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The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history of its development as an independent profession



Criminology, as an independent academic pursuit, has maturated to the point where it is now interested in exploring its genealogy. Larger soio-political developments evidenced a pattern of influence in terms of promoting ideas and building the field’s infrastructure. The field’s growth from its early professionalization is documented here through an analysis of oral histories offered by seventeen influential scholars. Respondents explained their respective journeys to the field via three avenues: biographical, intellectual, and through the graduate school experience. Four scholars spoke to the emotive elements that attracted them to the field. The remainder sought answers to nagging questions on either empirical or theoretical matters. Lastly, the semi-structured interviews elicited accounts of their respective graduate school curricula and the role of mentoring. The essential lesson to be drawn from the collective experience is that the graduate school experience should include exposure to the broader liberal tradition and on the history of the field.
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral
history of its development as an independent profession
Brendan D. Dooley
Published online: 9 September 2016
#Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract Criminology, as an independent academic pursuit, has maturated to the point
where it is now interested in exploring its genealogy. Larger soio-political develop-
ments evidenced a pattern of influence in terms of promoting ideas and building the
fields infrastructure. The fields growth from its early professionalization is document-
ed here through an analysis of oral histories offered by seventeen influential scholars.
Respondents explained their respective journeys to the field via three avenues: bio-
graphical, intellectual, and through the graduate school experience. Four scholars spoke
to the emotive elements that attracted them to the field. The remainder sought answers
to nagging questions on either empirical or theoretical matters. Lastly, the semi-
structured interviews elicited accounts of their respective graduate school curricula
and the role of mentoring. The essential lesson to be drawn from the collective
experience is that the graduate school experience should include exposure to the
broader liberal tradition and on the history of the field.
as a formal academic pursuit was not the fruit of spontaneous generation.
Like any academic enterprise from time immemorial it was informed and supported by
earlier traditions. As the march of science progresses it is often valuable to periodically
revisit the context surrounding the birth of intellectual movements, especially those that
become formalized. The effort of preserving a collective memory helps to parry or
delay the effects of lapsing into Bsociological amnesia^[1] which professions are
inclined to. There are lessons to be learned with the evolution and promotion of salient
ideas. Therefore, the present effort works toward moving the understanding of the
origin of several of the fields landmark ideas. That task is accomplished through
Crime Law Soc Change (2016) 66:339357
DOI 10.1007/s10611-016-9630-x
For the sake of brevity, BCriminology^is used throughout as an omnibus term to account for the study of
theories of criminal behavior and the administration of justice (ie Criminal Justice).
*Brendan D. Dooley
Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, American University, Ward 270, 4400
Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA
documenting and analyzing the recollections of seventeen influential scholars through
an oral history approach. Briefly stated, what follows is the story of the beginnings of
the professional study of crime as told through in-depth accounts offered by a select
group of seasoned academics.
The debate sparked by Thomas Kuhns[2] thesis on the structure of scientific
revolutions proved seminal for the sociology of science agenda. Several of his specifics
in identifying the emergence of a paradigm have proven controversial, but in its broad
outlines it is a helpful heuristic in approaching the question of how a scientific
community, identity, and approach validates itself. Typically a group of interested
partiesthese can be either dedicated amateurs or trained professionalsaggregate
around a compelling question [3]. The question to which they collectively search for
answers does not neatly fall under the aegis of any existing intellectual jurisdiction. The
group begins the process of assiduously documenting the phenomena and postulating
theories as to why the events in question occur. Eventually, if the group manages to
attract an institutional sponsor of some repute it gains credibility, ensuring it a measure
of lasting presence [4]. For instance, criminology and criminal justice have the state [5]
to support much of its research (see [6]).
Out of this fertile and eclectic mix of motivated scholars the seeds of a science,
which often comes to fruition in the formation of a formal intellectual community, can
be seen. The annals of science are filled with examples of how larger communities
often germinate sub-specialties which then assume a unique identity: economics from
moral philosophy, psychology from physiology [7], organizational studies from soci-
ology, just to name three. On some occasions a disciplinary approach can inform a
school of thought within another field, as was seen with human ecology (read: social
disorganization) being derived from biology [8].
Criminological scholarship maintains a fidelity to scholarly interdisciplinarity. How-
ever, the thrust of the profession in the 20th Century American context was in the
direction of a sociological gestalt. Understanding the socio-political context which
propels crime is the legacy of a positivistic approach to crime and its control. The
departure of the field into its own intellectual sphere on campus has fed reservations on
the part of some [9] that this will leave the field stripped of an abiding framework
sufficient to supporting its science. Others welcome the open ended discourse, inviting
the opportunity to explore the subject matter uninhibited by the fetters imposed by
disciplinary orthodoxy. There are allegations that the split has been fed by practical
concerns, namely criminology is a popular undergraduate major [10]. Business minded
administrators of higher education find the major more appealing. The creation of
dozens of departments is often attributed to funds dedicated via the Law Enforcement
Assistance Administration and the scholarly foundation for the administration of justice
provided by the comprehensive report on the justice system entitled, The Challenge of
Crime in a Free Society [11]. This brings the matter of whether there are latent (or
manifest) tensions between scholarly and professional orientations into the discussion.
Regardless of the source of the separation of criminology from sociology into its
own intellectual sphere what is evident is that the field, by virtue of establishing more
graduate programs, is producing more degreed professionals [12]. Therefore, it has
been able to assume more sovereignty as time passes. As it has done so it is demon-
strating a growing capacity for introspection; becoming more alert to remarking upon
its evolution [13,14].
340 B.D. Dooley
Literature review
There exists a literature that has outlined the antecedents of modern criminology in a
variety of contexts. For the most part these works map the tributaries that have fed the
growth of mainstream criminology. These also include the chronicling of criminology
on the international scene. The field has been fortunate in terms of its being augmented
by a number of disciplines, in addition to perspectives emanating from numerous
countries such as Italy [15], Germany [16], France [17], the United Kingdom [18]
and beyondAustralia, Argentina, Japan, and Germany are all represented in [19].
More proximate to domestic criminology is John Laubs([20]; see also, [21]) overview
of American criminology during the last century as told through a review of the classic
contributions and nomenclature surrounding juvenile delinquency (eg from Bwayward
youth^to Bsuperpredators^). The framing of the problem both in the United States and
abroad has changed remarkably from era to era and between the varied intellectual
traditions informing the inquiry.
