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Since criminal violence involves doing harm to someone (as well as rule breaking) a theory of aggression is needed to help explain it. A social interactionist (SI) theory of aggression fits the bill. According to this perspective there are strong incentives for aggression. Sometimes individuals harm or threaten to harm others in order to force compliance. They compel the target to do something for them or deter them from doing something that offends them. Sometimes they punish someone who offends them in order to achieve justice or retribution. They feel morally justified and self-righteous about their behavior. Sometimes they are attempting to assert or protect their self- or social image. Finally, some violence involves thrill seeking. These are basic motives of human behavior, and they can readily explain the incentives for both verbal and physical aggression. An SI perspective is a challenge to frustration-aggression approaches (including general strain theory) that claim that aversive stimuli and negative affect instigate aggression. Negative affect plays a much more limited causal role in producing violence from an SI perspective. A bad mood after an aversive experience may facilitate an aggressive response if people fail to consider costs and moral inhibitions when they are in a bad mood. The aversive experience does not instigate aggression unless the person responsible is assigned blame. Blame is critical because it leads to a grievance and a desire for retribution. Some acts of criminal violence are predatory, and some stem from verbal disputes. The violence of the robber, the rapist, and the bully are usually predatory. Most homicides and assaults stem from disputes. It is therefore important to study the social interaction during disputes in order to understand why they sometimes escalate to violence. A social interactionist approach suggests it is important to study interpersonal conflict that underlies dispute-related violence, since conflict often leads to grievances. Cooperative face-work (i.e., politeness) prevents violence because it avoids attacks on selves. When such attacks occur, they tend to lead to retaliation and the possibility of escalation. Third parties can influence the outcome if they instigate or mediate the dispute, or just serve as a passive audience. Mediators can allow both sides to back down without losing face, but they can also encourage weaker parties to fight. Finally, violence can be considered a form of informal social control when social control by third parties is ineffective. An SI approach emphasizes the importance of adversary effects (i.e., the physical threat posed by adversaries). People take into account the relative coercive power of their opponent when they decide whether to engage in violence and what tactics to use. If they attack adversaries who are physically stronger, they may rely on weapons or allies. Adversary effects explain why armed violence spreads across a community and why it lowers rates of unarmed violence. They help to explain variation in violent crime across nations, regions, and racial/ethnic groups.

Article

Critical race theory (CRT) concerns the study and transformation of relationships among race, (ethnicity), racism, and power. For many scholars, CRT is a theoretical and interpretative lens that analyzes the appearance of race and racism within institutions and across literature, film, art, and other forms of social media. Unlike traditional civil rights approaches that embraced incrementalism and systematic progress, CRT questioned the very foundations of the legal order. Since the 1980s, various disciplines have relied on this theory—most notably the fields of education, history, legal studies, feminist studies, political science, psychology, sociology, and criminal justice—to address the dynamics and challenges of racism in American society. While earlier narratives may have exclusively characterized the plight of African Americans against institutional power structures, later research has advocated the importance of understanding and highlighting the narratives of all people of color. Moreover, the theoretical lenses of CRT have broadened its spectrum to include frameworks that capture the struggles and experiences of Latinx, Asian, and Native Americans as well. Taken collectively, these can be regarded as critical race studies. Each framework relies heavily on certain principles of CRT, exposing the easily obscured and often racialized power structures of American society. Included among these principles (and related tenets) is white supremacy, white privilege, interest convergence, legal indeterminacy, intersectionality, and storytelling, among others. An examination of each framework reveals its remarkable potential to inform and facilitate an understanding of racialized practices within and across American power structures and institutions, including education, employment, the legal system, housing, and health care.

Article

Walter S. DeKeseredy

There is no single critical criminology. Rather, there are critical criminologies with different histories, methods, theories, and political perspectives. However, critical criminology is often defined as a perspective that views the major sources of crime as the unequal class, race/ethnic, and gender relations that control our society. Critical criminologists oppose prisons and other draconian means of social control. Their main goal is major radical and cultural change, but they recognize that these transitions will not occur in the current neoliberal era. Hence, most critical criminologists propose short-term anticrime policies and practices and fundamental social, economic, and political transformations, such as a change from a capitalist economy to one based on more socialist principles.