Cultural criminology

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Cultural criminology is a theoretical, methodological, and interventionist approach to the study of crime that seeks to understand crime in the context of its culture.[1] It views both crime and the agencies of control[clarification needed] as cultural products. Cultural criminology seeks to highlight how power affects constructions of crime, such as laws created, laws broken, and the interplay of moral entrepreneurship, moral innovation, and transgression.[2] Crime and crime control are believed to be shaped by the meanings assigned by culture.

The theory is a perspective that has developed in both the United States and the United Kingdom since the mid-1990s with writings having important cross-national impacts. The theory views crime in the context of an offenders culture as a motive to commit crime. The theory gives motives to a crime whereas other theories such as rational choice explain what was gained.

Cultural criminology dates back to the mid-1990s.[3] It draws heavily on the Chicago School of sociology and the 1970s Marxist and neo-Gramscian criminologies.

New theories of cultural criminology take into account the role of space in the construction of crime, positing, for example, that where an action takes place is as important as the effect of the action in determining criminality.


Originally, cultural criminologists utilized one of two main research methods: either ethnographic and fieldwork techniques,[4] or the main qualitative research techniques associated with the scholarly readings.[5] Cultural criminologists today also employ research methods such as participative action research or "narrative criminology". They remain constant, however, in their rejection of abstract empiricism.[1][6]


One of the main tenets of cultural criminology is the role of emotions in crime. The foundational work in this sub-field is considered to be Jack Katz's Seductions of Crime (1988). In this and other works, the goal is to find the overlap between the emotions associated with everyday life and those associated with crime.[7][8]

Cultural criminology also studies the role of emotional affect in crime.[9]


The roles of excitement and control in cultural criminology has laid the foundation for the sociological concept of "edgework".[10] Edgework’s focus on prototypically masculine, high-risk pursuits has been criticised by a number of feminist criminologists. More recent works, however, suggest that edgework can be applied to either gender.[11]


Some critics[who?] have argued that cultural criminology has foregone hard-nosed economic analysis in the interest of a subjective or narrow cultural focus. Cultural criminologists[who?] counter that they are striving to create a sociologically inspired criminology attuned to the distinctive dynamics of the contemporary economy. They contend that the expansion of the global market has brought new forms of crime, crime control, and political resistance.


  1. ^ a b Ferrell, Jeff; Hayward, Keith; Young, Jock (2008). Cultural criminology: an investigation. Los Angeles: SAGE. ISBN 9781412931267.
  2. ^ Hayward, Keith; Young, Jock (2012). "Cultural criminology". In Maguire, Michael; Morgan, Rod; Reiner, Robert (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199590278.
  3. ^ Ferrell, Jeff; Sanders, Clinton, eds. (1995). Cultural criminology. Boston: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 9781555532352.
  4. ^ Jeff, Ferrell; Hamm, Mark, eds. (1998). Ethnography at the Edge: Crime, Deviance, and Field Research. Boston: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 9781555533410.
  5. ^ Ferrell, Jeff (1 August 1999). "Cultural Criminology". Annual Review of Sociology. 25 (1): 395–418. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.395.
  6. ^ Young, Jock (2010). Criminological imagination. Oxford: University Of Kent. ISBN 978-0745641072.
  7. ^ Young, Jock (August 2003). "Merton with Energy, Katz with Structure: The Sociology of Vindictiveness and the Criminology of Transgression". Theoretical Criminology. 7 (3): 388–414. doi:10.1177/13624806030073007.
  8. ^ Ferrell, Jeff (1992). "Making sense of crime: A review essay on Jack Katz's Seductions of Crime". Social Justice. 19 (23): 110–123. JSTOR 29766697.
  9. ^ Young, Alison (2009). The scene of violence: Crime, cinema, affect. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781134008728.
  10. ^ Lyng, Stephen (1990). "Edgework: A social psychological analysis of voluntary risk taking". American Journal of Sociology. 95 (4): 851–886. doi:10.1086/229379. JSTOR 2780644.
  11. ^ Rajah, Valli (2007). "Resistance as edgework in violent intimate relationships of drug-involved women". British Journal of Criminology. 47 (2): 196–213. doi:10.1093/bjc/azl064.


  • Ferrell, Jeff (1 March 1997). "Criminological verstehen: Inside the immediacy of crime". Justice Quarterly. 14 (1): 3–23. doi:10.1080/07418829700093201.
  • Ferrell, Jeff; Hayward, Keith (eds.). Cultural Criminology: Theories of Crime. Theoretical Criminology. 6. Surrey, England: Ashgate Pub. ISBN 9780754629436.
  • Ferrell, Jeff; Hayward, Keith; Morrison, Wayne; Presdee, Mike, eds. (2004). Cultural criminology unleashed. London: GlassHouse. ISBN 9781904385370.
  • Hayward, Keith J. (2004). City Limits: crime, consumer culture and the urban experience. London: Glasshouse Press. ISBN 9781904385035.
  • Hayward, Keith J.; Presdee, Mike, eds. (2010). Framing Crime: Cultural Criminology and the image. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415459037.
  • Hayward, Keith; Young, Jock, eds. (2004). "Special issue: Edition on Cultural criminology". Theoretical Criminology. 8 (3).
  • Jewkes, Yvonne (2010). Crime and the Media and crime: New approaches to criminology (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage. ISBN 9781848607033.
  • Katz, Jack (1988). Seductions of Crime: moral and sensual attractions in doing evil (5th printing ed.). New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465076154.
  • Presdee, Mike (2000). Cultural criminology and the carnival of crime (Reprint. ed.). New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415239097.
  • Young, Jock (2007). The Vertigo of Late Modernity (1st ed.). London: Sage. ISBN 9781412935746.