There has been a nascence of historical accounts of the field lately, of which there
have been three essential approaches. A bulk of this work has been conducted by a
single scholar, Nicole Rafter. She has examined the arguments of one tradition within
an historical time frame. Her accounts detail the peril and promise of biological
criminology through the careful documentation and analysis of the primary documents,
personalities, and context of the arguments supporting the perspective ([2224]; see
also, [16,25]). These publications typically focus on Lombroso and his contemporaries
and are set within the late 19th-early 20th centuries. A second popular strand has been
the Btaking stock^literature [26]. These contributions generally canvas the emergence
of a particular theoretical school as told through the accounts of their primary propo-
nents (eg Michael Gottfredson and control theory) and are more contemporary in terms
of their time frame. Thirdly, other works simply recount the development of particular
scholarsrespective careers as told in first person accounts [27,28].
In terms of personal accounts several have made contributions to our understanding
of the fields development through offering oral accounts of their own progression as
scholars: Albert Cohen [29], Meda Chesney-Lind [30], Travis Hirschi [31], Coramae
Richey Mann [32], Robert K. Merton [33], Jerome Skolnick [34], and Marvin
Wolfgang [35]. Others have made written accounts [3640]. These introspective
accounts offer insights into individual biographies and how they relate to the develop-
ment of specific careers. The limitation with these accounts, in terms of advancing the
current undertaking, is that each tends to be viewed in isolation of the others. The
application or development of a sociology of knowledge to these primary data are
necessary if we are to generate a more global understanding of the genesis of ideas that
helped a network of scholars establish the field.
What is necessary if we are to understand the omnibus development of the field is an
integrated understanding of how each contributed to an overarching meta-narrative
[41]. This contribution works toward this aim through soliciting responses to a
consistent set of questions posed to a sample of leading criminologists. The method-
ological approach applied is informed by earlier oral historical efforts within the field
(Oral History Criminology Project and beyond
(the Oral History Project housed at the University of Pennsylvania and UCLAs Center
for Oral History Research). The oral history methodology has been used to chronicle
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 341
broad historical narratives including first-hand accounts of those who witnessed the
unfolding of the Great Depression [42], World War II [43], and the Civil Rights
Movement [44].
Within the criminological arena this approach has been fruitfully applied to
documenting the development of our early understanding of criminal behavior [45],
criminal careers [46,47], and criminological careers [28]. Similarly, the approach is
well suited to gaining insights into the evolution of intellectual movements. The
thoughts contributed by a group of seasoned scholars hold the potential for recovering
lost or unpublished anecdotes and artifacts, as well as producing new leads in further
documenting the fields formative stages.
The present research employed a purposive (ie non-random) sample. This was done in
order to meet two criteria imposed by the research aim, locating contributors who
experienced the fields growth from its initial stirrings and, secondly, finding scholars
who have made lasting contributions to its independent intellectual development.
Twenty-five scholars were approached with an invitation to participate, of which
seventeen contributed (Table 1).
The sample averaged 1973 for a date of doctorate,
producing an average of approximately 35 years of experience prior to the interview.
Thirteen of the seventeen earned a doctorate in sociology, two in criminal justice, one
each in psychology and economics/public policy/sociology. In terms of current (or most
recent) department affiliation the group is more balanced; nine in criminology or
criminal justice and eight in sociology. This gives some indication of the fields
emergence from the discipline into its own field. Nine of the seventeen earned their
terminal degree from a state school, four from Ivy League institutions, two from the
University of Chicago, and two from programs abroad.
The sample includes experts from a diversity of intellectual traditions. Social
disorganization, anomie/strain, differential association/social learning, deterrence, con-
trol, critical/radical, developmental, methodology, policing, routine activities, and vic-
timology are all represented. These are scholars whose work has been widely and
repeatedly cited, demonstrating their esteem within the criminological community and
beyond. Ten of the seventeen interviewees rank among the top 33 scholars in a recent
ranking of their citations within the criminology and criminal justice research [48]. This
group has demonstrated a record of producing scholarship that is integral to the fields
accumulated understanding of crime and its control. Much of this early work helped
establish the academic reputation of the growing field and the themes that subsequent
scholars would explore. Published work by several sampled scholars also indicated
those who would make meaningful contributions to the understanding of state of
criminologys identity by virtue of their already having given the subject matter
The breakdown of the eight declines was as follows. Four dropped correspondence on either the mailed
invitation (1) or the email overture (3). Three declined via email responses, generally citing personal reasons.
One potential interviewee was approached on the authors behalf by a respondents and communicated a
demurral via that contact.
342 B.D. Dooley
Tab l e 1 Respondent Ph.D. Detail and Research Concentrations
Scholar Ph.D. Year Institution Department Notable Contributions
Freda Adler 1961 University of Pennsylvania Sociology Feminist criminology, international/comparative
Robert Agnew 1980 University of North Carolina Sociology General strain theory
Ronald L. Akers 1966 University of Kentucky Sociology Social learning theory
Robert J. Bursik Jr. 1980 University of Chicago Sociology Social disorganization
William Chambliss 1962 Indiana University Sociology Critical criminology, legality
Francis T. Cullen 1979 Columbia University Sociology and Education Strain/anomie theory, corrections, white-collar crime
Jack P. Gibbs 1957 University of Oregon Sociology Deterrence
John Hagan 1974 University of Alberta (Canada) Sociology International/comparative, critical criminology,
race, gender and crime
John H. Laub 1980 State University of New York-Albany Criminal Justice Life-course criminology, oral history
Janet Lauritsen 1989 University of Illinois Sociology Victimology, social disorganization
Steven F. Messner 1978 Princeton University Sociology Institutional anomie theory, homicide
Wayne Osgood 1977 University of Colorado Psychology Methodology, peer influence
Robert J. Sampson 1977 State University of New York-Albany Criminal Justice Social disorganization, life-course criminology
Joachim J. Savelsberg 1982 University of Trier (Germany) Economics/Public Policy/Sociology Sociology of criminology, legality
Lawrence W. Sherman 1976 Yale University Sociology Policing, Experimental criminology
James F. Short Jr. 1951 University of Chicago Sociology Social disorganization, gangs
Charles R. Tittle 1965 University of Texas Sociology Theory testing, Control-balance theory
As with the challenge of operationalizing variables, the attributions made here with categorizing scholars and their scholarship are open to debate. Taking just one of the scholars, John
Hagan, for example the inherent difficulty becomes undeniably apparent. A truncated list of his work includesrace, gender, conflict criminology, international applications of law,
imprisonment, white collar crime, labeling perspective, offender decision making street ethnography, among others. It is offered here that a defensible claim to the sample being
inclusive of the main thrust of criminological work is present
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 343
consideration (ie they have published work on the sociology of criminology) which
further justified their inclusion.
