Criminal Sociology

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Criminal sociology is concerned with crime as a social phenomenon. In Germany, criminal sociology is a sub-area of sociology and a reference science of criminology . In the self-image of Anglo-American criminology and German critical criminology , criminal sociology is identical with criminology. Except for the foundation by the Belgian Adolphe Quetelet and the French Émile Durkheim , the criminal-sociological impulses come predominantly from the USA .

Differentiation from criminology and sociology of deviance

Criminal sociology deals with the social conditions of crime and the social reactions to them. In the German-speaking area, the sociology of crime is fundamentally and institutionally differentiated from criminology , a peculiarity that does not exist in Anglo-American countries. There, criminology is a subject dominated by the social sciences and is practiced by social scientists from various fields. In Germany, criminology traditionally belongs to the legal sciences, criminalsociology is only mentioned as one of its related sciences. It is not identical with the sociology of deviance or the sociology of deviant behavior. The special sociologies mentioned are also concerned with non-conforming behavior that does not necessarily correspond to a criminal offense. The Kriminalsoziologie limited to legally defined as such crime (delinquency).

Foundation laid by Quetelet and Durkheim

Adolphe Quetelet

Even the classics of sociological thought dealt with the problem of crime. In the context of the “social question”, the crime was linked in various ways with poverty, urbanization, uprooting and proletarianization. Friedrich Engels in particular stands for this in his work The Situation of the Working Class in England . With his work on the law on the theft of wood, Karl Marx carried out “research into the genesis of norms” and thus indicated a central idea of ​​the later criminal sociology. Ferdinand Tönnies presented several studies on the subject, such as "Crime as a social phenomenon".

The most important impulses for the later criminal sociology came from the moral statistics of Adolphe Quetelet and the sociology of Émile Durkheim .

Quetelet founded crime statistics as a sub-area of moral statistics and is thus at the beginning of an empirically founded crime-sociological research. He assumed that crime and social conditions are related in specific ways. To research the causes of social phenomena with statistical methods in what he called the “mécanique sociale”. In doing so, he relied on the law of causality formulated by Pierre-Simon Laplace following Kant and the probability calculation also further developed by Laplace. Quetelet thus succeeded in determining regularities in the empirical distribution of crime. He realized that the annual crime rate for the main types of crime was constant. Thereupon he formulated his thesis of the “crime budget” in 1869: There is a budget of alarming regularity. It is the budget of the prisons, the galleys and the scaffold. It is possible to predict what can be expected in the next year.

One of Quetelet's most important observations is that the peak of the age curve of crime is between the ages of 20 and 25, before it rises rapidly, then it falls slowly and evenly. With regard to the gender distribution, he found that female crime accounts for only a quarter of male crime. He also saw connections between the seasons, regions and the incidence of crime: While property crimes are more common in northern regions and also in the cold season, violent crimes occur more frequently in southern regions and also in the warm season. Based on his statistical calculations, Quetelet applied the concept of the mean. The probability with which criminal acts are carried out in certain population groups was represented by a single measure, the “penchant au crime”. This led to frequent misunderstandings because the measure was misconstrued as a diagnostic variable, but was in fact a pure probability figure.

Emile Durkheim

Quetelet stressed that crime is not caused by poverty. Rather, he said: "Man is not driven to crime by having little, but much more often by the fact that he suddenly sees himself transferred from prosperity to misery and can no longer satisfy all the needs that he has acquired".

René König regards Durkheim's work as the actual beginning of modern criminal-sociological thinking. For Durkheim, crime is normal and necessary for social order to exist. The validity of social norms emerges from the social sanctioning of deviations. Accordingly, crime is an integral part of every healthy society. Durkheim derived this thesis from the observation that crime occurred at all times and in every observed society. However, an increase in crime - however measured - is pathological.

In addition, Durkheim analyzed the connection between social change and crime in his study "On the Division of Social Work" (1893) . In the process of industrialization he recognized a loss of traditional values, which can increase to a state of normlessness and irregularity ( anomie ). In such a social condition there is a lack of collective moral principles by which people can orientate their behavior. As a result, the incidence of crime increases beyond what is considered "normal". In his book on suicide (1897) he modified the term anomie. In principle, human needs are unlimited, provided they are not subject to moderate external influences. If such influences are absent, there will be various social maladjustments at the individual level.

