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Cover The Oxford Textbook on Criminology

17. Sociological positivism  

This chapter examines sociological positivism, studying how society or social processes might affect behaviour. Decisions by governments and companies and sociological issues (such as poverty) affect individuals but may also affect whole communities; they may influence the likelihood of many people to choose to offend or be law-abiding. Therefore, the health of the economy or the rate of unemployment, for example, may influence the behaviour of an entire population not just one individual and so may lead to a rise or fall in criminal behaviour. If we can identify which factors in society influence crime, and how they do so, it may be possible to alter those social factors and so decrease criminal behaviour. The chapter looks at three types of sociological theory: social interaction or social process theories, social structural theories, and social conflict theories.