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Criminological Theory: Past to Present - An Overview of the Major Schools and Perspectives


Criminological Theory: Past To Present




Criminology is the scientific study of crime and its causes, consequences, prevention, and control. It is a multidisciplinary field that draws on various disciplines such as sociology, psychology, law, history, biology, and economics. Criminology aims to understand the nature and extent of crime, the factors that influence criminal behavior, the impact of crime on individuals and society, and the effectiveness of criminal justice policies and practices.




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But how do criminologists explain why people commit crimes? What are the main ideas and assumptions that guide their research and analysis? How have these ideas changed over time and across different contexts? These are some of the questions that criminological theory tries to answer. In this article, we will explore what criminological theory is, how it has evolved over time, what are the current challenges and trends in the field, and what are the future directions and implications of criminological theory.


What is Criminological Theory?




Criminological theory is a set of propositions that seeks to explain the causes, patterns, types, and consequences of criminal behavior. Criminological theory also provides a framework for testing hypotheses, evaluating evidence, and developing policies and interventions to prevent and control crime. Criminological theory is not a single or unified body of knowledge, but rather a diverse and dynamic field that encompasses various perspectives, paradigms, schools, and traditions.


The purpose of criminological theory is to advance our understanding of crime and criminality, to identify the factors that influence criminal behavior at different levels (individual, interpersonal, group, organizational, community, societal), to examine the interactions and relationships among these factors, to account for variations in crime across time and space (historical, cultural, geographical), to assess the impact of crime on victims, offenders, communities, and society as a whole, and to inform policy-making and practice in criminal justice.


The Evolution of Criminological Theory




Criminological theory has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient times. However, it was not until the 18th century that criminology emerged as a distinct discipline with its own theories and methods. Since then, criminological theory has undergone several transformations and developments in response to changing social conditions, intellectual movements, empirical findings, and practical challenges. Here are some of the major milestones in the evolution of criminological theory:


Classical Criminology




Classical criminology is the first school of thought in criminology that emerged in the late 18th century during the Enlightenment era. It was influenced by the ideas of philosophers such as Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham who advocated for rationality, free will, human rights, and social contract. Classical criminology assumes that people are rational beings who act in their own self-interest and weigh the costs and benefits of their actions. Therefore, crime is a result of a rational choice that can be deterred by swift, certain, and proportionate punishment. Classical criminology also emphasizes the importance of due process, rule of law, and legal reform to ensure justice and fairness in the criminal justice system.


Positivist Criminology




Positivist criminology is the second school of thought in criminology that emerged in the late 19th century during the Industrial Revolution and the rise of science. It was influenced by the ideas of scholars such as Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri, and Raffaele Garofalo who applied the scientific method and empirical data to the study of crime and criminals. Positivist criminology assumes that people are determined by biological, psychological, and social factors that influence their behavior. Therefore, crime is a result of a pathological condition that can be diagnosed, treated, and prevented by scientific interventions. Positivist criminology also emphasizes the importance of classification, measurement, and prediction to identify the causes and characteristics of crime and criminals.


Sociological Criminology




Sociological criminology is the third school of thought in criminology that emerged in the early 20th century during the Urbanization and Immigration era. It was influenced by the ideas of scholars such as Emile Durkheim, Robert Merton, Edwin Sutherland, and Albert Cohen who applied the sociological perspective and social theory to the study of crime and society. Sociological criminology assumes that people are socialized by their environment and culture that shape their norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors. Therefore, crime is a result of a social phenomenon that can be explained by social structure, social process, and social reaction. Sociological criminology also emphasizes the importance of context, diversity, and interaction to understand the variations and dynamics of crime and society.


Critical Criminology




Critical criminology is the fourth school of thought in criminology that emerged in the mid-20th century during the Civil Rights and Social Movements era. It was influenced by the ideas of scholars such as Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Howard Becker, and Richard Quinney who applied the critical perspective and social critique to the study of crime and power. Critical criminology assumes that people are oppressed by the dominant groups and institutions that control the resources, ideology, and discourse in society. Therefore, crime is a result of a political conflict that can be challenged by resistance, empowerment, and transformation. Critical criminology also emphasizes the importance of inequality, oppression, and domination to expose the hidden agendas and interests of crime and power.


