Dooley, Brendan D., and Sean E. Goodison. 2020. Falsification by Atrophy: The Kuhnian Process of Rejecting Theory in US Criminology. The British Journal of Criminology, vol. 60(1), 24-44. [Available here.] Abstract: Thomas Kuhn posits that the structure of science promotes revolutionary discovery. The decision of a scientific community to discard the status quo in favour of a revolutionary paradigm is influenced by sociological forces. Karl Popper disagreed, arguing that falsification is required. An examination of a random sample of 501 articles published in 14 peer-reviewed American outlets in criminology and criminal justice from 1993 to 2008 is coupled with oral histories from 17 leading criminologists in determining which approach best characterizes criminology. Twelve per cent of papers falsify theory. When not explicitly falsified, atrophy occurs when theory is overused (exhaustion), ignored (indolence) and subjected to a sustained critique (assault). The intention of the effort is to document and describe falsification and then invite further discourse.
Morelli, Niccolo, and Sampson, Robert J. 2020. Lessons and Current Challenges for Urban Sociologists: A Conversation with Robert J. Sampson. Sociologica 14:249-261. [Available here (& open access).] Abstract: In this interview, Robert J. Sampson discusses main lessons and current challenges for urban sociologists, starting from his personal experience and perspective. The interview recaps his important works on factors and events that can determine criminal behavior, the important Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, that he led with his innovative theories and empirical results on violence, race and ethnic segregation, inequality, order and disorder in urban environments, and the shifting structure of community network. The interview also reflects on the process and encounters that led him to the formulation of a theory of race, crime and urban inequality with William J. Wilson (1995). Our discussion spanned over areas of research interests of Professor Sampson, including crime, disorder, life course, civic engagement, inequality, "ecometrics," and the social structure of the city, with particular attention to neighborhood effects. Finally, the interview deals with current challenges for urban sociologists, focusing on two main problems: poor quality of data and limit of funding.
Dooley, Brendan D. 2018. Whither Criminology: The Search for Paradigm Over the Last Half Century. The American Sociologist 49:258-279. [Available here.] Abstract: To what degree does criminology demonstrate the genuine presence or lack of a paradigm (i.e. theoretical-methodological consensus) to help structure its research enterprise? There are trade-offs to consider when pressing the question, such as a potential drain on efficiency in its allocation of resources, limits on its scientific credibility, and weakened institutional strength resulting from conceptual dissensus. Alternatively, an interdisciplinary field may benefit from insights continually drawn from its various parent disciplines. The present research offers a reply in two parts. The first focus relies on a content analysis of 2,109 peer-reviewed articles published in leading journals from 1951-2008 in providing a positive analysis. There is mixed evidence of methodological agreement and less on the matter of commitment to a specific theory. The second inquiry draws from reactions delivered by 17 leading criminologists on the normative question of whether the field’s a-paradigmatic status helps or harms scientific advance. An analysis of the oral histories indicates an indifference to the criticism of lacking paradigmatic uniformity as a legitimate critique and a vehement defense of porous intellectual boundaries. However, pragmatic considerations such as the potential for a diminishing need to train criminal justice undergraduates and threats to government funding may force the profession to give more consideration to the matter of its scientific bone fides.
Dooley, Brendan D. 2017. Conjectures, Refutations, and (Elusive) Resolution: An Exercise in the Sociology of Knowledge Within Criminology. Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology 5:104-131. [Available here (& open access).] Abstract: An analysis of in-depth discussions (oral histories) with 17 leading criminologists on the seminal debates in which they each participated showcases the benefits of intellectual debate. Over the last half-century, the field’s understanding of crime and its control has experienced genuine gains through a vigorous exchange of conjectures and refutations. It stands to benefit from more of these. However, there is a tension between professional and scientific concerns that limits the expansion of this process. The insistence on open ended inquiry in advancing professional ends dulls the interest and opportunity for debating first principles. As a result, the field is populated by numerous unresolved theoretical disputes. In attempting to settle the dilemma posed by competing interests, a compromise that works to satisfy the concerns of both science and the profession is offered. Crafting an appreciation for where the limits of collective knowledge are found would serve to outline an agenda for discovery while stimulating debate.
Dooley, Brendan D. 2016. The Emergence of Contemporary Criminology: An Oral History of its Development as an Independent Profession. Crime, Law and Social Change 66:339-357. [Available here.] Abstract: Criminology, as an independent academic pursuit, has maturated to the point where it is now interested in exploring its genealogy. Larger socio-political developments evidenced a pattern of influence in terms of promoting ideas and building the field’s infrastructure. The field’s growth from its early professionalization is documented here through an analysis of oral histories offered by seventeen influential scholars. Respondents explained their respective journeys to the field via three avenues: biographical, intellectual, and through the graduate school experience. Four scholars spoke to the emotive elements that attracted them to the field. The remainder sought answers to nagging questions on either empirical or theoretical matters. Lastly, the semi-structured interviews elicited accounts of their respective graduate school curricula and the role of mentoring. The essential lesson to be drawn from the collective experience is that the graduate school experience should include exposure to the broader liberal tradition and on the history of the field.
