CRIM 300 COMPLETE NOTES.docx

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14 Apr 2012
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Chapter 1
The structure and relevance of theory in criminology
Rational choice/deterrence theory
o Asserts that criminal behavior is rational conduct that occurs when the
benefits of committing crime are perceived by a would-be offender to be
greater than both the costs of crime and the benefits of non-crime
Affected by the consequences of their actions, benefits of crime are
high and the costs are low crime will occur
Benefits of crime are lower than the costs crime will not occur
Retribution theory
o Support the execution of convicted murderers
Any theory of crime which argues that offenders can be deterred from committing
criminal acts by making the punishments more sever does two things
o First, it emphasizes the importance of criminal sanctions in the causation
of crime
Rational conduct theory highlights the arsenal of penalties at the
disposal of the state of discourage crime
o Second, implicitly suggests what not to look at
Arguing that criminal conduct is rational and is responsive to the
punishment policies of government implies that crime is not due to
broken and dysfunctional families, or psychological traits such as a
weak superego, or to any constellation of biological abnormalities
that criminal offenders may have
Articulated propositions
Social theory (Alvin Gouldner 1970)
o Pointed to a complement of both articulated or explicit propositions, and
what he calls an infrastructure of sentiments and the personal dimension of
theory-the implicit part of any theory
Components are divided into articulated and unarticulated
propositions
Formal or written context
o Theoretical concepts are linked by relationship statements
As conventional beliefs get stronger the likelihood of crime
decreases
o Robert agnew’s general strain theory (1992)
Persons feel strain when they have unpleasant experiences
Feel anger, and blame someone or something for those feelings
Anger may be difficult to deal with
Uncontrolled anger may have a set of rationalizations for criminal
conduct and a collection of like-minded others willing to provide
support and companionship
Both strained and anger, lead to both justifications for and
assistance with crime, are more likely to commit criminal offenses
than others
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The cognitive or empirical validity of theory
o Gouldner (1970)
Refers to the truth element (cognitive validity)
A good theory with high cognitive validity is the product of
an intellectual, cerebral, or cognitive exercise
o Example of looking at social theory is that it is
generally conducted by research, therefore if the
research obtained matches the theory it means that
this is sufficient and if it does not then it has a low
empirical support
Unarticulated propositions
Personal product (Gouldner 1970)
o Reflect the theorist as a person, a human being with a history, with tastes,
feelings, and preferences
o Referred to as unarticulated because theorist usually do not make them
apparent when describing the theory, instead they are implicit which
means formal written treatment is not likely used
Inferred or discovered by implication and careful reading and re-reading is used
when analyzing unarticulated propositions and cognitive validity is rarely
empirically tested
Types of unarticulated propositions
o One type concerns the assumption that all criminological theorists must
inevitably make about human beings
o Control theory (Toby 1957, Nye 1958, Reckless 1967, and Hirshi 1969)
Emphasize different things in their explanations, but they all share
a common assumption about human beings-that humans are
generally self-interested, asocial beings who would naturally
commit criminal or deviant acts if they thought it would be to their
benefit
Do not have an account for antisocial conduct, instead
account for conformity or obedience
o Strain theory (Merton 1938-68, Cohen 1955, Cloward and Ohlin 1960,
and Agnew 1992)
Assume that human beings are social creatures who have
internalized the existing belief or normative system (of rules)
within which they exist
Take conformity for granted
Build incentive or motivation to do crime and deviance into
their theories
Persons are under strain or pressure break rules
Tacit Implications for public policy
August aichhorn’s (1935) psychoanalytic theory of delinquency
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o Diverse forms of rule-breaking are due to a time-stable individual trait that
aichhorn referred to as “a predisposition to delinquency,” possibly rooted
in the child’s early emotional experiences
o Early life experiences and internal emotional states are important
o “Doing something about” crime means focusing attention on early life
experiences
Psychic traumas
o Would be compatible with any number of psychological and psychiatric
treatments
Richard quinney’s (1974) conflict/Marxist theory of crime
o Social system itself breeds crime
o Criminals are not biologically or psychically inferior, they simply do not
have control over the means of economic production
o Focus on the relationship between economic and political power
The sentiment relevance of theory
Gouldner (1970)
o Scientific considerations alone do not and should not completely
determine the validity or acceptability of a theory
o That a theory should be judged in part by how well it fits the facts-its
cognitive validity
o Some theories are simply experience as intuitively convincing
o Some theories are felt to be true because the sentiments captured in the
theory resonate with the sentiments of the reader
Marxist criminology suffers because the sentiments it contains are not reflected in
the personal histories of some readers
Labeling theory proposition that intervention by formal agencies of control
usually will make things worse for someone caught up in them
Chapter 2
Week 3
Introduction
Introduction
Social benefits means that the good is determined by a cost and benefit analysis
Good policy is one that has more net good consequences than bad and possess
utility
Classical school of criminology:
o Product of the free will and rational deliberation of individuals
o Human beings are rational, calculating, and hedonistic (self-interested)
beings
o Referred to as penal criminology, bureaucratic criminology, and legal
criminology because theorists looked at how the state could reduce crime
by making the costs high or at least appear to be high thought its
punishment policy
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