Micro-Macro Criminology

By Shoham, Shlomo Giora | International Journal of Comparative Sociology, February-May 2001 | Go to article overview

Micro-Macro Criminology


Shoham, Shlomo Giora, International Journal of Comparative Sociology


ABSTRACT

In this paper, the author incorporates his new conceptual scheme developed in an earlier book titled God as the Shadow of Man as a means of bridging between micro- and macro-criminology. The key concept is the mythogene, which is an ahistorical structure of longing and experience. He utilizes this concept to explain the recruiting process of the individual into crime. Then mythology, which is the sum total of all mythogenes in a given group, is utilized to understand the formation of criminal groups. Finally, the ethos, which is the conglomeration of mythologies, is utilized to explain, inter alia, the genesis of criminal societies such as the Third Reich of Germany.

Conceptual clarification

CRIMINAL AND DEVIANT behavior involve a relationship between certain forms of human behavior contrary to given social norms. Hence, criminal and deviant behavior are dualistic and associational. This relationship is the focal concern of criminologists and is not a unidimensional phenomenon as in psychology, which mostly studies the behavior of the human individual, or sociology, which focuses on human aggregates, or law, which deals in legal norms. Due to the perception that a relationship is the central subject of criminology, Walter Reckless studied the association between behavior and rules as early as 1961 (Reckless 1961). However, his ideas, grouped under the headline "Containment Theory," were largely ignored by the criminological establishment. Yet, in 1969 Travis Hirschi published his social bonding theory (Hirschi 1969), which is based largely on Reckless's theory and received almost universal acclaim from American criminologists. The gist of Hirschi's theory is that the lack of bonds of an individua l to other individuals, to his membership groups, or to restraining social norms, sometimes lead to delinquency. Hirschi, however, did not deal with the contents of the social bonds, nor with the individual's motivation to entertain them. This was carried out in the pioneering work of Claude Levi-Strauss, whose epoch-making studies in the Amazon River Basin of Brazil revealed that myths link nature and culture (Levi-Strauss 1964). Following in the giant footsteps of Strauss, I have demonstrated in a recent trilogy that myths may also serve as bonds between subject and object, human and non-human, and the individual and group (Shoham 2000a, 2000b, 2000c). Of course, one recognizes that much research and theory concerning these topics has occurred since the time of Reckless and Straus (See Agnew 1985; Cernkovich and Giordano 1987:299-300; Laub and Sampson 1988; Wells and Rankin 1988; Voorhis et al. 1988). However, having been a student of both Reckless and Levi-Strauss, I shall try presently to base myself on t he work of these two pioneers and provide a new framework for criminological theory.

The first claim is that myths provide the motivational contents of the normative bonds of individuals to groups. However, I distinguish between "mythogenes," the motivational structures of experience and longings of individual human beings, and "myths," which are, according to Freud (1961:141-2), "the distorted vestiges of the wish-fulfillment fantasies of whole nations... the age-long dreams of young humanity."

Freud actually raised his intrapsychic interpretation of dreams to the group level and claimed that the myth is an expression of the tribe's "social characters," the nation's or social aggregate's wishes and visions. Surely, the myth of the Flood was not dreamful wish fulfillment, but a projection of actual experiences with disastrous inundation by rivers, especially in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Myths are, therefore, also a projection of experiences and spectacular events borne by a group before written history.

Hence, mythogenes are projected by individuals, whereas myths are projected by groups. Still, mythogenes are the building blocks of myths; mythology is the collective body of myths in a given social aggregate. …

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