Understanding Criminology: Current Theoretical Debates

By Sandra Walklate | Go to book overview

chapter two
Perspectives in criminological theory

The behaviour of criminals

The criminality of behaviour

The criminality of the state

Conclusion

Further reading

It has been established so far that criminology as an area of study is a diverse discipline characterized by competing theoretical perspectives. However, before we proceed to examine the developments within criminology since the 1970s, it will be useful to identify in a little more detail some of the key themes embedded in earlier criminological debate. It is possible to identify three recurrent themes within criminological theory: a concern with the behaviour of criminals, a concern with the criminality of behaviour and a concern with the criminality of the state. Each of these themes has been more or less popular at different historical moments and each directs the criminological agenda, in theory and in practice, in quite different ways. We shall discuss each of them in turn.


The behaviour of criminals

A focus on the behaviour of criminals directs our attention to a central concern with the individual and the role of individual differences in producing crime. As Chapter 1 suggested, different writers have endeavoured to construct different historical connections for the emergence of criminology as a discipline. If a broad view of that history is constructed, a concern with the behaviour of individual criminals can be traced to early

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