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Theories of Crime


Criminal Activity

CJ Criminology, Semester 2

Professor I. Benard

April 20, 2008

Every theory of crime has at least 2-3 meta-theoretical levels

above it. The fundamental issues are usually addressed at the

approach level, and are often called the assumptions, or starting

points, of a theory, although the term "assumptions" more strictly

refers to the background or domain boundaries one can draw

generalizations about. Above the approach level is the

Perspective level, the largest unit of agreement within a

scientific community, and in fact, the names for the scientific

disciplines. Perspectives are sometimes called paradigms or

viewpoints, although some people use the term paradigm to refer

to untestable ideologies such as: (1) rational choice; (2)

pathogenesis; (3) labeling; (4) critique for the sake of critique;

and (5) theoretical integration.

Theory is the foundation of criminology and of criminal

justice, and we study theory to know why we are doing what we do

(Bohm 1985). Theory without research is not science. All

research must be based on theory. People who are uninterested in

theory choose to move blindly through life, or in the case of

criminal justice, intervene in people's lives with only vague

notions about why they are doing what they are doing.

The most important task of theory is explanation, which is

also called prediction. An explanation is a sensible way of

relating the facts about some particular phenomenon to the

intellectual atmosphere of a people at a particular time or

place. Any group of like-minded, receptive people at a

particular time and place is called a school of thought.

Explanations are always tied to context (inter-subjective

reliability) and concepts (the intellectual words and phrases in use

at any given time). What makes a person a "theorist" is their

creative ability at wordsmithing, the ability to describe something

that everyone knows is there, but no one has come along before to

say it exactly like that. The theorist's creativity is based on what

are called constructs (images, ideas, or new words in the theorist's

head), and the art of theory onstruction is the translation of

constructs into concepts. The notion that concepts always deal with

something observable or something that can be experimented upon is

called empiricism.

Criminological Theories of Crime


Classical Rational Choice


Positivist Routine Activities

Individual Trait Labeling

Reintegrative Shaming

Social Disorganization Critical

Differential Association

Social Learning

Subcultural Peacemaking


Institutional-Anomie Feminism

General Strain Developmental

Life Course


General Theory of Crime

Control Balance

Power Control Integrated

The Classical and Neo-Classical theories are based upon the

ideation of free will and rational choice. This theory occurs when

the benefits outweigh the costsвЂ"when people pursue self-interest in

the absence of effective punishments. They are simplex modules to

follow when applying them to the role of individual responsibility.

This theory further states that crime is a free-willed choice, that

a person is aware of their actions, they are aware of their choice

to commit crime. This is the theory of free will and rational

thought. For instance, if a man robs a bank with complete mental

awareness, he is aware of his actions. This would mean that he

willingly chose to rob the bank and should be punished in return. It

is thought that the prevention method in this theory is to provide




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