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Expanding Criminology's Domain: The American Society of Criminology 2006 Presidential Address

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 45 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2007 Pages: 1-31
Gary LaFree
Date Published
February 2007
31 pages
This article discusses how criminologists, through research and education, can better nurture democratic, nonauthoritarian societies.
The author predicts that in the years ahead, democratic societies and those aspiring to be democratic are going to turn increasingly to criminologists in order to better understand how to provide justice and control crime while adhering to democratic principles. The author argues that criminologists will be better prepared to answer this call by expanding criminology in the five directions recommended in this article. First, there must be more emphasis on historical data and analysis. Historical data provide theoretical insights that are unavailable in cross-sectional designs, and longitudinal data provide direct information about the dominant assumptions of criminology. Further, historical data emphasize the often neglected fact that crime events are situated in distinct historical periods with certain features related to behaviors labeled by particular societies as criminal. Second, criminologists must broaden the scope of emotions for which they test in offenders. Whereas criminal codes, their sanctions, and the dispensing of justice are largely based on the assumption that individuals act rationally in an effort to avoid proscribed and punished behaviors, criminal behavior often stems from a range of strong emotions that disregard the consequences that might flow from acting on these emotions. Criminologists must explore these emotions and how they can be addressed in crime control policies. Third, criminologists must do more cross-national comparative analysis, so as to gain insight into the impact of globalization on crime. Fourth, criminology must bring situational variables into research in order to gain an appreciation of how personality traits interact with situational variables in producing criminal behaviors. Fifth, criminology must become more interdisciplinary in order to synthesize findings from all the sciences that deal with facets of human behavior. 12 figures and 71 references