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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: 28 January 2022

p. 212. Sources of Knowledge about Crime and Deviancelocked

p. 212. Sources of Knowledge about Crime and Deviancelocked

  • 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

Abstract

This chapter examines various sources of knowledge on the sociology of crime, deviance, and control, noting the lack of a straightforward route to the collection of information available. It argues that information is difficult to obtain due to the tendency of subjects to protect, conceal, or misrepresent. As a result, sociologists of deviance have to content themselves imperfect data. The materials upon which theories are fabricated are characterised by limitations, constraints, and distortions. In addition to the covert nature of deviance, deviants themselves rarely engage in collective efforts to interpret their own behaviour. Due to secret practices and restricted information, rule-breaking is represented to inquisitive outsiders as something else, most research is limited and parochial, and the field of criminology is littered with uncertainties. This chapter also examines a number of methods used by criminologists to dispel those uncertainties. Finally, it discusses the development of criminological theory.

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