Prior to conducting the interview a copy of curriculum vitae was collected for each
of the participants. A reading of these documents, in addition to a substantive portion of
their overall scholarship, allowed for an informed interview to be conducted. Items
relevant to the interview contained therein include educational background, profession-
al experience, accolades and awards, and publication history. The interviews range
from 28 min to an hour and 52 min in duration, averaging approximately an hour and
15 min in length. Following the recording the author listened to and transcribed the
To minimize the potential for inadvertent admissions made in the context of the
interview to be miscommunicated when published each participant was offered an
opportunity to edit their transcript. Sixteen of the respondents were generally content
with what was committed during the audio recording. Most edits were minor, relating
to transcription errors and the proper spelling of scholars names whom have long since
passed. All of the alterations were accepted without question. This process provided the
ancillary benefit of allowing the sample to clarify and extend remarks that may have
been initially inchoate.
Additionally, the revised transcripts improved the ease of reading through the
removal of false starts and run-ons. Those segments hindering the effective communi-
cation of an idea (eg odd punctuation, misspellings or tangled diction) that managed to
somehow make it through the editing process have been Bsmoothened^out of the final
version (see [41]). What is reflected in the interview data is a product of the process of
interview, transcription, review, and edit. Corrections appearing in brackets have been
inserted by the present author in an effort to achieve greater readability.
Following a brief introduction to the project the semi-structured protocol begins with
questions pertaining to the training and early career of the interviewees. The questions
were open-ended, often followed by a few impromptu probes. The plasticity of the
format permitted the questions to be delivered within the natural progression of the
interview while respecting the unique aspects of the scholarswork.
There are four subject areas which guide the larger discussion from which the
present accounts have been extracted. These themes, rather than a formal list of
questions to be asked verbatim, shaped the interaction. The first domain inquires as
to the selection of crime as a focus of attention. Many recounted biographical accounts
as to their general inclination to explore the topic. The second topic relates to the
selection of the topic within their chosen academic tradition. Here it was inquired as to
how this related to their formal academic training. The third component queried what
types of literature and methodology, informed their initial thinking on the question of
criminality. Fourth, an account of what personal connections (eg mentorship and peer
associations) helped solidify their connection to the field initially was asked for.
The oral accounts
Three broad themes were derived from the interviews and are offered at greater length
below. The first references instances, events, or personal experiences that the members
of the sample encountered prior to their academic pursuit of criminology. These
344 B.D. Dooley
influences served as the element of agency which promoted the subsequent intellectual
pursuits in terms of a research agenda or an encompassing perspective. The second
theme, referenced by a majority of the scholars sampled, directed discussion toward a
more detached investigation into puzzles they found fascinating. These were equally
influential in shaping their respective agendas but spoken of at some remove from
biographical items. Thirdly, the graduate school milieu provided the context in which
both an academic understanding and approach were cultivated for many. Additionally,
this is where several had their interests succored by mentors.
Biographical references
When queried as to what, if anything, in their past prompted an interest in deviance and
criminality four respondents referenced some account informed by either personal
relationships, early life experiences or an effort toward achieving a measure of justice
through their professional efforts. Here we will explore each of the themes proffered in
The most direct relational tie with the subject can be seen with James F. Short Jr. In
New Berlin, Illinois James Sr. served as both a teacher and principal at the small local
high school at which the younger James was enrolled. There he taught a course on
sociology. BIt had nothing to whatsoever to do with sociology as Ive come to know but
it had to do with institutions with the care of indigent, insane, the deaf, the blind, things
like that.^Despite his minor quibble with his fathers interpretation of sociology he was
decidedly interested in the broader topic. This distinction is a theme he eventually
returned to early in his professional life where he insisted on drawing firm boundaries
between the generation of knowledge by sociology and its application on the part of
social work. This dispute between the dispassionate academic exercise and the growing
exhortation toward agitating for social change in the mid-60s was certainly relevant to
his University of Chicago experience where each of these respective disciplines were
Two others had encounters with those participating in deviant and criminal lifestyles
that provided fodder for additional consideration. While pursuing his undergraduate
degree in sociology at Rutgers University Robert Bursik was immersed in an uncon-
ventional lifestyle. BI spent 3 years in the circus, which meant I was living with
professional deviants and participating fully in that lifestyle.^His ease in this environ-
ment was parlayed into a senior thesis in which he was a participant-observer in the
nearby bowery. From there he ended up at the University of Chicago with the intention
of studying skid row life under the direction of Don Bogue. Through following a series
of opportunities he eventually worked from studying deviance toward exploring crime.
William Chambliss followed a similar trajectory from personal to academic, but one
that originated from a consideration of criminality.
I had become interested in criminology because when I was fifteen I was
hitchhiking across the country and I was working on a farm where there were
trustees from the prison in Walla Walla, Washington. All the people I met from
the prison were talking about what crimes they would commit when they got out
which piqued my interest in criminology. I always thought prisons were to
rehabilitate people and keep them from committing crimes when they got out
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 345
rather than creating relationships that enhance their ability to commit crimes
when they got out.
From there he went on to study at UCLA, taking a course from Donald Cressey, and
upon his recommendation to Indiana University to pursue a doctorate. The latter part of
the contribution above suggests an incipient critique that would mature into an agenda
in which he came to reject positivist claims in lieu of pursuing questions directed at
accounting for the origin of legal codes.
Lastly, Lawrence Sherman expressed an interest in suppressing police malfeasance
through instituting reforms. This, in contrast to the recollections offered in the preced-
ing, was in response to larger socio-cultural events which transpired at a bit of distance
from him personally.
The succinct answer is that I was drawn into criminology through an interest in
the police, and especially the conduct of the police during the 1960s civil rights
movement, the urban riots of the north, and the Democratic National Convention
of 1968. I had a reformist impulse as many Protestant ministerschildren do, as a
former St. Louis resident Dr. Gouldner documented in his book, The Coming
Crisis of Western Sociology. My idea was that I could make the world a better
place by trying to reduce police brutality.
The DNC riots were also a watershed moment for John Hagan. It was transformative
in terms of both the arc of his life and career, as well as his decision to conscientiously
resist the Vietnam War [49] through emigrating.
Intellectual pursuitson the development of ideas
A majority of the group accounted for their introduction to the field and the develop-
ment of their ideas as resulting from a more detached exploration of ideas. Seeking
answers to these questions eventually proved equal to sustaining prolonged investiga-
tion. There were essentially three orientations here. The first resulted from pragmatic
considerations, the second from an interest in exploring more abstract matters, and
lastly the two scholars who studied in international settings explained how their
thinking as it related to domestic criminology likely differed from their counterparts
in the United States by dint of its approach differing abroad.
