A General Theory of Crime

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Crime is a serious issue in the United States. Research shows that crime is running rampant and its effects are felt in all socioeconomic levels. Each economic class has its own crime rates and types of crime. It is a mistake to think of crime as a lower class problem. Crime is a problem for all people. The lower classes commit crime for survival while the upper class commits crime to supplement capital and maintain control.

Research also highlight that middle class crime is the most popular while lower class neighborhoods are deteriorating. This paper will focus on “A General Theory of Crime” using classical theory (Schmalleger, 2001, p.96-98), such as the relationship between crime and socioeconomic class structure. The essential nature of crime and results of scientific and popular conceptions of crime. In reading the book, there is a broad perspective and comprehensive explanations of crime per se, as well as a breakdown of crime under capitalistic system of government. In doing this the authors explore the typical patterns of crime associated with specific classes and attempts by the state to regulate and control capitalist marketplace activities and working class life. An important theme also highlighted was dynamic and contradictory relationship between the structural reproduction of capitalism and capitalist methods of crime control.

The actual patterns of social relations are determined by the economy, institutionalized forms of the state or political power, and associated forms of culture and ideology (Gottfredson, 1998). Modes of behavior and their definition as criminal vary accordingly. Class structure gives rise to different types of criminality, which relate fundamentally to the needs of the dominant minority to control the laboring majority. Such a pattern ensures the continual production of social wealth, but it also ensures a continuation of economic exploitation and class struggle over the distribution of social surplus. Crime is simply one such expression of this class struggle, an endemic feature based upon the functional and dysfunctional characteristics of living in a class-based economic system.

There is no perfect way of measuring crime, and it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to know exactly how much crime is going on in any particular jurisdiction at any given time. To a certain extent, crime or criminality is ...

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...her and are recognized by many as central to any theoretical discussion of continuity in deviant behavior. Each of these theories implies processes and contingencies by which actors develop, maintain, and change sources of structural, personal, and moral commitment to deviance. More importantly, the commitment framework specifies potential factors that these theories either merely imply or fail to recognize”. (Ulmer 1994)


Gottfredson, M.R., Hirschi, T. (1998). A General Theory of Crime. Stanford University Press: Stanford California.83, 118, 158,159, 181, 195

Schmalleger, F. (2001). Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text For The Twenty-First Century, 7th Edition. Prentice Hall. 96-98, 116-117

Siegel, L. (2001) Criminology, Theories, Patterns, and Typologies-7th Edition. Wadsworth, a Division of Thomson Learning. 52, 227-228

Ulmer, Jeffery T. (1994). Sociological Quarterly, Summer2000, Vol. 41 Issue 3, p315, 22p, 1 chart. Academic Search Premier

Vazsonyi, Alexander T.; Pickering, Lloyd E.; Junger, Marianne; Hessing, Dick (2001). Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency, May2001, Vol. 38 Issue 2, p91, 41p, 2 diagrams Academic Search Premier
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