You are here

Criminological Theory in Context

Criminological Theory in Context

January 2015 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

This book provides a lively, concise and definitive introduction to the study of the causes of crime. Authoritative yet accessible, it offers a guide to the historical development of criminology as an academic discipline and in doing so:


  • presents an overview of a range of different theories of crime, including classical, biological, psychological and sociological approaches
  • analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each theory discussed
  • provides chapter overview boxes and key summary points
  • helps you to take your studies further with self-study tasks and suggestions for further reading.

In covering key theoretical positions and placing them in their historical context, Criminological Theory in Context is perfect for students taking introductory courses in criminological theory.

Chapter 1: Studying Criminal Life
Crime and society: an introduction  
Researching criminal life: the place of theories of crime  
Chapter 2: Classical Criminology and Contemporary Rational Choice Theory
Introduction: the reasoning criminal and the social contract  
Society, crime and punishment  
Classical criminology and crime deterrence  
Neoclassical criminology  
Critiquing Classical/Neoclassical criminology: does deterrence work?  
Contemporary rational choice theory  
Situational crime prevention, opportunity theory and routine activity  
Chapter 3: Biological Criminology
Introduction: Classicism, positivism and the development of Biological forms of criminology  
Physiognomy and phrenology  
Lombroso and atavism  
Lombroso’s heritage: in search of the criminal type  
Genes and crime  
Brain development, injuries and mapping  
Biochemistry, hormones, diet and crime  
Chapter 4: Psychological Criminology
Introduction: the Classical school and Psychological and Biological theories of crime  
Freud and personality development  
Eysenck, dimensions of personality and criminal behaviour  
Sutherland, differential association theory and social learning  
Psychological criminology and mentally disordered offenders  
Chapter 5: Strain Theory, Social Disorganisation Theory and Labelling Theory
Introducing the sociological study of criminal life  
Durkheim: social facts, social solidarity and anomie  
Merton and Agnew: anomie and Strain Theory  
Park and Burgess: Social Disorganisation Theory and the Broken Windows hypothesis  
Mead and Blumer: symbolic interactionism and Labelling Theory  
Lemert, Becker and Erikson: towards the sociology of deviance  
Restorative justice and Braithwaite’s Reintegrative Shaming Theory  
Chapter 6: Critical Criminology, Part 1: Marxist, Peacemaking and Realist Theories of Crime
Determinism and free will in sociological forms of criminology  
Critical criminology: a conflict theory of society  
Critical criminology and the duality of structure  
Karl Marx and Willem Bonger: towards a Marxist theory of crime  
Marxist criminology: crime as a rational response to the conditions of capitalism  
Peacemaking criminology  
Left and Right Realist criminology  
Chapter 7: Critical Criminology, Part 2: Feminist and Cultural Criminology
Critical criminology and Feminist and Cultural theories of crime  
The feminist critique of ‘malestream’ criminology  
Marxism and Feminist criminology  
The growth of female offending: power/control theory, the liberation opportunity thesis and the economic marginalisation thesis  
Feminism, masculinity studies and contemporary Critical criminology: highlighting the importance of gender, race and class  
Cultural criminology  
Chapter 8: Postmodern Critical Standpoints and the Criminal Life Course
Introduction: Critical criminology revisited  
Positivism and realism, postmodernism and anti-realism  
Life Course criminology  
Chapter 9: Reflecting on Theories of Crime, Theories of Human Nature: Crime in the Age of the Enterprising Risky Citizen-subject
From modernity to high modernity  
The neoliberal enterprise form and the criminal justice system  
Conclusion: reflecting on theories of crime and theories of human nature  

This book makes the task of studying criminological theory a little less daunting…it would be a great companion for your degree

Shereen Baz
Research Student, Loughborough University

This book would have been very useful as it is very simple to understand and breaks down the theories in an order which is straightforward to understand. A number of criminological theory books are difficult to understand, however this book is simple and reads well…I would really recommend this to current students

Davina Patel
PhD Researcher, Loughborough University

A clear and thought provoking read. The author has summarised detailed historical and burgeoning literature into a book that is well structured and written, allowing criminology students to become excited over theory and to question taken for granted assumptions in the field.

Dr Ruth McAlister
Lecturer in Criminology, University of Ulster

We are currently in the process of reviewing our undergraduate course and the module which this book was considered for is being reworked. However, the book is excellent - very logically structured around 'ideas' rather than a straightforward chronology.

Mr Andrew James Henley
Department of Criminology, Keele University
December 14, 2016

Comprehensive look at a range of criminological theories that gives inexperienced students a broader understanding.

Miss Emily Loftus
Sport, Public Services, Travel and Tourism, South Essex College
June 22, 2016

This book clearly put all the theories in an understandable way and logically built on each to give examples that made them understandable. On the whole the book was easy to read and was very comprehensive in relation to ascertaining the dividing line between theories that are often lumped together and therefore mixed up.
I have given this book a highly recommended status for my students

Mrs Eileen Mc Partland
Childcare Management, Liberties College
August 26, 2015

This is a really clear textbook that covers a wide range of relevant areas.

Ms Stella Harcourt
Further and Higher Education, South Essex College
July 6, 2015

A good addition to the body of work in this area. Tierney remains a favourite

Dr Richard Peake
Law , Leeds University
May 14, 2015

This book has been used with level 3 learners. I have adopted the text and incorporated as part of the essential reading.
The theories are analysed which aids the learner to understand and evaluate each theory in their assignments.

Miss Amy Capper
access, Warrington Collegiate
April 1, 2015

Well received by my level 5 students completing their Crim Theory assignment.

Mr Peter Norton
Uniformed public services, Sheffield College
March 26, 2015

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 8: Postmodern Critical Standpoints and the Criminal Life Course

Preview this book

For instructors

Review and Desk copies for this title are available digitally via VitalSource.

Request e-review copy

If you require a print review copy, please call: (800) 818-7243 ext. 6140 or email

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from

ISBN: 9781446269879

ISBN: 9781446269862