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Criminological Theory in Context

Criminological Theory in Context

January 2015 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

This book provides a lively, concise and definitive introduction to the study of the causes of crime. Authoritative yet accessible, it offers a guide to the historical development of criminology as an academic discipline and in doing so:


  • presents an overview of a range of different theories of crime, including classical, biological, psychological and sociological approaches
  • analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each theory discussed
  • provides chapter overview boxes and key summary points
  • helps you to take your studies further with self-study tasks and suggestions for further reading.

In covering key theoretical positions and placing them in their historical context, Criminological Theory in Context is perfect for students taking introductory courses in criminological theory.

Chapter 1: Studying Criminal Life
Crime and society: an introduction

Researching criminal life: the place of theories of crime

Chapter 2: Classical Criminology and Contemporary Rational Choice Theory
Introduction: the reasoning criminal and the social contract

Society, crime and punishment

Classical criminology and crime deterrence

Neoclassical criminology

Critiquing Classical/Neoclassical criminology: does deterrence work?

Contemporary rational choice theory

Situational crime prevention, opportunity theory and routine activity

Chapter 3: Biological Criminology
Introduction: Classicism, positivism and the development of Biological forms of criminology

Physiognomy and phrenology

Lombroso and atavism

Lombroso’s heritage: in search of the criminal type

Genes and crime

Brain development, injuries and mapping

Biochemistry, hormones, diet and crime

Chapter 4: Psychological Criminology
Introduction: the Classical school and Psychological and Biological theories of crime

Freud and personality development

Eysenck, dimensions of personality and criminal behaviour

Sutherland, differential association theory and social learning

Psychological criminology and mentally disordered offenders

Chapter 5: Strain Theory, Social Disorganisation Theory and Labelling Theory
Introducing the sociological study of criminal life

Durkheim: social facts, social solidarity and anomie

Merton and Agnew: anomie and Strain Theory

Park and Burgess: Social Disorganisation Theory and the Broken Windows hypothesis

Mead and Blumer: symbolic interactionism and Labelling Theory

Lemert, Becker and Erikson: towards the sociology of deviance

Restorative justice and Braithwaite’s Reintegrative Shaming Theory

Chapter 6: Critical Criminology, Part 1: Marxist, Peacemaking and Realist Theories of Crime
Determinism and free will in sociological forms of criminology

Critical criminology: a conflict theory of society

Critical criminology and the duality of structure

Karl Marx and Willem Bonger: towards a Marxist theory of crime

Marxist criminology: crime as a rational response to the conditions of capitalism

Peacemaking criminology

Left and Right Realist criminology

Chapter 7: Critical Criminology, Part 2: Feminist and Cultural Criminology
Critical criminology and Feminist and Cultural theories of crime

The feminist critique of ‘malestream’ criminology

Marxism and Feminist criminology

The growth of female offending: power/control theory, the liberation opportunity thesis and the economic marginalisation thesis

Feminism, masculinity studies and contemporary Critical criminology: highlighting the importance of gender, race and class

Cultural criminology

Chapter 8: Postmodern Critical Standpoints and the Criminal Life Course
Introduction: Critical criminology revisited

Positivism and realism, postmodernism and anti-realism

Life Course criminology

Chapter 9: Reflecting on Theories of Crime, Theories of Human Nature: Crime in the Age of the Enterprising Risky Citizen-subject
From modernity to high modernity

The neoliberal enterprise form and the criminal justice system

Conclusion: reflecting on theories of crime and theories of human nature


This book makes the task of studying criminological theory a little less daunting…it would be a great companion for your degree

Shereen Baz
Research Student, Loughborough University

This book would have been very useful as it is very simple to understand and breaks down the theories in an order which is straightforward to understand. A number of criminological theory books are difficult to understand, however this book is simple and reads well…I would really recommend this to current students

Davina Patel
PhD Researcher, Loughborough University

A clear and thought provoking read. The author has summarised detailed historical and burgeoning literature into a book that is well structured and written, allowing criminology students to become excited over theory and to question taken for granted assumptions in the field.

Dr Ruth McAlister
Lecturer in Criminology, University of Ulster

This is a perfect textbook especially for criminology and criminal justice students. It is especially useful for students in their first year of an undergraduate programme. It is a student friendly textbook. I would highly recommend this to students.

Mr Mark Jagus
Law, Derby College
October 25, 2019

We are currently in the process of reviewing our undergraduate course and the module which this book was considered for is being reworked. However, the book is excellent - very logically structured around 'ideas' rather than a straightforward chronology.

Mr Andrew James Henley
Department of Criminology, Keele University
December 14, 2016

Comprehensive look at a range of criminological theories that gives inexperienced students a broader understanding.

Miss Emily Loftus
Sport, Public Services, Travel and Tourism, South Essex College
June 22, 2016

This book clearly put all the theories in an understandable way and logically built on each to give examples that made them understandable. On the whole the book was easy to read and was very comprehensive in relation to ascertaining the dividing line between theories that are often lumped together and therefore mixed up.
I have given this book a highly recommended status for my students

Mrs Eileen Mc Partland
Childcare Management, Liberties College
October 19, 2015

This is a really clear textbook that covers a wide range of relevant areas.

Ms Stella Harcourt
Further and Higher Education, South Essex College
July 6, 2015

A good addition to the body of work in this area. Tierney remains a favourite

Dr Richard Peake
Law , Leeds University
May 14, 2015

This book has been used with level 3 learners. I have adopted the text and incorporated as part of the essential reading.
The theories are analysed which aids the learner to understand and evaluate each theory in their assignments.

Miss Amy Capper
access, Warrington Collegiate
April 1, 2015

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