Theft, Law, and Society

Theft, Law, and Society

Theft, Law, and Society

Theft, Law, and Society

Excerpt

The need for scientific knowledge of interpersonal conduct in relation to law has become urgent in an age of tensions, conflicts, and expanding controls. This book represents an effort to supply a small portion of that very great need and to do so in ways that may have some general significance.

Theories of social science, especially those concerning methodology, are often presented very abstractly and in technical vocabularies which seem remote from the actual problems of research. This does not imply that theory should be abandoned or subordinated to practical guidance on research. What is involved is precisely the question of cogent, critical, realistic social theory. Under the circumstances, it occurred to me that a report and discussion of methods and theories employed in this research on theft might be of interest.

The general approach to the problems studied was simply one of curiosity about many phases of law, an attitude conditioned by strong intellectual currents in the social sciences. That movement in the United States was not, of course, unique; and an account of the origins of recent socio-legal studies in various countries would take us back at least to Maine and to earlier developments on the continent, e.g., the German historical school. The above influence, joined to an interest in the criminal law, led to certain decisions regarding this research.

The first major decision was to concentrate upon a specific socio-legal problem in the field of crime. This reflected the view that progress in the social disciplines depends upon intensive research in narrow areas-a judgment transmitted by scholars in reaction against philosophical social science. At the same time, it had become evident by 1930 that this approach could degenerate into a mere grubbing for facts. The decision to explore a narrow field was qualified by a taste for social theory, which was first directed toward such questions as-

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