Redondo, Santiago, and Nina Frerich. 2014. Interview with Professor David Farrington. Criminology Hoy, vol. 1:2-11. [Available here (& open access).] Abstract: None for this work.
Cullen, Francis T., Cheryl Lero Johnson, Andrew J. Myer, and Freda Adler (eds.). 2011. The Origins of American Criminology. Transaction. [Available here.] Abstract: The Origins of American Criminology is an invaluable resource. Both separately and together, these essays capture the stories behind the invention of criminology's major theoretical perspectives. They preserve information that otherwise would have been lost. There is urgency to embark on this reflective task given that the generation that defined the field for the past decades is heading into retirement. This fine volume insures that their life experiences will not be forgotten. The volume shows criminology to be a human enterprise. Ideas are not driven primarily-and often not at all-by data. Theories are not invented solely as part of the scientific process; they are not inevitable. American criminology's great theories most often precede the collection of data; they guide and produce empirical inquiry, not vice versa. Theoretical paradigms are shaped by a host of factors-scholars' assumptions about the world drawn from their social constructs, disciplinary content and ideology, cognitive environments found in specific universities and the field's scholarly networks, and, quirks in a person's biography. The volume demonstrates that humanity is what makes theory possible. Diverse experiences-when we were born, where we have lived, the unique trajectories of our personal life courses, the disciplines and academic places we have ended up-allow individual scholars to see the world differently.
Savelsberg, Joachim J., and Sarah Flood. 2011. Criminology Meets Collins: Global Theory of Intellectual Change and a Policy-Oriented Field. Sociological Forum 26:21-44. [Available here.] Abstract: Ideas from Randall Collins's Sociology of Philosophies are applied to U.S. criminology, a policy-oriented field and one case of differentiation out of a fragmented sociological discipline. Building on previous quantitative work, in-depth interviews with eight prominent scholars provide the empirical material. As in philosophy, vertical network ties are important. Yet, they may take different forms, with consequences for the shape of horizontal networks and the nature of scholarship. Comparable to philosophy, horizontal network ties provide social capital and opportunities for interaction rituals that generate collective effervescence and emotional energy. Further, the nature of these interactions is dependent on the changing institutional environment in which they are embedded. Such institutional settings, themselves affected by changes in the political economy, also provide material resources, constituting dependencies that produce mediated effects and, in this policy-oriented field, also direct effects on the nature of scholarship.
Cullen, Francis T., and Steven F. Messner. 2007. The Making of Criminology Revisited: An Oral History of Merton's Anomie Paradigm. Theoretical Criminology 11:5-37. [Available here.] Abstract: We use a 1987 interview with Robert K. Merton to contribute a chapter to the evolving paradigm of ‘Social Structure and Anomie’ (SS&A). This oral history reveals how Merton's early life experiences may have contributed to his views about universalistic American goals prescribing social ascent and about why, despite growing up in a slum, he did not theoretically link crime to disorganized neighborhoods. It also allows commentary on Merton's preference for middle-range theory and the consolidation of competing paradigms; on the Marxian and Durkheimian influences on his work; and on his responses to critiques of SS&A. We contend that this project should be seen as an ‘oral publication’, a means of transmitting knowledge valued by Merton.
Adler, Freda. 2002. Reflections on a Scholarly Career: An Interview with Marvin Wolfgang. In Criminology at the Millennium, eds. Bernard Cohen, Robert A. Silverman, and Terence P. Thornberry. Kluwer Academic Publishers. [Available here.] Abstract: None for this work.
Cavendar, Gray. 1996. I Tried to Change the World: An Interview with Coramae Richey Mann. American Journal of Criminal Justice 20:259-271. [Available here.] Abstract: None for this paper.
Cavendar, Gray. 1995. We Matter: The Lives of Girls and Women: An Interview with Meda Chesney-Lind. American Journal of Criminal Justice 19:287-301. [Available here.] Abstract: None for this work.
Cavendar, Gray. 1994. Social Ambiguities: An Interview with Jerome H. Skolnick. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 19:133-143. [Available here.] Abstract: None for this work.
Cavendar, Gray. 1993. Doing Theory: An interview with Albert K. Cohen. American Journal of Criminal Justice 18:100-118. [Available here.] Abstract: None for this work.
Laub, John H. 1984. Talking about Crime: Oral History in Criminology and Criminal Justice. The Oral History Review 12:29-42. [Available here.] Abstract: None for this paper.
Laub, John H. 1983. Criminology in the Making: An Oral History. Northeastern University Press. [Catalogue information here.] Abstract: None for this work.
Bennett, James. 1981. Oral History and Delinquency: The Rhetoric of Criminology. University of Chicago Press. [Available here.] Abstract: From Henry Mayhew’s classic study of Victorian slums to Studs Terkel’s presentations of ordinary people in modern America, oral history has been used to call attention to social conditions. By analyzing the nature and circumstances of the production of such histories of delinquency, James Bennett argues that oral history is a rhetorical device, consciously chosen as such, and is to be understood in terms of its persuasive powers and aims. Bennett shows how oral or life histories of juvenile delinquents have been crucial in communicating the human traits of offenders within their social context, to attract interest in resources for programs to prevent delinquency. Although life history helped to establish the discipline of sociology, Bennett suggests concepts for understanding oral histories generated in many fields.