What is theory?
• Aconjuncture based on limited amount of knowledge
• Abstract knowledge or reasoning
What does theory mean in Criminology?
• Criminology as an interdisciplinary
1. Scientific= facts
2. Normative= values
3. Critical= conditions of possibility. produce critical theory and test their theories but they
are not talking across to other criminologists so it’s different to have an argument
Scientific approach (facts) (accurate descriptions of the world—its descriptive and predictive)
• criminology as social science, modeled on physical/natural sciences
• Reduce phenomenon to variables, and measure correlation between variables in order to
come up with a theory. For example: relationship between crime and poverty. We
measure poverty by looking at access to services for example. So poverty opens up
questions of inequality, but you can have perceptions of being poor so you feel relatively
poor in comparison to other people. We measure crime by uniform crime reports and
victimization surveys. This is what it means by reducing phenomenon to variables.
• Generalizability—scientific theory’s are meant to have higher predictive potential
• q: what is x? how does x work? why does x work that way?
• Facts Normative approach (values)
criminology as an ethical and legal enterprise
values and ethics—we choose policies based on our normative values.
q: how should x work?
goal: change criminal justice system (e.g. policy)
prescriptive—meant to prescribe what to do, because the main theory is to change the
normative claims can creep into scientific theory and critical theory—is this the morally
correct thing to do in a situation?
the implications and conditions of doing criminology
inquires into the possibility of knowledgeAND the limits of knowledge—how do we
know this thing in the first place? What do we not know?
Critique—questioning the theory and idea. What are the underlying assumptions that
made this idea possible?
q: what are the historical, material, economic or sociopolitical conditions that gave rise to
x? what makes x possible? –this is not looking at the future, unlike the other 2 theories,
its about the PRESEN T. why do we think the way we do now?
the present. Does not aim to change the world.
4 evaluating theories below in chart Scientific theory Normative theory Critical theory
(facts) (values) (conditions of possibility)
1. Empirical validity X X
2. Testability X
3. X X X
4. Usefulness and X X
Terrie Moffitt: adolescence-limited (age out of crime) and life-course persistent offenders
(do not age out of crime) examples of all 3 theories.
a scientific theory—
normative theory— policy implications for life-course persistent offenders. For