Arrigo’s Three Key Propositions of Postmodernism

Postmodernism had a significant impact on the social sciences, including law and criminology. Drawing on the postmodern concepts, Arrigo suggested the “three key language-based propositions” that reflect the principles of the social construction of crime (as cited in Lilly, Cullen, & Ball, 2018, p. 193). This paper aims to discuss Arrigo’s three propositions of postmodernism and reflect on the importance of decoding language concerning truth claims formation.

The postulates by Arrigo contribute to the theoretical framework of critical criminology. They focus on the centrality of language, partial knowledge and provisional truth, and deconstruction, difference, and possibility (as cited in Lilly et al., 2018, p. 193). The centrality of language refers to the critical role of the written and spoken word in social interactions. Besides, this postulate claims that messages encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver contain assumptions and values, making language biased in nature and defining the institutions of society. Similarly, partial knowledge and provisional truth are based on the fact that human understanding is always incomplete due to social, cultural, and language differences. Hence, Arrigo argues that ideas and concepts people call “knowledge and truth” are, in fact, “unquestionably partial and provisional” (as cited in Lilly et al., 2018, p. 193). Deconstruction, difference, and possibility emphasize the need to encode language exposing all the implicit assumptions narratives contain. In doing so, people can understand the nature of social interaction and the different treatment of truth claims. Overall, Arrigo’s key propositions can be compared with the social construction of crime perspectives.

To sum up, three postulates by Arrigo are based on the fact that language is not neutral as it contains biased values and assumptions; hence, language should be decoded to determine how truth claims form. Critical criminology, as a theoretical perspective, was influenced by changes in social thought caused by postmodernism. The three language-based propositions by Arrigo have contributed to the postmodern social discourse and critical criminology. They are based on the fact that language is not neutral but prejudiced due to social, cultural, and linguistic values and characteristics. Hence, the key propositions highlight the need to deconstruct the spoken and written words to lift the bias.


Lilly, J.R., Cullen, F.T., & Ball, R.A. (2018). Criminological theory: Context and consequences (7th ed.). The variety of critical theory (pp. 192–232). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.