Sociology of Crime
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- 28 Aug 2023
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Our student advisors are here to guide you with:
- Enrolling and eligibility
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- Credit and recognition for prior learning
After successfully completing this subject you should be able to:
- Demonstrate familiarity with and knowledge of the basic theories of sociological criminology, including key theorists of crime and the ideas associated with these theorists
- Explain the sociological classification of criminal activity as these relate to functionalist, social conflict and interactionist perspectives
- Explain the historical contexts from which the basic sociological theories of crime emerged (including social disorganization theory, strain theory, learning theory, labeling theory, critical theories, and realist perspectives)
- Apply criminological theories to social research on crime
- Critically analyse "common sense" notions of crime in our society
- What is Crime? What is Criminology?
- What do we know about crime, and how?
- Classical Criminology/Social Logics of Punishment
- Biological and Psychological Positivism
- Social Disorganization and Social Ecology
- Anomie and Strain Theories
- Social Learning Theories
- Labelling Theory
- Marxist and Critical Theories
- Feminist Criminology
- New Right Criminology and Social Control Theories
- Left Realism and Cultural Criminology
You should not enrol in this subject if you have successfully completed any of the following subject(s) because they are considered academically equivalent:
- GRF-CCJ27-Sociology of Crime (No longer available)
This is not an introductory subject, it is a second year subject. You must have a basic understanding of the first year criminology subjects. Students who have completed more than 2 OUA units (GPA 4.0+) and are planning on completing the Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice are strongly encouraged to enrol in the degree. Part of this process will involve registering your study plan with Griffith University, which will help to ensure that you are studying the required units.
No additional requirements
This subject introduces the major 19th and 20th century theories of crime, their historical antecedents and ideological dimensions. Attention is given to street crime, white collar crime, and violence between intimates.
Criminology is the social scientific study of crime – its causes, its effects and the manner in which societies define, understand and respond to criminal activity. In one sense or another, all societies have sought to control crime or deviance, and all cultures have explanations as to why and how people do bad or wicked things. Criminology, however, is a fairly new historical invention, its origins dating less than two hundred years. Yet even within this time, the social sciences have developed diverse and sometimes conflicting explanations, theories and approaches to understanding, explaining, and redressing crime. Psychology, political science, economics, and sociology all evidence distinct epistemological and methodological approaches to questions of what causes crime, how is crime defined, and how should we as a society respond to crime.
The sociological investigation of crime overlaps in many respects with these and other disciplines. At the same time, much of criminological theory and method derives from sociology, and sociology remains one of the most central disciplines in the social study of crime. Like all social sciences, sociology is rooted in the epistemology of the scientific method. Knowledge, in this sense, comes from hypotheses that are tested and retested in order to produce theories about criminal behaviour, causality, and the efficacy of treatments or punishments. This distinction is what more immediately separates criminology from other approaches to or explanations of crime.
This does not mean that the social sciences are above reproach, or that social science itself is infallible. On the contrary, as we will see, the social sciences (including sociology) have offered explanations of crime ranging from the plausible to the absurd. And although much of criminology is oriented towards a social scientific explanation of the origins and effects of crime, other branches take a more critical look at how crime itself is conceptualized, investigated and socially constructed. Yet other branches look at how people make sense of, interpret, and understand crime and social control. These three types of investigation – causal, critical, and interpretive – roughly follow three of the major paradigms in sociology, namely functionalism, social conflict, and symbolic interactionism. In the case of criminology moreover, a fourth paradigm exists that overlaps with psychology and medicine. This approach shares with functionalism the assumption of the scientific method as a means to investigate crime, but differs insofar as it looks at specific psychological or physiological traits, and not social structures, as primary causes of criminal or anti-social behaviour. Out of these four approaches two (functionalism and social conflict) are considered “macro” approaches insofar as they look at the relationship between crime and larger social structures; and two are considered “micro” approaches insofar as they look at the relationship between crime and individuals or small groups. None of these approaches are more “correct” than the others. Rather, these approaches represent different strategies in terms of the investigation of different type of questions. Some people want to know, for example, why some criminals appear to have no remorse for the harm they cause to others. Other people want to know why racial or ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the criminal justice system; why men commit more crimes than women; or how effective certain policies are in preventing or deterring crime. All are valid questions that utilize different assumptions and paradigms. Thus we may say that virtually all of the sociological study of crime is today defined by etiological questions (i.e. the investigation of the origins of causes), by critical questions (i.e. the investigation of power and social control in relation to crime), and by interpretive questions, (i.e. the concept of Verstehen, or the investigation of how people symbolically construct and make sense of their own realities). The scope and breadth of these questions is enormous, and we can only hope to cover a small part of these questions in one class.
- Weekly Review of Readings (Part I) (20%)
- Online Quiz (20%)
- Research Essay (40%)
- Research Essay (20%)
For textbook details check your university's handbook, website or learning management system (LMS).
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