Etiological criminal sociology

The term etiology comes from the Greek (αἰτία) and means, among other things, cause . Etiological theories of crime are thus theories about the cause of the crime. The etiological criminal sociology researches the social causes of delinquent behavior.

Socio-ecological approach (Chicago School)

Robert Ezra Park , founder of the Chicago School

The Chicago School of Sociology originated from the University of Chicago in the early 1920s . Its representatives (especially Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess ) asked themselves, against the background of rapid social change and rapid urbanization, how urban environments generate criminal activity. They identified delinquency areas in which the crime rate was particularly high.

Such delinquency areas are the transition zones surrounding the business center of the cities , in which a heterogeneous population with consistently low socio-economic status lives. Family relationships are often unstable and the apartments are of poor quality. The ethnicity of the residents does not play a particular role. In residential areas further away from the center, the crime rate is falling again significantly.

The Chicago sociologists explained the phenomenon of transition zones by saying that the residents of the problem areas were socially disintegrated due to the change processes in the nearby business centers. Traditional institutions (family, neighborhood, school) did not play a major role in the transition zones .

Elements of this socio-ecological approach returned to the criminological debate in 1982 with the broken windows theory .

Anomie Theory (Robert K. Merton)

Robert K. Merton (1965)

Robert K. Merton expanded Durkheim's approach to a special crime theory since 1938 and developed a separate anomie theory. For him, anomie is expressed as a gap between widespread societal goals and the distribution of resources to achieve those goals. This contradiction could (among other possibilities such as withdrawal or ritualism ) lead to criminal offenses.

Other criminal sociologists added further elements to the Mertonian approach. Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd E. Ohlin emphasized that the likelihood of criminal acts strongly depends on the availability of illegitimate means. This approach ties in with the subculture theories .

Contemporary advancements in anomie theory are the General Strain Theory by Robert Agnew and the institutional anomie theory by Steven F. Messner and Richard Rosenfeld .

Theories of subculture and cultural conflict

In 1938, Thorsten Sellin presented a criminal sociological culture conflict theory , which initially mainly referred to American immigrant crime from the interwar period and which ties in with the research results of the Chicago School. Today this approach is used, among other things, for the criminal-sociological analysis of the jihad- Salafist subculture in Germany.

Albert K. Cohen developed a subculture theory in the 1950s , according to which deviating groups develop their own norms that consciously set themselves apart from those of the white middle class: “The hallmark of neglected group culture - or the culture of gang - (...) is this express and complete rejection of the standards of the middle class and the affirmation of their exact opposite. "

Social learning theory

Thoughts on learning theory were first introduced into criminal sociology in 1939 by Edwin H. Sutherland. With his theory of differential associations (or: theory of differential contacts ), he demonstrated that criminal behavior is learned like any other behavior.

The theory of neutralization is also assigned to the social learning theories. Gresham M. Sykes and David Matza thus opposed the acceptance of the subculture theory, according to which juvenile delinquents follow different group norms.

With their theory of differential amplification , Ronald L. Akers and Robert L. Burgess added another perspective to the Sutherlandian approach. After that, the positive or negative reinforcement depends on the situation. A prison sentence does not have to be stigmatizing, it can also lead to an improvement in status in a subcultural group.

Control theories

Control theories (also attachment or hold theories ) explain why people behave in conformity and not deviant or delinquent . They were developed and expanded one after the other by three criminal sociologists ( Albert J. Reiss 1951, Walter C. Reckless 1961, Travis Hirschi 1969). Reiss took off on the inner hold , Reckless on the outer hold . Finally, Travis Hirschi proposed a theory of the four bonds , according to which adaptability depends on the degree of integration of the individual into society.

Together with Michael R. Gottfredson , Hirschi developed another, much more controversial theory called A General Theory of Crime in the book of the same name in 1990 . This is based on the idea of a low self-control ( low self-control ). It is the best known of the general theories of crime . It is doubted that this theory is still part of the criminal sociology.

The interactionist turn (labeling approach)

Howard S. Becker (2012).

