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Hale et al: Criminology 3e

Chapter 4: Chapter synopses

Theoretical criminology is a vast, sprawling subject that straddles more than two centuries of intellectual thought and a range of academic disciplines. The aim of this chapter is to offer those new to the subject a 'starting point', a very general (and hopefully gentle) introduction to some of the main criminological theories that have sought to explain and account for crime and criminality in the modern age.

Although the approach in this chapter is to break theories down into short, independent sections, it is important to recognize that criminological theory is not something that is easily compartmentalized. It is essential, therefore, to think critically about both the origins and the contemporary roles of criminological theories, rather than just repeating some learning of their basic outline/structure. Hopefully this chapter will help you in this endeavour. One must also bear in mind that, whilst criminological theory is often viewed by many as an abstract, even esoteric enterprise, in reality its impact over the last century in areas such as crime control, juvenile justice, and public and penal policy has been profound and far-reaching.

One need only think of the role played by criminological theory in such diverse policy initiatives as the 1970s 'welfarist' movement within youth justice, and the 'zero tolerance' policing phenomenon of the 1990s to recognize the influential, indeed potent, force of theory. In this sense, theoretical criminology should be seen as a vital, living subject, and not some historical or intellectual fancy. The chapter outlines several important recent developments in criminological theory including ?criminology of terrorism? and ?criminology of genocide?.