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Understanding DevianceA Guide to the Sociology of Crime and Rule-Breaking

Understanding Deviance: A Guide to the Sociology of Crime and Rule-Breaking (7th edn)

David Downes, Paul Rock, and Eugene McLaughlin
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date: 29 January 2023

p. 23810. Radical Criminologylocked

p. 23810. Radical Criminologylocked

  • David Downes, David DownesEmeritus Professor, London School of Economics
  • Paul RockPaul RockEmeritus Professor, London School of Economics
  •  and Eugene McLaughlinEugene McLaughlinProfessor of Criminology, City University


This chapter focuses on radical criminology as opposed to criminology, with emphasis on the attempts of its proponents to break with the perceived limitations of the sociology of deviance. It first traces the roots of radical criminology to Karl Marx’s theories of capitalism and class conflict, its genesis as the ‘new criminology’, later termed ‘left idealism’, and then became the more social democratic ‘left realism’. The study of relative deprivation was critical in this respect. It examines the work of the Birmingham Centre of Contemporary Cultural Studies together with the development of radical criminology in America It also analyses The New Criminology (1973) by Young, Taylor, and Walton, which presents Marxism as their own model for a fully social theory. The chapter concludes with a review of criticisms against radical criminology as well as consideration of the latest research on the crimes of the powerful, elite deviance, and institutional corruption.

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