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Reality tells us another story. Criminology is not

simply a science left to criminologists. There are a

number of related disciplines, with varied interests

and perspectives, associated with this particular

social science. Criminology is firmly rooted in

sociology, but is also studied by anthropologists,

biologists, psychologists, economists, political scientists,

and legal scholars, among others. Criminology

has been described by Eugene McLaughlin,

John Muncie, and Gordon Hughes in their edited

volume Criminological Perspectives (2003) as “a ‘site’

of contested meaning where competing theoretical

perspectives meet.” Owing to the diverse

nature of those involved in the study of crime,

the literature is often rich with discussion, debate,

and interpretation.

Modern criminology is faced with multiple

areas of focus, thus making it a truly multidisciplinary

field of study. The particular focus of

criminology is dependent on the perspective

taken. Generally speaking, criminology: describes

and analyzes the extent, nature, and distribution

of the various forms of crime, offenders, and

victims; analyzes causes of crime with the aim of

forwarding theoretical constructs; studies formulation

of criminal law; studies the processes of

justice, including police, adjudication, and punishment;

evaluates policy responses and initiatives;

and evaluates social reactions to crime.

Given the large undertaking, the great task of all

criminology, according to John Tierney in his book

Criminology: Theory and Context (1996), regardless of

which underlying perspective is utilized, is to “unravel,

or deconstruct, the concept of crime.”

The study of crime could be said to have originated

with theologians, who equated criminal behavior

with sin, demonic influences, or witchcraft.

Transgressions were investigated and found to

have causes firmly rooted in the dark workings

of the netherworld. Clergy were the obvious

choice to turn to for intervention, becoming

responsible for purging society from evil doings

(that is crime) by way of very harsh methods, such

as exorcisms and trials by fire. After this period of

religious influence, came two defining periods

that shaped today’s criminology: the Classical

School and the Positivist School.

Foundations for modern criminological

thought were laid down during the eighteenth

century with the seminal works of Cesare Beccaria

(1738–94) and Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), thus

creating the Classical School of Criminology. Developed

during a time where individual rights and

interests were competing against those of the

states, most of Beccaria’s and Bentham’s writing

revolved around the need for reformation of the

criminal justice system. In other words, they were

advocates for structural changes that ended the

arbitrary application of laws and severe punishments.

Instead, Beccaria and Bentham called for

the universal application of laws to all society’s

citizens, thus providing equal protection before

the law. Following this, they called for proportionate

punishment. The utilitarian ideal of proportionality

meant that punishment was determined

by the severity of the crime committed, not on the

individual characteristics of the offender. This

idea provides the foundation for most criminal

justice systems worldwide, thus leaving the classical

school’s ideological mark on modern society.

Prevention was another guiding principle of the

Classical School. Feeling that prevention is far

preferable to punishment, the philosophers put

forth the idea that social systems of control must

take into account the rationality of people. Beccaria

and Bentham believed that free will guided

behavior and that decisions to violate laws were

calculated in accordance to hedonistic tendencies.

People wanted to experience pleasure and avoid

pain; therefore individual decisions were based

on the probability of detection, and of being punished,

set against the pleasure gained by partaking

in the offending activity.

The classical school ended a system of arbitrarily

applied justice and punishment. It also

criminal statistics criminology


provided a new way of examining theories of criminality

that acknowledge the free will of participants.

However, this school falls short in its

undertakings by failing to acknowledge external

forces that may well influence criminal behavior,

for example, social stratification and inequality,

thus providing a foundation for a new paradigm

to evolve.

The origin of the positivist tradition in criminology

in the late nineteenth century is often associated

with the work of Cesare Lombroso (1835–

1909), whose main contribution to the field was

the measurement of physical characteristics of

Italian prisoners. It is important to note that,

while the Positivist School rejected the free will

philosophies of the Classical School in favor of

determinism, the most important contribution

of the new school was the step-change in ideology

that was characterized by the drive to measure

empirically those phenomena associated with

crime. While Lombroso’s work is largely acknowledged

as the starting point, the quest to measure

social phenomena can be traced to the work of

French and Belgian statisticians in the 1820s. For

example, Adolphe Quetelet (1796–1874) found predictability

in the distribution of crime and crime

rates within French society. Therefore, the key aim

of the Positivist School was to quantify observations.

