Vol. 3, No. 2 (February, 1993) pp: 13-16

NEW DIRECTIONS IN CRIMINOLOGICAL THEORY, ADVANCES IN CRIMINOLOGICAL THEORY, VOLUME 4 by Freda Adler and William S. Laufer (editors). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1993. 406 pp. Cloth $39.95.

Reviewed by Michael G. Maxfield, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington.

This is the fourth in an occasional series of volumes, ADVANCES IN CRIMINOLOGICAL THEORY, launched to fill a perceived dearth of outlets for papers focusing on theoretical issues in criminology. As such, the series resembles more an irregular journal than a collection of related essays. This semblance is reinforced by the absence of an interpretive introduction by the editors; unlike previous volumes, this one simply begins and ends. Without guidance, one naturally turns to the table of contents for clues about what is to follow. There are none, save the inclusion of Travis Hirschi's name in the titles of two chapters. A reviewer therefore faces a task roughly equivalent reviewing the complete contents of an academic journal. The contributions themselves are starkly uneven, but a careful reading revealed three loose themes and three odd papers among the 11 chapters (or 12, including a final selection labeled "comments.")

Introductions to the first and second volume note, but do not quite lament, that academic criminology journals are increasingly dominated by empirical research and discussions of methods. It was felt that a forum for theory was needed. This is true, but more so for reasons not cited by the editors. Most scholars probably view criminology as a multidisciplinary field; others feel it has now become a discipline. In either case some sort of forum for bringing together discussions of theory from the recognized disciplines that contribute to criminological research is certainly in order. The present volume does this, after a fashion, but more by accident than by design. On to the themes.

The first two chapters address theoretical perspectives that could be of interest to political scientists, labeling theory and Marxist criminology. In a chapter entitled, "The Future of Labeling Theory," Charles Wellford and Ruth Triplett attempt to make a case that the labeling perspective deserves more respect. They link its essential elements to symbolic interactionism: labels applied to individuals are symbols that influence their behavior. Unfortunately, they focus almost exclusively on how being labeled affects subjective perceptions and behavior, but ignore how the behavior of public officials and others toward labeled persons (delinquents, criminals, or just troublemakers) is influenced by labels.

Wellford and Triplett claim that its association with conflict criminology is one reason why labeling theory has not been more widely embraced. As if to reinforce this, the contribution by sociologist Austin Turk launches into a what comes off as a pep talk for Marxist criminology, which he claims is misleadingly referred to as conflict criminology. Whatever it is called, in conflict/Marxist theory crime is viewed as an artifact of social values and political power, both of which are embodied in criminal law. Politics involves conflict over social and other values. The winners of such conflict define certain behavior and acts as crimes, while the losers -- people whose behavior is rejected -- are defined as criminals. Turk serves up a few interesting insights, but the chapter is little more than a guide for Marxists on how they can better handle methodological enemies.

Three chapters dwell on Travis Hirschi's (1969) influential work on delinquency. Briefly, Hirschi proposed and tested a control theory (also called "bonding") of delinquency. Various sources of control can prevent delinquency. Parents, peers, and schools are institutions that instill attachment and internalization of social norms. Delinquency is more likely for males with weak attachment to parents and school, and stronger attachment to deviant peers.

Chapters by Kimberly Kempf and by Marc

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Le Blanc and Aaron Caplan complement each other nicely. Kempf's contribution presents a meta-analysis of the numerous studies that purport to test Hirschi's control theory. Hirschi fares well on two of three criteria Kempf sets up for judging a theory. First, public policy since 1969 has shifted in ways consistent with Hirschi's emphasis on bonding and attachment. Second, the many attempts to replicate or further test various components of control theory indicate that it has become a subjective standard among criminologists. Third, these subsequent empirical tests yield mixed support. Kempf argues that differences in measurement and other methods are responsible for inconsistent results.

Kempf's contribution itself is not especially noteworthy, but gains added weight from the most ambitious selection in the volume. Commenting on an earlier version of Kempf's paper, Le Blanc and Caplan are not surprised that empirical tests produced mixed results, because, they argue, a discursive presentation of a complex theory invites inconsistent interpretations. The solution offered in this chapter is to produce a formal version, since formal theory more readily reveals internal inconsistencies. After producing an initial formal statement of Hirschi, Le Blanc and Caplan formulate a revised formal theory based on: (1) internal inconsistencies revealed by the initial formal statement, (2) results from a careful replication, and (3) developments in control theory since Hirschi's 1969 book.

With four appendices, this chapter approaches 100 pages in length. But it is potentially useful for two types of readers. Scholars following in Hirschi's footsteps, and there are many, will carefully study the formal versions, form their own judgments and hopefully commence further studies. The intended audience of this series -- scholars with a particular interest in theory -- will benefit from the general discussion of formal theory and the example presented by Le Blanc and Caplan. Many of the second group might be dismayed by the laborious effort required to produce formal statements. But Le Blanc and Caplan make a convincing case that formal theory exposes sloppy thinking (though they are careful to point out that Hirschi's theory displays little of this), and forms the base for more systematic empirical tests, thus avoiding the anarchy revealed by Kempf.

