From doldrums to progressing knowledge: Identifying stifling issues in criminological theory building and testing

Christopher Michael Campbell


In the explanation of crime, although each social science has a primary focus of theoretical development, there are a number of areas where disciplines unwittingly parallel one another. Such parallel development promotes unnecessary competition among theories and prevents them from progressing knowledge. Additionally, theorists often discard related concepts presented by other disciplines, if they considered at all, which is indicative of an imbalance in the disciplinary frame of reference (e.g., psychology over sociology). Such imbalance and lack of cross-referencing impedes the ability of theories to adequately explain and understand criminality. This paper revisits how the theorizing of crime may benefit from such cross-referencing through what we refer to as a reciprocating perspective. Drawing on interdisciplinary literature, we present a conceptual approach that can aid in strengthening theoretical development. Aiming to create an interdisciplinary bridge, we address key pitfalls in criminological theory development through four main elements: (1) concept formalization, (2) multi-level conceptualization, (3) causality, and (4) application. We also outline problems caused by such imbalance, and the progress made possible by the approach.

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International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782