Lessons of the long-distance runner

Dalrymple’s essay for the September 2008 edition of The New Criterion is available online.



“Of course, any civilized criminal justice system has always made room for extenuating circumstances and even for complete legal excuses, such as self-defense or duress… But with the rise of mass-education, a different kind of extenuation and exculpation was propagated and became popular, sapping the certainty that crime was justly to be repressed: that of the criminal as a member of a class of unfortunates ex officio, as it were. From being a bad man, the criminal became the victim of social conditions, among which were the unjust arrangements of society as a whole, and in particular the division of property.

“…Literary works helped to bring about the change of sensibility. Among them (but of course it is impossible to estimate the size of its actual effect) was a short story, first published in 1959, and subsequently made into a film, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, by Alan Sillitoe.”

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