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Criminological Theory

Criminological Theory
Context and Consequences

Seventh Edition

November 2018 | 592 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
“The best organized and most comprehensive theory textbook to use for both graduate and undergraduate students. It provides historical context to the theories, and the authors make it easier for students to relate theory to reality.”
                                                                                               —Mirlinda Ndrecka, Ph.D., University of New Haven

Updated Edition of a Best-Seller! 

Offering a rich introduction to how scholars analyze crime, Criminological Theory: Context and Consequences moves readers beyond a commonsense knowledge of crime to a deeper understanding of the importance of theory in shaping crime control policies. The Seventh Edition of the authors’ clear, accessible, and thoroughly revised text covers traditional and contemporary theory within a larger sociological and historical context. It includes new sources that assess the empirical status of the major theories, as well as updated coverage of crime control policies and their connection to criminological theory. 

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Your students save when you bundle the new edition of Criminological Theory with Crime and Everyday Life: A Brief Introduction, 6e. Order using bundle ISBN 978-1-5443-5345-6

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CHAPTER 1. The Context and Consequences of Theory
Theory in Social Context  
Theory and Policy: Ideas Have Consequences  
Context, Theory, and Policy: Plan of the Book  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 2. The Search for the “Criminal Man”
The Classical School: Criminal as Calculator  
The Positivist School: Criminal as Determined  
The Consequence of Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 3. Rejecting Individualism: The Chicago School
The Chicago School of Criminology: Theory in Context  
Shaw and McKay’s Theory of Juvenile Delinquency  
Sutherland’s Theory of Differential Association  
The Chicago School’s Criminological Legacy  
Control and Culture in the Community  
Akers’s Social Learning Theory  
The Consequences of Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 4. Crime in American Society: Anomie and Strain Theories
Merton’s Strain Theory  
Status Discontent and Delinquency  
The Criminological Legacy of “Classic” Strain Theory  
Agnew’s General Strain Theory  
A Theory of African American Offending  
Crime and the American Dream: Institutional-Anomie Theory  
The Market Economy and Crime  
The Future of Strain Theory  
The Consequences of Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 5. Society as Insulation: The Origins of Control Theory
Forerunners of Control Theory  
Early Control Theories  
Reckless’s Containment Theory  
Sykes and Matza: Neutralization and Drift Theory  
Control Theory in Context  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 6. The Complexity of Control: Hirschi’s Two Theories and Beyond
Hirschi’s First Theory: Social Bonds and Delinquency  
Hirschi’s Second Theory: Self-Control and Crime  
The Complexity of Control  
The Consequences of Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 7. The Irony of State Intervention: Labeling Theory
The Social Construction of Crime  
Labeling as Criminogenic: Creating Career Criminals  
The Consequences of Theory: Policy Implications  
Extending Labeling Theory  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 8. Social Power and the Construction of Crime: Conflict Theory
Forerunners of Conflict Theory  
Theory in Context: The Turmoil of the 1960s  
Advancing Conflict Theory: Turk, Chambliss, and Quinney  
Conflict Theory and the Causes of Crime  
Consequences of Conflict Theory  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 9. The Variety of Critical Theory
Looking Back at Early British and European Influences  
Early Left Realism  
The New Criminology Revisited: A Shift in Context  
Left Realism Today  
Changing Social Context: 2015–2018  
Early Cultural Criminology  
Cultural Criminology Today  
Green/Cultural Criminology  
Convict/Cultural Criminology  
New Directions in Criminological Theory: Death and the Birth of New Ideas  
European Criminology  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 10. The Gendering of Criminology: Feminist Theory
Prefeminist Pioneers and Themes  
The Emergence of New Questions: Bringing Women In  
The Second Wave: From Women’s Emancipation to Patriarchy  
Varieties of Feminist Thought  
The Intersection of Race, Class, and Gender  
Masculinities and Crime  
Gendering Criminology  
Postmodernist Feminism and the Third Wave Revisited  
Consequences of Feminist Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 11. Crimes of the Powerful: Theories of White-Collar Crime
The Discovery of White-Collar Crime: Edwin H. Sutherland  
Organizational Culture  
Organizational Strain and Opportunity  
Deciding to Offend  
State-Corporate Crime  
Consequences of White-Collar Crime Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 12. Bringing Punishment Back In: Conservative Criminology
Context: The United States of the 1980s and Early 1990s  
A New Context in Four Parts: 2008 to 2019  
Other Recent Changes in Context  
Varieties of Conservative Theory  
Crime and Human Nature: Wilson and Herrnstein  
Crime and The Bell Curve: Herrnstein and Murray  
The Criminal Mind  
Choosing to Be Criminal: Crime Pays  
Crime and Moral Poverty  
Broken Windows: The Tolerance of Public Disorganization  
Consequences of Conservative Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 13. Choosing Crime in Everyday Life: Routine Activity and Rational Choice Theories
Routine Activity Theory: Opportunities and Crime  
Rational Choice Theory  
Perceptual Deterrence Theory  
Situational Action Theory  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 14. The Search for the “Criminal Man” Revisited: Biosocial Theories
Evolutionary Psychology: Darwin Revisited  
Social Concern Theory: Evolutionary Psychology Revisited  
Neuroscience: Neurological and Biochemical Theories  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 15. New Directions in Biosocial Theory: Perspectives and Policies
Biosocial Risk and Protective Factors  
Environmental Toxins  
The Consequences of Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
CHAPTER 16. The Development of Criminals: Life-Course Theories
Integrated Theories of Crime  
Life-Course Criminology: Continuity and Change  
Criminology in Crisis: Gottfredson and Hirschi Revisited  
Patterson’s Social-Interactional Developmental Model  
Moffitt’s Life-Course-Persistent/Adolescence-Limited Theory  
Sampson and Laub: Social Bond Theory Revisited  
Rethinking Crime: Cognitive Theories of Desistance  
The Consequences of Theory: Policy Implications  
Further Readings  
Author Index
Subject Index
About the Authors