With the labeling approach , criminal sociologists turned away from etiological explanations of deviant behavior and focused on the social construction of crime. This resulted in a concentration on instance research at the expense of investigating the crime and the perpetrators .

The labeling approach was formulated on the epistemological basis of symbolic interactionism . The main theorists of the labeling approach are Edwin M. Lemert and Howard S. Becker , from whom the much-quoted definition comes: Deviant behavior is the behavior that people call it .

Those who set rules or enforce rules, Becker calls "moral entrepreneur" ("moral entrepreneur"), often translated as moral entrepreneur in German criminology .

In the German criminal sociology , the labeling approach was received and pointed primarily by Fritz Sack in the context of critical criminology . Thereafter, every deviance was the result of ascriptions , which made those labeled as "victims". However, this was not the case in the originally symbolic-interactionist version. That is why the more radical interpretation of the approach of sociologists and criminologists could Michael Bock as faulty reception are referred to: "The American labeling theorists could calmly and constructively integrate the existing criminal sociology of knowledge. In Sack's variant, however, the labeling approaches received a poisonous intolerance not only towards the other sociological approaches, but also towards all 'etiological' thinking. "

The radically critical version of the labeling approach enjoyed scientific and criminal policy boom from around 1970 to 1990. In the meantime, it has lost its significance. The moderate variant, namely that deviation does not already exist in the world, but arises from social processes, has meanwhile become common property.

Recent theories of criminal sociology

Rational choice approach

Rational choice or the theory of rational decision originates from economics and presupposes the assumption of an individual to derive benefit from every action. In the sociology of crime, representatives of the rational choice approach contributed deterrence theories , which particularly affect criminal policy. Jack P. Gibbs assumes that criminal acts become less likely if threatened sanctions follow the criminal act with certainty, if they follow the act with a short delay, if they are so severe that their disadvantages clearly show the benefit from the criminal act predominate.

Reintegrative Shaming (Braithwaite)

With his concept of reintegrative shaming, the Australian criminologist and sociologist John Braithwaite presented a general theory of crime in 1989 , in which he linked traditional sociological explanatory approaches (such as subculture theory, learning theory, stop theory and anomie theory) with one another and with the labeling approach and also linked this in a relationship brings to the empirical results of developmental criminology.

The central concept in his theory is the shaming ( shame ). This creates an internal control in the individual that gives him the direction for socially acceptable behavior. If delinquency does occur nonetheless, two versions of shaming due to the social environment are possible: stigmatizing shaming ( exclusion ) and reintegrating shaming ( inclusion ). Only reintegrative shaming guarantees low relapse delinquency. However, this process requires communities that are ready and capable of inclusion.

Sociology of the Control Society (Foucault and Garland)

On the basis of Foucault's governmentality (for example by Susanne Krasmann ) it is shown that social problems in postmodernism tend to be derived less from the personal maladjustments of individual perpetrators than from the status and possibilities of technical monitoring .

The American criminologist and sociologist David W. Garland argues similarly . High crime rates and thus a higher risk of crime would be accepted if extensive security measures were taken to cope with them. Garland calls this late-modern approach to crime the criminology of everyday life .