Michael Lynch, Graeme Newman, and W. Byron Groves present the third contribution focusing on Hirschi's work. Two goals are stated in this chapter; a third emerges. First, the authors demonstrate how Durkheim's writings on punishment as a source of social control are similar to Hirschi's development of control theory to explain crime. Durkheim was more interested in punish- ment as a policy, while Hirschi focused on how control and its absence inhibited or promoted individual criminal behavior. The second goal quickly emerges from the Durkheim-Hirschi comparison: to demonstrate the conceptual similarities between control theory and deterrence. Unfortunately, this exercise leads the authors to their final goal: a specious claim that punishment cannot possibly deter crime.

Two selections focus on corporate or white-collar crime, a topic prominent in earlier series volumes. The chapter by Edward Sieh is simply a discussion of case studies of employee theft in various organizational settings in England. In essence, three forces are at work. First, workers and work groups have varying autonomy and opportunities for "fiddling." Second, theft and fiddling are promoted by attempts to redress perceived inequities in salary, working conditions, and prestige. Finally, small-group subcultures can encourage theft, while exercising informal controls to regulate its scope. Such observations are interesting and worthwhile to students of employee theft, but there are no synthetic insights of any value. For example, in a single paragraph, Sieh suggests that other responses to inequity may result, ranging from malingering, through union actions, to: "... political unrest and rebellion" (p 108).

Sally Simpson's chapter on corporate crime is one of the best in the volume, a true synthesis of organization and economic theory,

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together with historical analysis of industrial technology to explain varying patterns of illegal corporate practices. Simpson's paper is especially noteworthy in its departure from most previous ventures into the study of white-collar crime by criminologists. The latter typically begin by comparing street crime to white collar crime, perhaps noting that the dark figure of corporate illegality is much larger and more costly than any number of petty thefts or burglaries. In appealing to other paradigms, Simpson produces several hypotheses rooted in organization theory and industrial development. The form of illegality -- horizontal price-fixing and mergers, vertical buyer-seller collusion, or mixed forms -- depends on dominance by different subunits within the organization. Dominance by sales and marketing subunits promotes vertical illegality and false advertising as a firm strives to improve market share. If corporate finance departments have greater influence, a firm's focus shifts away from coercing customers and suppliers to illegal mergers, and perhaps violations of health and safety regulations. The volume of illegal behavior will be greatest in sales and marketing subunits, since managers are more attentive to unit performance, not routine operations. The activities of sales and marketing units are also less subject to internal scrutiny since they involve a large number of interactions with persons outside the firm. As firms within a product market become more similar, so do patterns of industry-wide criminality.

Simpson supports these propositions by linking the evolution of corporate form and subunit dominance to changes in patterns of illegality and federal regulations. As in all such attempts to explain the behavior of actors in large complex organizations over time, the framework is imperfect. But the mix of organizational and economic incentives is a more provocative and potentially valuable framework than attributing corporate crime to evil executives, subcultures of deviance, or other explanations borrowed from traditional criminology.

Of the three odd chapters, two are of little value. Robert Nash Parker offers some preliminary thinking about how the association between alcohol and homicide might mesh with four theoretical perspectives on crime causation. Theory-based research on homicide is not well developed, and Parker's failure to provide any new insights is disappointing.

A contribution by David Weisburd, Lisa Maher, Lawrence Sherman, and associates is interesting, but not at all suitable for this volume. The authors examine neighborhood variation in calls for service and attempt to interpret results in light of two ill- defined theoretical perspectives: (1) all crime is caused by similar factors; (2) different types of crime are caused by different factors. Results are inconclusive.

Jeffrey Fagan's chapter on social control of spousal assault is valuable for two reasons. First, his review serves as an excel- lent introduction to the large and growing literature on domestic violence, a topic that has attracted no small number of ideologues. Although Fagan has his own agenda, he does a nice job of synthesizing this literature. Second, there is a subtle but incisive commentary on the initial promise but eventual failure of arrest as a routine, rather than discretionary, response to domestic violence.

Fagan's discussion of experimental studies and replications is especially worthwhile in pointing out a fundamental, but too often ignored, flaw in field experimentation. Arrest is not a reliable intervention. Uncontrolled variation includes length of time in custody, prior record of the arrested person, and whether or not prosecution followed arrest. Such treatment irregularities obviate the advantages of randomized designs. Furthermore, Fagan points out that focusing on actions by police may naively overlook how adaptive actions by prosecutors and judges can neutralize arrest policies. Such insights will not be surprising to scholars familiar with studies of trial courts, but Fagan's commentary provides something of a new direction for criminologists.

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Who should buy this volume? It would be misleading and of little value for scholars who are unfamiliar with criminological theory and seek a concise overview. Those who know something of the field and wish to learn about new developments will be disap- pointed by the volume's narrow scope. The value of chapters by Simpson, Fagan, and Le Blanc and Caplan does not offset the overwhelmingly uninteresting character of the rest of the book. Editorial quality is poor; for example, Marc Le Blanc's name is consistently misspelled in all but his own citations. The title notwithstanding, new directions are difficult to find in this volume.


Hirschi, Travis (1969) THE CAUSES OF DELINQUENCY. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Copyright 1993