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Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

    • A Microsoft® Word test bank, is available containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to assess students’ progress and understanding.
    • Editable, chapter-specific Microsoft® PowerPoint® slides offer you complete flexibility in easily creating a multimedia presentation for your course. Highlight essential content and features.
    • EXCLUSIVE! Access to certain full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected for each chapter. Each article supports and expands on the concepts presented in the chapter. Combine cutting-edge academic journal scholarship with the topics in your course for a robust classroom experience.
    • Chapter-specific discussion questions help launch classroom interaction by prompting students to engage with the material and by reinforcing important content.
    • Sample course syllabi for semester and quarter courses provide suggested models for use when creating the syllabi for your courses.


“The best organized and most comprehensive theory textbook to use for both graduate and undergraduate students. It provides the historical context to the theories and the authors [and] makes it easier for students to relate theory to reality.”

Mirlinda Ndrecka, Ph.D.
University of New Haven

“This book is comprehensive, well-organized, and insightful.”

John A. Humphrey
Saint Anselm College

“This text is a comprehensive discussion of criminological theories from the beginning of criminology to the present.”

Scott A. Pray
Muskingum University
Key features


  • Diverse coverage of major criminological theories includes perspectives ranging from biosocial theories to critical criminology, providing students with a well-rounded understanding of multiple perspectives. 
  • The development of each theory covered within the broader sociological and historical context offers students insight into the wider social world from which criminology has evolved.
  • The authors explore policy implications and applications to help students see how theories are applied to real-world situations. 
  • A unique chapter on white-collar crime is indicative of the comprehensive theory coverage students receive from this book.


  • Discussions of new theoretical developments now include subterranean values and delinquency, low self-control and victimization, procedural justice theory, place management, the social development model, and the feared self-theory of desistance.
  • More than 400 new sources assess developments within, and the empirical status of, the major theories—ensuring the most up-to-date research is included.  
  • Important changes in the contemporary social context in the United States and Europe are examined to demonstrate the context out of which theory and policy emerge, including declining crime rates, the Great Recession, and the rise of the Trump administration.  
  • Updated coverage of crime control policies and their connection to criminological theory are presented throughout the text.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1. The Contexts and Consequences of Theory

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