1st Edition

Great Debates in Criminology

ISBN 9781138223738
Published July 3, 2018 by Routledge
222 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

USD $45.95

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Book Description

This book explores the role of theory and research in criminology. Adopting a unique and refreshing approach to criminological theory, it focuses on the great debates in criminology from its inception as a field to the present day. It explores the debates that have motivated criminological thought, that have represented turning points in theoretical and empirical trajectories, that have offered mini-paradigm shifts, and that have moved the field forward. Coverage includes:

  • Classical debates, including the work of Lombroso, Durkheim, and Sutherland;
  • Sociological vs. psychological debates in criminology;
  • Control theory and cultural deviance theory;
  • Criminal career and trait-based theory;
  • Theory testing in criminology;
  • Critical theories in criminology;
  • Debates on the state of criminology and criminal justice;
  • Policy issues in criminology.

Each chapter explores several key debates, summarizes key points, and offers a discussion of the current empirical status. This book is novel in emphasising the role of debate in criminology and offering an enlightening synthesis of theorists and their perspectives. It is essential reading for students taking courses on criminological theory and teachers of those theories.

Table of Contents


Introduction – What is theory and why are there debates?

1. Debating among criminology’s founders

2. Does crime originate from the person or the environment? Sociological vs. psychological perspectives

3. Is crime natural or do we learn it? Control theories and cultural deviance theories

4. Do we need to follow people over time? Criminal careers vs. criminal propensity theories

5. Who is right? Theory testing and construction in criminology

6. Beyond the "big three": Critical vs. traditional criminology

7. Is criminology/criminal justice a true discipline? Criminal justice, criminology, and their existence

8. What should we do about crime? Debates around policy issues in criminal justice

9. Are we still debating? Contemporary and emerging debates

Conclusion: On debates, past, present, and future



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Chad Posick is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology and Graduate Coordinator at Georgia Southern University.

Michael Rocque is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bates College and Senior Research Advisor at the Maine Department of Corrections.


"Great Debates documents the development of criminology’s critical theory, research, and policy tensions.  The book provides an important bird’s eye view of where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s a handbook that should be on every criminologist’s desk."

- Joshua C. Cochran, Assistant Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati

"This well-researched and highly stimulating book presents excellent reviews of great debates in criminology, including sociological versus psychological perspectives, social control versus social learning, and criminal careers versus criminal propensity. It also reviews methodological debates (e.g. on trajectory analysis) and policy implications. It should be mandatory reading for all criminologists!"

- David P. Farrington, Emeritus Professor of Psychological Criminology, University of Cambridge

"If there is anything that criminologists can agree on is that we enjoy spirited debates about the causes and correlates of crime as well as the policy decisions that need to be made in dealing with crime. It is appropriate, then, that we have a volume that nicely presents the different points of view on key criminological and criminal justice matters. Posick and Rocque develop what I believe to be the book that students will learn from and by challenged by as they delve into the heart of the either/or views on crime, one that provides an objective presentation of the sides and their facts."

- Alex R. Piquero, Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology, The University of Texas at Dallas

"Posick and Rocque provide a unique point-counterpoint overview of the leading concepts and various assumptions framing major explanations of crime. In a chronological unfolding of classical statements to contemporary perspectives, Great Debates in Criminology leads readers through an ideologically balanced, empirically informed, and engaging introduction to theoretical criminology."

- J. Mitchell Miller, Editor of the American Journal of Criminal Justice