General works on criminal sociology

Works on individual crime-sociological topics

  • Émile Durkheim: The rules of the sociological method. 1984. (original 1895).
  • Émile Durkheim: The suicide. 1983. (original 1897).
  • Robert E. Park, Ernest W. Burgess, Roderick D. McKenzie: The City. 1928.
  • Robert K. Merton: Social Structure an Anomie. In: American Sociological Review. Volume 3, 1938, pp. 672–682 (German: Sozialstruktur und Anomie. In: F. Sack, R. König (Ed.): Kriminalsoziologie. Frankfurt am Main 1968, pp. 283–313).
  • Richard Cloward, Loyd Ohlin: Delinquency and Opportunity. 1960.
  • Robert Agnew: Foundation for a General Strain Theory of Crime an Delinquency. In: Criminology. Volume 30, 1992, pp. 47-88.
  • Thorsten Sellin: Culture Conflict and Crime. New York 1938.
  • Albert K. Cohen: Delinquent Boys. 1955. (German: Kriminelle Jugend. On the sociology of juvenile gangs. Reinbek 1961).
  • Edwin K. Sutherland: Principles of Criminology. 1939.
  • GM Sykes, D. Matza: Techniques of Neutralization. A theory of delinquency. In: F. Sack, R. König: Kriminalsoziologie. Frankfurt am Main 1968.
  • Travis Hirschi: Causes of Delinquency. 1969.
  • Travis Hirschi, Michael Gottfredson: A General Theory of Crime. 1990.
  • AJ Reiss: Delinquency as the failure of personal and social controls. 1951.
  • Walter C. Reckless: The crime problem. 1961.
  • Edwin M. Lemert: The concept of secondary deviance. In: Klaus Lüderssen , Fritz Sack (Hrsg.): Seminar: Deviant behavior I. The selective norms of society. Frankfurt am Main 1974.
  • Howard S. Becker : Outsiders. 1963. (German: outsider. On the sociology of deviant behavior . 1973).
  • Stephan Quensel: Social psychological aspects of criminology: action, situation, etc. Personality. Enke, Stuttgart 1964.
  • Jack P. Gibbs: Crime, Punishment an Deterrence. 1975.
  • John Braitwaite: Crime, Shame and Reintegration. Cambridge University Press 1989.
  • Susanne Krasmann : The crime of society. On the governmentality of the present. 2003.
  • Michel Foucault: History of Governmentality. 2 volumes. 2004.
  • David Garland: Culture of Control: Combating Crime and Social Order in the Present. 2008.

See also

Notes and individual references

  1. ^ Stefanie Eifler: Criminal sociology . Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002, ISBN 3-933127-62-9 , p. 5 ff.
  2. ^ Nicole Bögelein, Daniel Wolter, On the situation of criminal sociology in Germany. An empirical approximation. In: Criminological Journal . Volume 47, Issue 2, 2015, pp. 131–145, here pp. 132 f. ( Manuscript online )
  3. ^ Michael Bock: Criminal sociology in Germany. A résumé at the end of the century. In: Horst Dreier (ed.): Legal sociology at the end of the 20th century. Memorial symposium for Edgar Michael Wenz . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2000, pp. 115-136, here p. 117.
  4. Jürgen Oetting: Ferdinand Tönnies - a forgotten criminal sociologist. In: Tönnies forum . Vol. 27, No. 1, 2018, pp. 45–51.
  5. Ferdinand Tönnies: The crime as a social phenomenon. In: Archives for Social Legislation and Statistics. Vol. 8, 1895, p. 329 ff; also in: Ferdinand Tönnies: Sociological writings 1889–1905. Edited by Rolf Fechner. Profil-Verlag, Munich / Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-89019-640-4 , pp. 119-134.
  6. ^ Stefanie Eifler: Criminal sociology . Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002, p. 14 f.
  7. ^ Stefanie Eifler: Criminal sociology . Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002, p. 15 f.
  8. ^ Stefanie Eifler: Criminal sociology . Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002, p. 16 f.
  9. Quetelet 1833, quoted from Stefanie Eifler: Kriminalsoziologie . Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002, p. 17.
  10. René König : Theory and Practice in the Criminal Sociology. In: Ders: Materials on the sociology of crime . Edited by Aldo Legnaro and Fritz Sack (= René König Schriften. Volume 13). Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-8100-3306-5 , pp. 31–37, here p. 32; First published in: Fritz Sack, René König (Hrsg.): Kriminalsoziologie . Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main 1968, pp. IX – XV.
  11. ^ Stefanie Eifler: Criminal sociology . Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002, p. 18.
  12. ^ Stefanie Eifler: Criminal sociology . Transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002, p. 18 f.
  13. ^ Roland Chr. Hoffmann-Plesch: German IS Jihadists. Criminal etiological and crime preventive analysis of the radicalization process. Part 3: Criminal sociological aspects. In: Criminology. Volume 69, No. 2, 2015, pp. 74-80.
  14. ^ Albert K. Cohen: Criminal Youth. On the sociology of youth gangs. Reinbek 1961, p. 97.
  15. ^ Howard S. Becker: Outsiders. On the sociology of deviant behavior. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1981, p. 8.
  16. Michael Bock: Criminology. 4th edition. Munich 2013, p. 71.