There were two essential issues pointed out by a few scholars as practical exigencies
to be addressed when building their agendas. The first element required the use of a
crime indicator to leverage an answer to a question. Steven Messner, Robert Agnew,
and Charles Tittle all explained that they were drawn toward criminology when
employing a dependent variable of crime. The first two mentioned utilizing crime
indicators to build dissertations around, neither of whom had a criminologist on their
respective committees. Messner was interested in exploring questions pertaining to
inequality and social order. Similarly, Robert Agnew settled upon approaching a few
matters relevant to social psychology through an analysis of the National Longitudinal
Survey of Youth using similar indicators. From there each described a process of
subsequently cultivating an appreciation for criminology proper, becoming more
engrossed in the literature over time. Charles Tittle recollects having made a few early
346 B.D. Dooley
studies exploring the question of how prisons achieve social order and subsequently
being labeled by colleagues as a criminologist by virtue of sociology classifying its
researchers according to the outcome variables each addressed. A fourth scholar,
Wayne Osgood, cites a similar pattern of unforeseen circumstances that marked a path
to criminology despite the fact he admits, BIdidnt know beans about criminology
when I started.^Like Steven Messner, he emphasized that the skill set he developed in
graduate training was applied to a criminological question. The job market in psychol-
ogy having evaporated he brought his methodological acuity to bear with the National
Evaluation of Juvenile Diversion and then developed an appreciation for the field.
The second practical concern mentioned by an additional few others related to the
generation of data, which brings the question of funding in tow. Freda Adler recounts
that the first major funding dispensed by the National Institute of Justice was granted to
the Sellin-Wolfgang Center at the University of Pennsylvania to fund the now famous
birth cohort study. When asked to offer an account of where the theory and ideas that
helped structure the investigation came from she offered,
Well ideas came basically from Marvin and Thorsten Sellin. There was nothing. It
was a blank tablet. We said, BHow many people who get involved with crime
how long do they stay in crime? Who are they?^And we started to talk about it.
Thats how it started.
Later she draws the implications of this for the fields development.
Marvin was an empiricist and so was Thorsten. Both of them decided that we
were never going to have a scientific discipline unless we had strict scientific
discipline. I believe that in those days we saw the evolution of criminology from a
real immature interdisciplinary field to a bounded social science. We began to get
our own distinct subject area, a lexicon. That is the time when criminology
became a separate scientific discipline with a canon of scientific method, or
belief system. The whole thing fell into place but not until we began to do the
research and to build up to theory.
Initially lacking any a prioi assumptions or theoretical presuppositions the field
gathered data, then set itself the chore of connecting the conceptual dots. Adler would
follow the same recipe for success in applying the newly formulated opportunity theory
to intuitions she gained when interviewing female offenders for Sisters in Crime [50]
the timing of which coincided with the ascendancy of the womensrightsmovement.
William Chambliss accounts for this process of findings presaging theory occurring
via a personal anecdote. Unbeknownst to him a paper he drafted to satisfy the
requirements of a law school course he was taking that explained the use of vagrancy
laws in the 14th century as a ruse to generate labor invoked a critical perspective. The
work was later published in Social Forces.
About a year after the article was published I was at a meeting of the American
Sociological Association. Someone I met, whose name I dontevenremember,
said, BChambliss? Oh, youre the guy who writes those Marxist analyses of
vagrancy laws.^You could have knocked me over with a feather, because it
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 347
didnt occur to me that what I had done was a Marxist analysis at all. At that point
I had never read Marx. In our graduate education Marx, Communism, Stalinism
were all equated, as they were in the general culture. There was no reading of
Marx in the graduate school or undergraduate education that I had.
Of course a few of these efforts would have been practically impossible without the
assistance of funding. The Philadelphia birth cohort study highlighted earlier managed
to help support a handful of criminological notables through graduate schoolTerry
Thornberry, Bob Fillerman, Bob Ridell, Bob Figlio, and Freda Adler, among others in
the latters recollection. Robert Sampson recalled similar benefits from his days at
SUNY-Albany where dozens of students and faculty agendas were being promoted
with the inundation of grants to their department to support efforts such as the
compilation of the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics series. On an individual
level both Ronald Akers and Charles Tittle earned graduate support from major funding
sources; the former from the National Science Foundation and the latter from both the
Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the Danforth Foundation. These benefactors all
served to grant the expanding field a measure of credibility and, more critically,
resources from which to build a factual foundation to an ordered science.
Graduate school experiences
Sociology and criminology & criminal justice training
From the cataloging of these factual claims emerged the collective project to draw
conclusions by placing these observations into a coherent narrative. When accounting
for the origins of theory a few, most explicitly Messner, Sampson, and Tittle, expressed
a conviction that explaining the question of why crime happens can be meaningfully
posed only by contrasting it against a more idyllic notion of social order, a decidedly
sociological matter.
This rationale is most evident in the graduate work of Janet Lauritsen and
Francis Cullen. Each managed to approach the riddle of deviance and crime
through intertwining themes drawn from the sociological tradition with crimi-
nology. The cross-pollination helped germinate what was advancing from a
relatively ad hoc exploration toward one which was acquiring more of the
earmarks of a mature science.
Lauritsen worked from the outside in (ie criminology to her home discipline of
sociology) while Cullen worked in reverse order. Applying criminological concepts to
the question of out-of-wedlock births allowed for a test of the validity of these theories
to a traditional sociological interest. There is an inherent benefit here in that, Bone of the
advantages of being in a sociological program rather than a criminal justice program is
that you get to work with demographers who are struggling with the exact same
paradigm.^Francis Cullen migrated in the opposite direction, from within sociology
out to criminology. Having been intrigued by the polemics surrounding the issue of
bussing and race during his Boston youth he enrolled in the sociology of education
program, which is actually located in their Teachers College. During his earlier
graduate experience at the University of Rhode Island he was assigned a paper by
Richard Cloward. When signing up for classes at Columbia he enrolled in one of his
348 B.D. Dooley
courses simply on a whim to meet the famous scholar behind the article that piqued his
[H]is course did not actually deal with causes of crime but rather with the
social control of deviant behavior. It was really about state power, how
state power was used to regulate the behavior of deviant populations. We
read books like Regulating the Poor by Frances Fox Piven and Cloward
and The Manufacture of Madness by Thomas Szasz. But we didntread
anything on the causes of crime.
Cloward as well as a more pronounced exploration of labeling theory, which
already had an established presence in the educational literature with the
seminal works such as Pygmalion in the Classroom.
International scholars
Two scholars earned their doctorates from universities abroad, one in Canada (John
Hagan) the other in Germany (Joachim Savelsberg) and thus had more conceptual
ground to cover in connecting with American criminology. This presented unique
challenges but also incomparable opportunities for contributing to the development
of American criminology. The perspectives each groomed on the international scene
have proven to be beneficial in terms of pushing these two to be creative with making
their work relevant to a domestic audience.