Integrated Criminology




Integrated criminology is the fifth school of thought in criminology that emerged in the late 20th century during the Globalization and Information era. It was influenced by the ideas of scholars such as Travis Hirschi, Michael Gottfredson, Robert Agnew, Terrie Moffitt, and David Farrington who applied the integrative approach and meta-theory to the study of crime and integration. Integrated criminology assumes that people are complex beings who are influenced by multiple factors at different levels and stages in their lives. Therefore, crime is a result of a multifaceted process that can be understood by combining different theories, methods, and disciplines. Integrated criminology also emphasizes the importance of synthesis, collaboration, and innovation to enhance the comprehensiveness and applicability of criminological theory.


The Current State of Criminological Theory




Criminological theory has come a long way since its inception. It has developed into a mature and sophisticated field that offers a wealth of knowledge and insights on crime and criminality. However, criminological theory also faces some challenges and controversies that need to be addressed and resolved. Here are some of them:


Challenges and Controversies




  • Validity: How valid are the assumptions, concepts, and propositions of criminological theory? How well do they reflect the reality and diversity of crime and criminality?



  • Reliability: How reliable are the methods, data, and evidence of criminological theory? How well do they measure and test the hypotheses and predictions of criminological theory?



  • Generalizability: How generalizable are the findings, conclusions, and implications of criminological theory? How well do they apply and transfer to different contexts, populations, and situations?



  • Relevance: How relevant are the topics, issues, and problems of criminological theory? How well do they address and solve the current and emerging challenges and needs of society?



Ethics: How ethical are the values, principles, and standards of criminological theory? How well do they respect The Future of Criminological Theory




Criminological theory has a bright and promising future that offers a lot of opportunities and potentials for further development and improvement. Here are some of them:


Emerging Perspectives and Paradigms




Criminological theory is constantly evolving and expanding to incorporate new perspectives and paradigms that challenge and enrich the existing ones. Some of the emerging perspectives and paradigms include:


  • Green criminology: This perspective focuses on the environmental harms and crimes that affect humans, animals, and nature. It examines the causes, consequences, and responses to environmental degradation, pollution, exploitation, and injustice.



  • Cultural criminology: This perspective focuses on the symbolic and expressive aspects of crime and deviance that reflect the meanings, identities, and emotions of individuals and groups. It examines the subcultures, styles, media, and aesthetics of crime and resistance.



  • Feminist criminology: This perspective focuses on the gendered dimensions of crime and justice that affect women, men, and other genders. It examines the causes, experiences, and responses to gender inequality, discrimination, violence, and oppression.



  • Postmodern criminology: This perspective focuses on the complex and uncertain aspects of crime and reality that defy the conventional categories and explanations. It examines the narratives, discourses, representations, and simulations of crime and power.



Research Directions and Opportunities




Criminological theory is constantly advancing and improving to incorporate new methods and data that enhance the quality and validity of research and analysis. Some of the research directions and opportunities include:


  • Quantitative methods: These methods use statistical techniques and numerical data to measure, test, and model criminological phenomena. They include surveys, experiments, regression, and factor analysis.



  • Qualitative methods: These methods use interpretive techniques and textual data to describe, understand, and interpret criminological phenomena. They include interviews, observations, content analysis, and discourse analysis.



  • Mixed methods: These methods use both quantitative and qualitative techniques and data to integrate, triangulate, and complement criminological phenomena. They include case studies, meta-analysis, grounded theory, and narrative inquiry.



  • Big data: This method uses large-scale and complex data sets to analyze and visualize criminological phenomena. It includes social media, sensors, GPS, and artificial intelligence.



