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Critical Theory and Criminology

NCJ Number
Social Problems Volume: 33 Issue: 6 Dated: (December 1986) Pages: S58-S80
W B Groves; R J Sampson
Date Published
23 pages
This paper assesses the potential contribution of critical theory (the tradition stemming from the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research) to issues in the sociology of crime and delinquency.
Focus is on the works of Juergen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno. Critical theory draws its orientation from a variety of disciplines including linguistics, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and Marxism. Explicit attention to these interdisciplinary concerns can enhance both the theoretical and methodological potential of criminology. More specific contributions include a qualification of the traditional positivistic emphasis on prediction and control in favor of a perspective that sees crime as a measure of social irrationality and an ability to offer a unique interpretation of the relationship between culture and social structure. Other contributions include an analytical scheme that contributes to macro-micro debate and a conception of science that contains standards for the selection of variables, a definite prescription for praxis or social change, and a perspective on the theory-practice relationship that is quite different from traditional empiricist/positivist methods. 16 footnotes and 120 references.