Measuring phenomena provided data upon

which investigators could make inferences about

causal relationships. Empirical evidence obtained

via methods used in the natural sciences not only

provided an avenue for theorists to advance their

work, but also gave to the field of inquiry scientific


The work of Lombroso, Enrico Ferri (1856–1929),

and William Sheldon (1898–1977) into physical

characteristics and body types highlighted the

Positivist School’s contributions to criminology.

Lombroso, referred to as the father of criminology,

was a physician employed by the Italian penal

system, who noted the physical characteristics of

those imprisoned, thus putting forth the idea of a

criminal type. Running parallel with the work of

Charles Darwin, Lombroso’s scientific observations

of the physical characteristics of prisoners

made generalizations about criminality possible.

Going beyond the examination of body types

and their connection to criminality, the Positivist

School also focused on isolating the differences

between criminals and non-criminals in terms of

psychological, social, and economic factors. Positivists

disregard the notion of free will, as forwarded

by the classical criminologists, in favor of

the idea that an array of social factors impacted

behavior. In other words, a range of social

factors caused or determined the course of action

an individual took.

The legacy of the positivists is the use of scientific

methodology to frame criminological enquiry.

However, this school is not without its

shortcomings. While the utilization of scientific

method is preferable to conjecture, there exists

the possibility of the misapplication of technique

and misinterpretation, thus resulting in misleading


Other criticisms of the Positivists relate to the

definition of the term “crime.” Conflict criminology

emerged in response to positivists’ claim that

an underlying consensus existed regarding the

nature and meaning of the concept of “crime.”

Rather, conflict criminologists believe that state

interests and the interests of the powerful determine

the definitional parameters of the concept.

This skewed viewpoint puts those already at the

margins of society at risk for further disadvantage.

Additionally, critics believe that, all too often,

positivists ignore the relevance of cultural differences,

as well as varying value systems that

underpin the concept of crime. The power of criminology

is in its ability to “travel.” In other words,

theories, strategies, and criminological and criminal

justice policy generated in one country are

increasingly exported to other countries. The influence

is not just in the empirical research, but

also in the language and conceptual framework.

These can have a profound impact on politicians,

policymakers, and government officials, not to

mention those who are afflicted by crime, as well

as the general citizenry. However, it is ultimately

important to gain a firm understanding about the

values, culture, and social expectations within a

given society before setting forth to seek causal

explanations for crime. JACQUELINE SCHNEIDER

critical race theory

Critical of liberal theories of rights, especially in

the area of race and ethnicity, this theory evolved

initially in legal theory in the post-civil-rights era.

Critical race theory (CRT) attacked the color-blind

approaches to justice that were typical of the early

days of reform. In fact, lack of significant progress

in social reform for black Americans was the main

force behind critical race theory. Many leading

black American intellectuals, such as Cornel

West in Race Matters (1993), criticized the hollow

promises of liberal reform and argued that there

criminology critical race theory


was a cynical if implicit acceptance of racial

hierarchy and inequality in the distribution of

economic wealth and power in the United States.

In an influential article, D. A. Bell in “Remembrance

of Racism Past. The Civil Rights Decline,” in

J. Hill and J. E. Jones (eds.), Race in America. The

Struggle for Equality (1993: 73–82), outlined three

shortcomings of existing liberal philosophies of

race. First, the Constitution rewarded property

over claims for justice. Second, whites support

racial reform only when it is in their self interest;

and finally, whites will not support reform if it is a

challenge to their social status. CRT had its

origins in jurisprudential debates about justice,

but it has also had an impact on educational

theory and practice, where it is argued – for

example by W. F. Tate in “Critical Race Theory”

(1996: 201–47), and by J. A. Banks in “The Historical

Reconstruction of Knowledge about Race”

(1995: 4–17) – that a restrictive interpretation of

anti-discrimination laws limits the progress and

educational attainment of African-Americans. CRT

has also begun to influence theories of multiculturalism,

where the liberal agenda does not

appear to have been successful from the perspective

of black America.

