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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: 02 June 2023

p. 2049. Control Theorieslocked

p. 2049. Control Theorieslocked

  • 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 explores control theories of the sociology of deviance, crime, and delinquency. It first considers two types of control theories: social control theories, which originate from the work of Émile Durkheim and the concept of social bond, and situational control theories, which stem from Jeremy Bentham’s conception of offending and focus on variations in opportunities to commit crime and on the defensibility of targets. After discussing the place of control theories in sociological theorizing on deviance and control, the chapter examines its role in criminology, citing the work of scholars such as Travis Hirschi, David Matza, and Ron Clarke. It also describes the ‘routine activity theory’ of L. Cohen and M. Felson before concluding with a review of criticisms against control theories

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