Upon completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois John
Hagan elected to pursue graduate work under Gwynn Nettlersmentorshipat
the University of Alberta. Following his guidance, Hagan began working on a
series of studies detailing criminal justice processes with particular attention to
the adjudication of First Nations, Native Americans in American parlance. This
allowed him entrée into the literature on marginalized groups in the United
States when the work on international/comparative law gained popularity in the
1990s. Working within the English vernacular helped ease this transition but
this advantage was not immediately available to Savelsberg. Fortunately for him
at the time of his graduate studies at the University of Trier an edited
anthology of classic works of criminology, including contributions from Merton,
Cloward and Ohlin, Cohen among others was published in German. These
chapters, and the concluding remarks of the editor who offered a rejoinder
promoting a constructivist perspective were read with enthusiasm. His earlier
immersion in the Chicago School literature in approaching questions regarding
dispossessed minorities when coupled with the strident stance of the editor of
this volume served as a catalyst for an imaginative synthesis.
So, out of this Chicago-style urban sociology on the one hand and the concern
with deprivation out of the Merton school, and later developments, and then an
attachment of a constructivist perspectiveI tried to tie them together, not to play
them out against each other. I tried to tie them together to see how they interacted
with each other.
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 349
From there he made the move to the United States to take a post-doc at Johns
Hopkins to pursue an agenda relevant to questions of minority immigration and the
application of criminal justice.
University/departmental influences
In what is becoming more a vestige of a bygone era several scholars (Agnew, Cullen,
Messner, Osgood, and Savelsberg) mentioned never having enrolled in a formal course
in criminology or criminal justice. Janet Lauritsen spoke of the advantage of a
sociological view presented during her graduate career. Her primary mentor was
another member of the sample who had just taken a faculty position (Robert Sampson)
but when asked for a list of personal influences she offered,
There were other criminologists from whom I took classes at the University of
Illinois, but I did not work with them because they were leaving during the 1980s
to take positions at other universities. There were many criminologists and
sociologists who worked at Illinois while I was in graduate school, such as Mike
Gottfredson, Jim Kluegel, Marcus Felson, and Rita Simon.
In fact, Lauritsen identifies a research practicum taught by Gottfredson and Kluegel
in which the class collected and analyzed survey data on public attitudes on crime and
punishment as her impetus toward criminology.
In contrast to a department that cycled through a handful of renowned scholars with
criminological interests was the State University of New YorkAlbany which housed
an impressive roster of criminologists and criminal justicians in what became an early
flagship program in the field. Robert Sampson was part of a cohort of students the
program produced that went on to earn renown within the field. The Albany brand
emphasized a simultaneous focus on larger socio-theoretically informed ideas on social
patterns and empirical investigation. Several scholars were mentioned by name whose
work embodied this ethos: Michael Hindelang, Travis Hirschi, and Lawrence Sherman.
In short, there was an element of normal science (ie using empirical findings to drive
theory elaboration) informing the approach. Sampson described the departmental
It was very much, at least in the areas that I was specializing in, which was called
Bthe nature of crime,^at the time, was conceptual-theoretical. But the emphasis
was not on theory for theorys sake. It was theory about the empirical world.
What I mean by that is that there are at least two kinds of ways people think about
theory. TheressortoftheBtheory about theory^that only works at the conceptual
level. But I side more with the sort of theory James Coleman and others propose,
who argue that ultimately theory is really about how the world works. Thatshow
Albany operated. It was empirical but it was also an emphasis on theory and
ideas. Thats how I perceived it anyway.
Despite its sociology department being identified as the cradle of one of the
elementary theories of conventional criminology (social disorganization) Robert Bursik
described the University of Chicagos approach to imparting criminology as being
350 B.D. Dooley
somewhat haphazard. The issue was that the scholars who dedicated an effort to
exploring crime and justice were dispersed in a number of disparate departments across
Irv Spergel was in social work. Zimring was in the law school. Peggy Rosenheim
was in social work. Gary Schwartz was one of Wolfgangs students but he was
much more of a phenomenologist/ethnomethodologist. He just got way out there
in terms of deviance. It was cool as shit but it just left me in the dust. So those of
us who were doing criminology at the time I was at Chicago had come in the back
door at it. We picked up what we could in other departments, created our own
courses; mine the criminology of folks who didnt consider themselves criminol-
ogists like Suttles. Hes a superb criminologist, but he doesnt think of himself as
one. Janowitz [was a] superb criminologist; didnt think of himself as one.
Coleman wasnt bad. But we were pretty much on our own.
This is not to deny that Chicago was producing top-flight criminology or criminol-
ogists. It merely suggests that the subject matter did not assume the same primacy as it
did several decades earlier when James Short recalled connecting with the Chicago
Area Project that housed faculty such as Clifford Shaw, Henry McKay, Solomon
Kobrin, and graduate students with criminological interests like Harold Finestone and
Andy Wallace, with whom he later co-authored a work on homicide and suicide with.
Columbia University was another location that produced highly respected sociolog-
ical criminology. Both Steven Messner and Francis Cullen spent time in their depart-
ment. In fact, the former was on the latters committee when he was wrapping up a
dissertation under Richard Clowards direction. One item highlighted by Messner was
that the department had, by contemporary standards, a wide breadth of thought
included in its curricula.
Although there was also a heavy emphasis on social thought more generally and
being familiar with classics in social thought. Well, of course like Marx and
Weber. Theyd be the sociologists. But also like Karl Polanyi. Even some of the
enlightenment thinkers: John Stuart Mill, Condorcet, Hume. That sort of back-
ground was something that was encouraged at the time. Debates at the time about
Grand Theory versus more middle range theory, those were very animating
debates. So thats what you learned with the classical sociological theorists and
the contemporary ones. Then there was the standard methodology. This was the
time when quantitative methodology was really beginning to catch on.
Cullen affirmed that there was a prevailing belief that if a Columbia degree
conferred expertise in theory and methods students would be primed for success. Much
like Chicago, Columbia sociology did not promote criminology through developing a
schedule of courses dedicated exclusively to the subject. Rather, scholars like Robert
Merton and Peter Blau more or less taught their work. Students who found a way to
make their interests dovetail with a mentors were encouraged to pursue a research
question at that point.
The second pillar of the graduate school experience is accessing informal paths to
the acquisition of knowledge. Being mentored is vital to acquiring the intangible
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 351
elements to the crafting of scholarship; it is a process akin to an apprenticeship. Jack
Gibbs, who cited Austin Porterfield whom he met as an undergraduate at Texas
Christian University, and Walter Martin, his dissertation advisor, as pivotal figures in
his journey to criminology, offered that it Btakes someone to sharpen your interests.^In
contrast to this observation several respondent differed in their experience. Notably,
both Steven Messner and Robert Agnew wrote dissertations that lacked for a crimi-
nologist serving as a chair. These accounts illustrate that success can be achieved
outside of being embedded in a social network, provided that the research produced
is relevant to the larger proceedings of the academic enterprise.
The array of reflections of the sample included at least two who had a roster of
mentors. Janet Lauritsens experiences in graduate school have been outlined above.
