What (if anything) motivates an individual to commit acts of crime? Why is crime concentrated in a small number of communities? Why do some societies have high rates of crime and violence while others do not? What can the government do (if anything) to prevent and control crime? These questions have challenged and bedeviled social thinkers for centuries. Indeed, such big questions have no easy answers.

This course seeks to engage students in a thoughtful, in-depth examination of the idea of crime. In this course, we will explore fundamental debates about the definition of crime, its nature, its explanation, and its control. Emphasis is placed on original readings and a critical appraisal of the major theoretical paradigms. We will begin with controversies over the definition of crime and deviance. We then examine the nature of crime, including crime trends and patterns. Then we turn to different theories of crime and explore the underlying assumptions regarding human nature in the competing explanations and paradigms. For example, one major divide concerns theories that explain individual differences in crime rates versus those that explain societal or community-level differences. We will also explore the implications of criminological theory for understanding approaches to the prevention and control of crime.

Assignments include:

• Grades will be based on class participation, two reaction papers, a midterm examination, and a final paper.

Readings include:

Joseph E Jacoby (editor) Classics of Criminology (3rd Edition)

Gary LaFree, Losing Legitimacy: Street Crime and the Decline of Social Institutions in America

Jack Katz, Seductions of Crime: Moral and Sensual Attractions of Doing Evil

Fox Butterfield, All God’s Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence