ⓘ Cultural criminology


ⓘ Cultural criminology

Cultural criminology is a theoretical, methodological, and interventionist approach to the study of crime that seeks to understand crime in the context of its culture. It views both crime and the agencies of control as cultural products. Cultural criminology seeks to highlight how power affects constructions of crime, such as laws created, laws broken, and the interplay of moral entrepreneurship, moral innovation, and transgression. Crime and crime control are believed to be shaped by the meanings assigned by culture.

The theory is a perspective that has developed in both the United States and the United Kingdom since the mid-1990s with writings having important cross-national impacts. The theory views crime in the context of an offenders culture as a motive to commit crime. The theory gives motives to a crime whereas other theories such as rational choice explain what was gained.

Cultural criminology dates back to the mid-1990s. It draws heavily on the Chicago School of sociology and the 1970s Marxist and neo-Gramscian criminologies.

New theories of cultural criminology take into account the role of space in the construction of crime, positing, for example, that where an action takes place is as important as the effect of the action in determining criminality.


1. Methods

Originally, cultural criminologists utilized one of two main research methods: either ethnographic and fieldwork techniques, or the main qualitative research techniques associated with the scholarly readings. Cultural criminologists today also employ research methods such as participative action research or "narrative criminology". They remain constant, however, in their rejection of abstract empiricism.


2. Emotion

One of the main tenets of cultural criminology is the role of emotions in crime. The foundational work in this sub-field is considered to be Jack Katzs Seductions of Crime 1988. In this and other works, the goal is to find the overlap between the emotions associated with everyday life and those associated with crime.

Cultural criminology also studies the role of emotional affect in crime.


The roles of excitement and control in cultural criminology has laid the foundation for the sociological concept of "edgework". Edgeworks focus on prototypically masculine, high-risk pursuits has been criticised by a number of feminist criminologists. More recent works, however, suggest that edgework can be applied to either gender.


3. Criticism

Some critics have argued that cultural criminology has foregone hard-nosed economic analysis in the interest of a subjective or narrow cultural focus. Cultural criminologists counter that they are striving to create a sociologically inspired criminology attuned to the distinctive dynamics of the contemporary economy. They contend that the expansion of the global market has brought new forms of crime, crime control, and political resistance.

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