Prior to linking up Sampsonand John Laub who entered the scene with the Glueck
project in the last stages of her graduate stintshe benefitted from courses taught by a
few notable scholars. Wayne Osgood explains a process of acculturation guided by his
interactions with a list of criminologists including Delbert Elliott, Martin Gold, Michael
Gottfredson, David Rowe, and Travis Hirschi. Much of this was facilitated through his
being hired onto Delbert Elliotts project and then assuming responsibilities for pub-
lishing findings. These connections happened after his completion of a degree in social
Sometimes mentor-mentee relationships can be convoluted. Charles Tittlesconnec-
tion with Jack Gibbs fits this description. Early in Gibbscareer he made efforts to
establish control as sociologys central notion before embarking on a series of studies
that reestablished the deterrence doctrine in the wake of the labeling theorysdomi-
nance. Expressing distaste for Parsonian sociology, the prevailing paradigm during his
graduate school experience, he began framing his early analysis of the maintenance of
prison order around control themes, as opposed to functionalist ones. In fact, they were
both working simultaneously on studies informed by deterrence theory which began a
renascence in the dormant doctrine. Nevertheless, there were genuine disagreements on
a few vital points.
Many times Ive noted that that a lot of my early career was guided by a shadow
fight that I was having with Jack Gibbs. He never knew it but many of his
thoughts and ideas I found fundamentally wrong, or misleading, or whatever.
Much of what I did was to try to show why they were wrong, develop a better
way, and so on and so forth. That process still goes on.
The points of contact or irritation have often proven fruitful for the development of
the arguments of both mentor and mentee, and the field writ large [See [51]regarding
the Hirsch (self-control) and Sampson/Laub (life-course) debate].
Francis Cullen describes his primary mentor less as a beloved foil and in more
avuncular tones. The lack of a regimented criminology curriculum at Columbia
afforded him a singular opportunity to be mentored by Cloward, who was actually
located in the school of social work. Shortly after arriving at Columbia he informed
Cullen that Lloyd Ohlin, with whom he had co- authored the classic Delinquency and
Opportunity, had departed to Washington DC to work on the Mobilizing for Youth
project. This, coupled with his appointment in social work, left him without access to a
scholar to promote his extension of the Mertonian framework. Cullen, following an
352 B.D. Dooley
aleatory opportunity, filled the void. The additional benefit of a piecemeal criminolog-
ical curricula was that there was little issue with Cullen pursuing a dissertation with a
chairman from the social work department. Furthermore the lack of a cohort of students
pursuing criminal justice related topics meant a ripe opportunity to establish a personal
connection with Cloward without having to compete with other graduate school
colleagues for his time. Following his account of how scholars at Columbia viewed
their advisory roles through the prism of their research as alluded to in the preceding he
summarizes his mentorship thus.
The second important thing was that I received a great amount of one-on-one
training from Cloward. In the School of Social Work, he did not have students
interested in his earlier work on delinquency. I shared this interest and, again, was
happy to devote my graduate career to exploring his ideas further. As a result, he
spent a great deal of time with me aloneespecially in his apartment in New
York and even a couple of times at his house a couple of hours north of New York
Discussion and conclusions
The respondents have identified a few key items that are instrumental in accounting for
the development of the field. A minority reference some personal experience or event
that instigated a reaction or sense of purpose guiding their quest to understand crime
and criminality. This is the emotive component that has been cited as having inspired
many of the early Chicago Schoolers, and Jane Addams [52], to establish sociologically
informed reforms. The majority were more captivated by the challenge of unraveling
the knotty issue of deviance and crime. Several became de facto criminologists as a
result of utilizing crime as an outcome variable when approaching the question of social
order. Others were similarly motivated to document the basic fact pattern of the
problem. From this initial foray theory began to emerge. The graduate school experi-
ence was also essential for first fostering then bolstering these interests for any number
of reasons. The funding, learning and applying disciplinary theory and methods to an
issue of growing importance, and the mentorship process all played vital roles in
augmenting these interests. The confluence of these three ingredients (biography,
intellectual warrant, and the graduate school milieu) managed to produce a generation
of scholars who were trained as sociologists and now currently identify in some
capacity as criminologists.
So what is to be learned from their collective experience? How the field organizes
itself professionally has an impact on its development. Lacking for a clearly defined
curriculum did not seem to inhibit the imagination or interest of the respondents. In fact
a more expansive orientation has augured well for several. Janet Lauritsen reflects on
her graduate experience in cautioning the field against becoming too insular.
I think of myself as a generalist because in the sociology department, the courses
were very broad based. I feel a bit sorry for graduate students now who have to
read hundreds of articles in specialized journals; it is not as easy to develop a
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 353
bigger picture of the phenomenon these days. There are not enough generalists in
my opinion. So I really appreciate that about the training I received. In the
sociology program, we had to take a lot of courses, but I took only two
criminology courses in college.
One way in which this interdisciplinarity can be kept alive is for the fieldsdoctoral
programs to insist on hiring talent from an array of disciplines. John Laub draws out the
implications of a scenario in which the field hires its personnel only from within.
But there is a phenomena that I think is worth thinking about. Who trained me?
Travis Hirschi, sociologist; Leslie Wilkins, operation researcher; Rita Warren,
psychologist; Fred Cohen, attorney; Mike Hindelang had a doctorate in crimi-
nology from Berkeley. John Laub Ph.D. in criminal justice. Think of Elaine
Eggleston one of my first students at the University of Maryland. Who was she
trained by? John Laub, Ph.D. in criminal justice; Ray Paternoster, Ph.D. in
criminology. You see where this is going. What happens to Elaine? Who does
she train? And how does that change the intellectual content of what we do?
The funneling process carries greater potential for producing a narrow imag-
ination, or a self-referential perspective. An unhealthy imbalance may eventuate
in a static rather a dynamic science. This is something that the field will be
granting greater consideration to as more programs are created. Consciously
hiring externally will be difficult, given that this will require a healthy measure
of resolve to deny a natural temptation for criminology and criminal justice
programs toward hiring new faculty from departments that specialize. Addition-
ally, there is reluctance on the part of sociology programs to hire the fields
graduates [5]. To address this dilemma the field should be working toward
inserting itself into other disciplines and applying its talents in the private
market, on the applied end of the spectrum. In order to facilitate this, a
generalist orientation paired with expertise and methodology informed by crim-
inology will serve meet both needs.