CRT has a number of distinguishing features. It

has been critical of the traditional binary division

between “black” and “white,” especially where

blacks have “race” as a biological category and

whites have “ethnicity” as a social category. It

has welcomed sociological studies of the law because

conventional jurisprudence has often neglected

the social conditions that determine

injustice. It has taken a more positive view of

victims in giving recognition to the personal narratives

of the oppressed. For example, M. Matsuda,

R. Delgado, and K. Crenshaw, in Words That Wound

(1993), explored victims’ narratives to understand

the connections between hate speech, the law,

and racial violence. Like African-American Studies,

CRT has encouraged interdisciplinary and comparative

studies of racial oppression, such as

Howard Winant’s The World Is a Ghetto (2001).

There are several valuable introductions to CRT,

such as Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s Critical

Race Theory. The Cutting Edge (2nd edn., 2000)

and K. Crenshaw, N. Gotanda, G. Peller, and K.

Thomas (eds.), Critical Race Theory. The Key Writings

that Formed the Moment (1995). Although CRT has

been influential in law and pedagogy, it has

been less prominent in the sociology of race and

ethnicity. It appears to have had relatively little

impact outside the United States, possibly because

racism in European societies has had a somewhat

different history. BRYAN S. TURNER

critical theory

This phrase operates implicitly as a code for the

quasi-Marxist theory of society of a group of interdisciplinary

social theorists collectively known as

the Frankfurt School. The term Frankfurt School

refers to the work of members of the Institut fu¨r

Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research)

that was established in Frankfurt, Germany, in

1923 as the first Marxist-oriented research center

affiliated with a major German university. Under

its director, Carl Gru¨nberg (1861–1940), the Institute’s

work in the 1920s tended to be empirical,

historical, and oriented towards problems of the

European working-class movement.

Max Horkheimer became director of the Institute

in 1930, and gathered around him many talented

theorists, including Erich Fromm, Franz

Neumann (1900–54), Herbert Marcuse, and Theodor

Wiesengrund Adorno. Under Horkheimer,

the Institute sought to develop an interdisciplinary

social theory that could serve as an instrument

of social transformation. The work of this era was

a synthesis of philosophy and social theory, combining

sociology, psychology, Cultural studies,

and political economy.

The first major Institute project in the Horkheimer

period was a systematic study of authority, an

investigation into individuals who submitted to

irrational authority in authoritarian regimes.

This culminated in a two-volume work, Studien

u¨ber Autorita¨t und Familie (1936), and a series of

studies of fascism, including Adorno, Else Frenkel–

Brunswik, and Daniel J. Levinson, The Authoritarian

Personality (1950). Most members were both Jews

and Marxist radicals and were forced to flee

Germany after Hitler’s ascendancy to power. The

majority emigrated to the United States and the

Institute became affiliated with Columbia University

from 1931 until 1949, when it returned to


From 1936 to the present, the Institute has referred

to its work as the “critical theory of society.”

For many years, “critical theory” was

distinguished by its attempt to found a radical

interdisciplinary social theory rooted in Hegelian–

Marxian dialectics, historical materialism, and

the critique of political economy. Members

argued that Marx’s concepts of the commodity,

money, value, exchange, and fetishism characterize

not only the capitalist economy but also

social relations under capitalism, where human

critical race theory critical theory


relations and all forms of life are governed by

commodity and exchange relations and values.

Critical theory produced theoretical analysis of

the transformation of competitive capitalism into

monopoly capitalism and fascism, and hoped to

be part of a historical process through which capitalism

would be replaced by socialism. Horkheimer

claimed that: “The categories which have

arisen under its [traditional theory’s] influence

criticize the present. The Marxist categories of

class, exploitation, surplus value, profit, impoverishment,

and collapse are moments of a conceptual

whole whose meaning is to be sought, not in

the reproduction of the present society, but in its

transformation to a correct society” (“Traditional

and Critical Theory,” 1972: 218). Critical theory is

thus motivated by an interest in emancipation

and is a philosophy of social practice engaged in

“the struggle for the future.” Critical theory must

remain loyal to the “idea of a future society as the

community of free human beings, in so far as such

a society is possible, given the present technical

means” (230).