Policy Recommendations and Impacts




Criminological theory is constantly applying and translating its knowledge and insights to inform and influence policy-making and practice in criminal justice. Some of the policy recommendations and impacts include:


  • Prevention: This policy aims to reduce the occurrence and risk of crime by addressing its root causes and intervening in its early stages. It includes education, awareness, diversion, and mediation.



  • Deterrence: This policy aims to discourage the commission and repetition of crime by imposing costs and consequences on offenders. It includes sanctions, punishment, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.



  • Restoration: This policy aims to repair the harm and damage caused by crime by restoring the relationships and resources of victims, offenders, and communities. It includes restitution, compensation, apology, and reconciliation.



  • Justice: This policy aims to ensure the fairness and equity of crime by upholding the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved in criminal justice. It includes due process, rule of law, proportionality, and accountability.



Conclusion




Criminological theory is a fascinating and important field that helps us understand the phenomenon of crime and criminality in society. It has a long history that traces its origins to ancient times and its development to modern times. It has a diverse field that encompasses various perspectives, paradigms, schools, and traditions. It has a dynamic field that faces some challenges and controversies but also offers some opportunities and potentials for further improvement. Criminological theory is not only an academic endeavor but also a practical one that has significant implications for policy-making and practice in criminal justice. Criminological theory is not only a science but also an art that requires creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills. Criminological theory is not only a field but also a passion that inspires curiosity, interest, and enthusiasm among its students, scholars, and practitioners.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about criminological theory:


What are the main differences between classical and positivist criminology?


  • The main differences between classical and positivist criminology are: - Classical criminology focuses on the rational choice and free will of offenders, while positivist criminology focuses on the biological, psychological, and social determinants of offenders. - Classical criminology advocates for deterrence and legal reform as the main responses to crime, while positivist criminology advocates for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention as the main responses to crime. - Classical criminology uses philosophical and normative methods to study crime, while positivist criminology uses scientific and empirical methods to study crime.



What are the main similarities between sociological and critical criminology?


  • The main similarities between sociological and critical criminology are: - Sociological and critical criminology both focus on the social context and structure of crime and criminality. - Sociological and critical criminology both examine the role of culture, ideology, and power in shaping crime and criminality. - Sociological and critical criminology both challenge the dominant and conventional views of crime and criminality.



What are the main advantages and disadvantages of integrated criminology?


  • The main advantages and disadvantages of integrated criminology are: - The main advantage of integrated criminology is that it provides a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of crime and criminality by combining different theories, methods, and disciplines. - The main disadvantage of integrated criminology is that it may be too complex and vague to apply and test in practice by incorporating too many factors, levels, and stages.



What are some of the current topics and issues in criminological theory?


  • Some of the current topics and issues in criminological theory include: - Cybercrime: This topic refers to the use of information and communication technologies to commit or facilitate crime. It includes hacking, phishing, identity theft, cyberbullying, cyberterrorism, etc. - Hate crime: This topic refers to the commission of crime motivated by prejudice or bias against a person or group based on their actual or perceived characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. - Human trafficking: This topic refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of threat, force, coercion, fraud, deception, or abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation such as sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, organ removal, etc. - Terrorism: This topic refers to the use or threat of violence by individuals or groups to achieve political, religious, ideological, or social goals by creating fear, intimidation, or coercion among the public or authorities.



What are some of the future trends and developments in criminological theory?


  • Some of the future trends and developments in criminological theory include: - Transnational criminology: This trend refers to the study of crime and criminality that transcends national borders and jurisdictions. It includes crimes such as drug trafficking, human smuggling, money laundering, piracy, etc. - Comparative criminology: This trend refers to the study of crime and criminality across different countries and regions. It includes comparing the causes, patterns, types, and consequences of crime and criminality as well as the policies and practices of criminal justice. - Interdisciplinary criminology: This trend refers to the study of crime and criminality that draws on multiple disciplines and fields. It includes integrating the insights and methods of disciplines such as anthropology, biology, economics, geography, history, philosophy, politics, psychology, sociology, etc.



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