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Part 2 The Causes of Crime 58 Part 2 The Causes of Crime Part 2 By the mid to late 1960s, some non-Marxist criminologists had virtually stopped looking for causes of crime and had turned instead to studying social responses to it. They did so not merely to correct an imbalance, to study the police and the courts because so much less was known about them than about thieves, addicts, and prostitutes. Rather, the shift represented fundamental theoretical commitments . Austin Turk (1964) assured us that the search for causes of crime was futile: what distinguished criminals from noncriminals was not their personal attributes but their lack ofpolitical power, which left them vulnerable to law enforcement agencies. The British criminologist Dennis Chapman (1968) similarly suggested that traditional criminological work, which was based on the assumption that there were class differences between criminals and noncriminals, reflected stereotypes created by class differences in immunity from law enforcement. Further, deviance theorists argued that crime had no systematic social causes but was largely a consequence of labeling an individual or group as deviant. David Matza (1964) maintained that there was no persuasive evidence that delinquents, for instance, were more likely to come from one part of the social structure than another, and he therefore criticized traditional criminological conceptions of causality. Of course, one could have accepted the claim that criminality is widely distributed in the class structure (with heavy upper-class involvement in white-collar crime) and still tried to establish causal explanations of criminality. One could do this by looking for causes unrelated to class (e.g., in biology), for an explanation of class differences in kinds of crime committed, or by considering the effect of social systems in their entirety on patterns of crime. This latter approach, which suggests comparisons between societies rather than between classes within a given society, even had some precedent in Durkheim's study of suicide. But this was not the direction that criminology took. Instead, the notion of causality itself was thrown into question. The British psychologist R. D. Laing and his associates exercised great influence over radical sociologists in the 1960s. They pointed out that human action could be explained in two quite different ways. One way looked at behavior physiologically, in terms of movements of muscle and bone, amino acids, and so on. Such a treatment conceives ofthe human body as a set of chemical and mechanical processes. The other way looked at behavior as purposeful. From this point ofview, an action, say walking, is explained not as a set ofmuscle contractions and bone movements but as The Causes of Crime 59 a way of executing some purpose. Thus,. if someone asks me why I am walking into my kitchen, I say that I am hungry and want to get something to eat. This second point ofview is more recognizably human than the first, since people have purposes and mechanical objects do not. Although these two modes of explanation are not necessarily incompatible , they were often treated as such. Under the influence not only of Laing but also of European phenomenologists, many sociologists argued for research to discover the meaning ofaction to the actors as a substitute for older positivistic styles of research, which tended to ignore those meanings in the search for objective antecedents of criminality. The early radical criminologists found this repudiation of traditional causal analysis quite appealing (Quinney, 1970; AFSC Working Party, 1971; Taylor, Walton, and Young, 1973). Much of the eXlisting literature on the causes of crime was patently insulting to criminals and often seemed to embody politically conseIVative assumptions. For example, some researchers suggested that the black ghetto uprisings of the 1960s were caused by brain pathologies among blacks. Much of the literature on female crime was based on sexist stereotypes (e.g., that women are inherently more deceitful than men, or that their criminality is a reflection of pathologically masculine tendencies). Some of the research had been undertaken to provide police, judges, wardens, and parole boards with the information needed to repress crime. In reaction, radical criminologists celebrated the authenticity of crime and stressed its meaningfulness, its rationality, and its quasi-political character as a response to social constraint or oppression (Cohen and Taylor, 1975). Yet the refusal to address the question of causes left radicals ill equipped to participate in the political debates that arose over the increase in common forms of crime that took place in the 1960s (Young, 1975). Since the radicals had no way of...


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