Toward that end, the field might emphasize two components when designing
curricula. The first, as Messner pointed out, is that reading lists can capture a truly
liberal approach to the question of crime by including selections drawn from an array of
traditions. An appreciation for innumerable nuances impinging on human behavior is
of paramount importance. The field is not the first or only tradition to confront the age
old question of non-conformity to law. Understanding where the fieldsuniqueexper-
tise on the matter fits in the intellectual firmament by consciously connecting it to these
others (sociology, philosophy, economics, biology, psychology, law, etc.) can only
serve to augment the proliferation of ideas. It bears emphasizing that there is nothing
to deny the merit of criminology departments of including more expansive reading lists
into its curricula.
The second element it should embed in its curricula is an appreciation for the history
of the field. A more pronounced sociology of criminology will help to advance this.
Understanding the origins and development of a line of theorization from its inception
to its current state helps to enlighten students on how ideas are framed and, more
importantly, where they met with impediments. John Laub draws attention to how this
354 B.D. Dooley
loss of historical perspective is likely being fed by advances in technology, how it is
adversely affecting graduate training, and efforts to overcome this tendency.
Theres a lot of talk now among scientists about the consequences when one
begins to rely on research sources largely through automated databases. You end
up with a shorter time horizon. The more immediate stuff gets the most attention
and you dont go further back. One of the reasons I wanted to interview Travis
Hirschi for The Craft of Criminology, along with just wanting to interview him,
was because I was experiencing the case where students were talking a lot more
about the general theory of crime than about Causes. I thought that was not a
good thing, for Hirschi or the field.
Like Bursik [13] warns, it helps to avoid repeating forgotten ideas and duplicating
old mistakes with newer data and statistical methodology. Furthermore, it would help
the field to embrace the idea that research Bfailures^, as seen in so-called null findings
and locating the limits of the fields theory and methods, are actually conveying a
message [53,54, and Dooley 2015, forthcoming].
Study limitations and future research
An explicit account of the studys more telling limitations should promote an under-
standing of both what the study is not stating as well as point toward further research.
First, the sample is non-random. Polling those who were winnowed from the field,
dedicating careers exclusively to teaching, or not publishing would produce meaningful
results that may reaffirm or undermine the contentions raised above. Therefore the
results cannot be generalized without a firm caveat.
The changes in the overall access to the pursuit of terminal degrees to a
wider demographic are a welcome but recent development for not only society
at large but the field in particular. As a result, the sample demonstrates a bias
against women and minorities. Because there is no younger cohort with which
to contrast these groups responses changes in the field post-millennium must
be inferred. Soliciting responses from recent cohorts would undoubtedly reveal
alternative cohort effects reflecting these demographic, professional, and socio-
historical shifts. The larger message of contemplating the present state through
outlining the immediate past maintains though, given that the progress of
todays scholarship is a product of the inertia granted by the push of earlier
generations of scholars. Another underdeveloped element here is on how the
empiricallydrivencriminaljusticeinforms the theory of criminology.
Finally, the study opted for a focus on depicting of the evolution of
mainstream criminology. What are lacking are the contrasting opinions of those
working on the periphery of the field and those who are working exclusively
within the domain of criminal justice. These groups of potential contributors are
likely to regard the trends of the field in differential terms. The strength of the
sampling frame is that it is inclusive of a few of the major contributors within
the primary theoretical traditions of the field that permits a focused conversa-
tion on the state of criminology as it has emerged from sociology and sundry
disciplines. The tradeoff is that this involved some collateral discounting the
The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 355
perspectives of new and emergent contributions of those having entered the
field at a later point in its development which further research might seek to
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The emergence of contemporary criminology: an oral history 357
... Efforts by other scholars, such as Dooley (2016), have resulted in the collection of content from two of the four Triple Crown winners in the current manuscript (Dr. Freda Adler and Dr. Francis T. Cullen). ...
... On a related note, Dr. Francis T. Cullen was interviewed in an ACJS sponsored video entitled Editorial Excellence and explained his role as the former editor of Justice Quarterly in contributing to the organization's prestige (ACJS Journal Documentary, 2020). While the oral history methodology has been utilized to document a variety of insights, particularly pertaining to criminology and sociology (Dooley, 2016(Dooley, , 2019(Dooley, , 2021, the current manuscript differs from previous work in that the central theme explored is pertaining to the role of professional collaboration broadly across different aspects of one's career. This effort is a valuable and worthwhile endeavor as preserving the accounts of prominent scholars and leaders within the field is valuable in understanding the past and the future through the lens of those who experienced it. ...
Preserving and documenting the contributions of leading scholarship within criminology and criminal justice is essential to understanding the history of the field and serves to reaffirm high scholarly standards among the next generation of scholars. The current study, drawing from a leading professional organization within the field, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), engages an oral history documentation of the recipients of the three most prestigious ACJS accolades. These awards are bestowed to respected, well-known scholars, although only six total in the history of the organization have been awarded all three, two have since passed away. We conducted in-depth interviews utilizing a semi-structured questionnaire with the four remaining Triple Crown winners. The importance of collaboration with other scholars is a key theme highlighted throughout, including in the capacity of official and unofficial mentors, external funding, publications, and professional organizations, to name a few.
... The present effort is the most recent contribution to a suite of analyses mapping the intellectual terrain that the field is nestled in (Dooley, 2011). Oral histories contributed by the selfsame sample introduced immediately below provided content for reflection on the origins of the field's journey to independent professional status (Dooley, 2016). A lengthier analysis of CCJ's sometimes contentious separation from the formal oversight of sociology has also drawn from the same collection of oral histories (Dooley, 2019). ...
... As an emergent field (Dooley, 2016) criminology has worked to erect a set of boundaries around its enterprise. In contrast to its parent discipline, sociology, it is built around the exploration of a question. ...
Full-text available
Criminology as an independent profession established itself just over a half century ago. An analysis of oral histories collected with seventeen leading scholars in criminology reveal how the profession has worked to establish institutional legitimacy over that time. Extending a thesis of boundary drawing (Gieryn, 1999) the present effort first briefly traces the field’s emancipation from its former intellectual home in sociology. Second, third, and fourth criminology has established a border with economics, public health, and biology while permitting “home disciplines” to continue to inform its formation. Fifth and sixth,it has distinguished itself internally from both Justice Studies and Law and Society. The field has worked to establish separation through crafting an interdisciplinary framing of its approach to the subject of crime that is influenced by but not dependent upon its more established peers. Criminology has made unique contributions to the development of methods and policy. While the emergent field has established a measure of separation from more established academic enterprises, several respondents expressed a lack of paradigmatic markers of theoretical and methodological consensus that carry potential professional costs if left unaddressed. Lessons can be drawn from the frustrations and promise of establishing multidisciplinary, policy-centric fields.
... Historical criminology, broadly, has included efforts to wrestle with the difficulty of making sense of the past (Bosworth, 2001) and assess the genealogy of the field, including the biographical, intellectual, and professional reflections of senior scholars (Dooley, 2016). In addition, historical endeavors have explored the potential for criminologists to develop a shared understanding of how criminal justice policies vary, but often stay the same over time (Lawrence, 2019). ...
