. Yet even those organizations working closely with local people or reliant upon the efforts of individual volunteers or charitable bodies do not appear to perceive their work as community- orientated. This is the ’significant absence’ of our title. By reflecting on why it is that in Germany the vocabularies in which local or informal criminal justice initiatives have been framed rarely make reference to the idea of ’community’, we may hope to gain some insight also about the conditions under which the appeal to community becomes powerful in societies such as Britain.