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Criminology (1st edn)

Steve Case, Phil Johnson, David Manlow, Roger Smith, and Kate Williams
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date: 30 June 2022

p. 31412. Free will, classicism, and rational choice

The blame gamelocked

p. 31412. Free will, classicism, and rational choice

The blame gamelocked

  • Steve Case, Steve CaseProfessor of Criminology, University of Loughborough
  • Phil Johnson, Phil JohnsonCriminology Lecturer and Academic Subject Leader, University Centre at Blackburn College
  • David Manlow, David ManlowPrincipal Lecturer in Criminology
  • Roger SmithRoger SmithProfessor of Social Work, Durham University
  •  and Kate WilliamsKate WilliamsSenior Lecturer in Criminology, Aberystwyth University


This chapter explores the importance of free will and rational choice in the criminal justice system. It first explains the purpose of theory and how to interpret, test, and critically consider ideas in the context of criminological study before discussing classical theories which assert that people freely and rationally choose to offend and therefore can — and should — be punished or have their choices prevented (by, for example, reducing offending opportunities). It then considers the main theoretical schools in criminology including classicism, positivism, interpretivism, and critical criminology. It also looks at classical criminology and the key thinkers that shaped it, including John Locke and Jeremy Bentham, as well as the policies to which it gave rise. The chapter concludes with an analysis of neo-classical criminology, rational choice theory, routine activity theory, and situational crime prevention.

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