In a series of studies carried out in the 1930s,

the Institute for Social Research developed theories

of monopoly capitalism, the new industrial

state, the role of technology and giant corporations

in monopoly capitalism, the key roles of

mass culture and communication in reproducing

contemporary societies, and the decline of democracy

and of the individual. Critical theory drew

alike on Hegelian dialectics, Marxian theory,

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Sigmund Freud,

Max Weber, and other trends of contemporary

thought. It articulated theories that were to

occupy the center of social theory for the next

several decades. Rarely, if ever, has such a talented

group of interdisciplinary intellectuals come together

under the auspices of one institute. They

managed to keep alive radical social theory during

a difficult historical era, and provided aspects of a

neo-Marxian theory of the changed social reality

and new historical situation in the transition

from competitive capitalism to monopoly


During World War II, the Institute split up

due to pressures of the war. Adorno and Horkheimer

moved to California, while Leo Lowenthal

(1900–93), Marcuse, Neumann, and others worked

for the United States government as their contribution

to the fight against fascism. Horkheimer

and Adorno worked on their joint book Dialectic of

Enlightenment (1947 [trans. 1972]), which discussed

how reason and enlightenment in the contemporary

era turned into their opposites, transforming

what promised to be instruments of truth and

liberation into tools of domination. In their scenario,

science and technology had created horrific

tools of destruction and death, culture was commodified

into products of a mass-produced culture

industry, and democracy terminated in

fascism, in which masses chose despotic and

demagogic rulers. Moreover, in their extremely

pessimistic vision, individuals were oppressing

their own bodies and renouncing their own

desires as they assimilated and made their

own repressive beliefs and allowed themselves to

be instruments of labor and war.

Sharply criticizing enlightenment scientism

and rationalism, as well as systems of social domination,

Adorno and Horkheimer implicated, however

implicitly, Marxism within the “dialectic of

enlightenment” since it too affirmed the primacy

of labor, instrumentalized reason in its scientism

and celebration of “socialist production,” and

shared in western modernity and the domination

of nature. After World War II, Adorno,

Horkheimer, and Frederik Pollock returned to

Frankfurt to reestablish the Institute in Germany,

while Lowenthal, Marcuse, and others remained

in the United States.

In Germany, Adorno, Horkheimer, and their associates

published a series of books and became a

dominant intellectual current. At this time, the

term Frankfurt School became widespread as a

characterization of their version of interdisciplinary

social research and of the particular social

theory developed by Adorno, Horkheimer, and

their associates. They engaged in frequent methodological

and substantive debates with other

social theories, most notably “the positivism dispute,”

where they criticized more empirical and

quantitative approaches to social theory and

defended their own more speculative and critical

brand of social theory. The German group around

Adorno and Horkheimer was also increasingly

hostile towards orthodox Marxism and were in

turn criticized by a variety of types of “Marxists–

Leninists” and “scientific Marxists” for their alleged

surrender of revolutionary and scientific

Marxian perspectives.

The Frankfurt School eventually became best

known for their theories of “the totally administered

society,” or “one-dimensional society,”

which analyzed the increasing power of capitalism

over all aspects of social life and the development

of new forms of social control. During

the 1950s, however, there were divergences between

the work of the Institute relocated in

Frankfurt and the developing theories of Fromm,

critical theory critical theory


Lowenthal, Marcuse, and others who did not

return to Germany, which were often at odds

with both the current and earlier work of Adorno

and Horkheimer. Thus it is misleading to consider

the work of various critical theorists during

the postwar period as being produced by members

of a monolithic Frankfurt School. Whereas

there were both a shared sense of purpose and

collective work on interdisciplinary social theory

from 1930 to the early 1940s, thereafter critical

theorists frequently diverge, and during the

1950s and 1960s the term the Frankfurt School

can really be applied only to the work of the

Institute in Germany. DOUGLAS KELLNER

cross-sectional design data

One of the most common forms of data used in

sociological analysis, this is the sort of data

gathered by a simple survey. It can be collected

relatively quickly and (dependent on how the

questionnaire is administered) cheaply. For instance,

if a researcher wanted to determine the

attitudes of employees to their jobs, then a simple

cross-sectional design research project could be

completed by sending questionnaires to a sample

of, say, several hundred or thousand employees. If

care was taken, and the employees were selected

to be representative of a larger population (say, all

employees in the United Kingdom) then the

results could be generalized to that larger population

through the use of inferential statistics. Averages

could be calculated to describe the typical

British employee, or correlations or regressions

could be calculated to investigate the relationships

between the variables, and find answers to

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