While efforts to restrict the use of cannabis are more than a century old, policy liberalization is more recent. History suggests that the growing tolerance for cannabis will continue to be met with opposition. Cannabis policy has been trapped in a recurrent rotation from acceptance and increased use to hostility and expansive efforts to control those who consume it. This paper considers how historical criminology can uncover criminological artifacts to conceive, frame, and clarify cannabis criminalization, decriminalization, and liberalization. As a subject, cannabis was shaped by forces that had little to do with the plant itself, which led it to be socially constructed as evil, dangerous, or otherwise risky. We consider the history of cannabis through the lenses of race, addiction, and research and explore reports from five different countries on cannabis and criminal justice policy.
... The first suggestion is to encourage journal editors to continue arranging special topic debates on occasion. As a profession, criminology is committed to encouraging participation from a wide assortment of intellectual traditions and methodology (Dooley, 2016b). The two-fold advantage is that disciplinary influences will continue to generate points of debate and promote innovation. ...
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participated showcases the benefits of intellectual debate. Over the last half-century, the field’s understanding of crime and its control has experienced genuine gains through a vigorous exchange of conjectures and refutations. It stands to benefit from more of these. However, there is a tension between professional and scientific concerns that limits the expansion of this process. The insistence on open ended inquiry in advancing professional ends dulls the interest and opportunity for debating first principles. As a result, the field is populated by numerous unresolved theoretical disputes. In attempting to settle the dilemma posed by competing interests, a compromise that works to satisfy the concerns of both science and the profession is offered. Crafting an appreciatio
Recent years have seen increasing interest in, and scholarly discussion of, historical criminology. Yet there remains at present no clear, settled view as to what historical criminology entails, how it is best pursued, and what its future might hold. This article explores the several conceptions of historical criminology found in the present literature, which associate it variously with archival research, practical inquiry, a concern with temporality, and a certain approach to interdisciplinary scholarship. Adopting the view that historical criminology entails a special regard for historical time, the review goes on to assess its significance to the wider field, examining its connection with some of the core impulses of criminology at large. Finally, it suggests some major opportunities for historical criminology to contribute to the future development of criminology, including through an inclusive global criminology, a criminology of events, and research on crime and justice futures. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Criminology, Volume 6 is January 2023. Please see for revised estimates.
Academic disciplines are defined not primarily by their object but by their (theoretical and methodological) approach to that object, and by their claim to a monopoly over it. Even where that monopoly claim has been highly successful, it remains contestable. For example, economics, perhaps in this respect the most successful social science, finds its object – the economy – contested by political economists and economic sociologists. Whereas economics has successfully marginalized potential competitors, sociology has remained a broad church. Attempts to impose theoretical and methodological order on the discipline have met with resistance, and eventually failed. Moreover, sociology has never really reached consensus on what its object is; ‘society’, ‘social facts’, ‘social action’ were the classical options, with the list growing over time (social networks, rational action, actor networks, etc.). Thus, while we can speak of ‘heterodox economics’ there is insufficient orthodoxy to speak of ‘heterodox sociology’. This has an obverse side. Precisely because of the weakness of its monopolistic claims, sociology has been very productive in spawning new disciplinary fields, which, rather than remaining within sociology’s weak gravitational pull, successfully establish themselves as separate disciplines or ‘studies’. Criminology, industrial relations, urban studies and organization studies are the most obvious examples. In light of this, this article addresses two questions: (1) What happens to these new fields when they break free of the parent discipline, and to the parent discipline when they do? (2) If one effect on the ‘offspring’ is a loss of disciplinary orientation (as the rationale for this special issue suggests) what, if anything, has contemporary sociology to offer OS as a potential source of reorientation?
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Several influential sociologists have questioned the wisdom of criminology's departure from sociology. Omitted from these reflections are the rationale explaining the schism. The present work grants a historical account to fill that absence. Oral histories with 17 leading criminologists, 13 of whom trained as sociologists, have been collected and analyzed. Two domains are explored, professional/organizational and informal/intellectual. First, the departments evidence different hiring patterns, journal content preferences, and journal structures over the past half‐century. Second, there are contrasts regarding ideology; sociology trends leftward. Criminological research concentrates on a dependent variable; sociology links to a unifying orientation. There are concerns that the field's training and research may be too narrow and that the lure of influencing policy could undermine its opportunity to offer critical commentary. Criminology's focus on addressing crime as a practical concern serves some advantages. However, many respondents were conflicted over the loss of an abiding identity. If the field fails to confront its preference for multitheoretical, policy‐driven discussion, it risks being pruned or subsumed without a more fixed sense of identity.
This chapter presents various historical aspects of a sociological career. Education was a practical, as opposed to a scholarly, matter, however, and the high school course in sociology that first piqued James' curiosity was a blend of social problems, social welfare, and education. The greatest influence on James' was W. Alvin Pitcher, who in 1946–1947 recognized and took under his wing a very confused young man just returned from the service. Pitcher helped James to cope with a variety of problems that at the time were bothering him—religious and philosophical questions, and emotional, moral, and ethical problems. He met Clifford Shaw during the first of several evening courses that he took from him at the downtown center of the university. He was impressed when Shaw gave him an opportunity to work for the Chicago Area project and the Illinois Institute for Juvenile Research. James found research and teaching hard work, but exciting, so long as they were directed to problems that are believed to be important.
What is the relationship between criminality and biology? Nineteenth-century phrenologists insisted that criminality was innate, a trait inherent in the offender's brain matter. While they were eventually repudiated as pseudo-scientists and self-deluded charlatans, today the pendulum has swung back. Both criminologists and biologists have begun to speak of a tantalizing but disturbing possibility: that criminality may be inherited as a set of genetic deficits that place one at risk for theft, violence, and sexual deviance. If that is so, we may soon confront proposals for genetically modifying "at risk" fetuses or doctoring up criminals so their brains operate like those of law-abiding citizens. In The Criminal Brain, well-known criminologist Nicole Rafter traces the sometimes violent history of these criminological theories and provides an introduction to current biological theories of crime, or biocriminology, with predictions of how these theories are likely to develop in the future. What do these new theories assert? Are they as dangerous as their forerunners, which the Nazis and other eugenicists used to sterilize, incarcerate, and even execute thousands of supposed "born" criminals? How can we prepare for a future in which leaders may propose crime-control programs based on biology? Enhanced with fascinating illustrations and written in lively prose, The Criminal Brain examines these issues in light of the history of ideas about the criminal brain. By tracing the birth and growth of enduring ideas in criminology, as well as by recognizing historical patterns in the interplay of politics and science, she offers ways to evaluate new theories of the criminal brain that may radically reshape ideas about the causes of criminal behavior.