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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: October 2018

Chapter 1 - General Introduction



Criminology today definitely cannot be seen as a coherent set of theories, methods, and research topics – quite the opposite. Like many other disciplines, it is nowadays highly diff erentiated and specialised from the theoretical, methodological, and thematic perspectives. Moreover, it goes without saying that its historical and contemporary complexity increases by leaps and bounds the more it is considered not only as an historically formed assemblage of ideas but also in the light of the development that the criminal justice institutions have undergone, partly because of it, in centuries gone by.

This means that if one wishes to present a true picture of this manifold criminology – or “pluralistic” criminology, as it is sometimes termed – one cannot restrict oneself to writing the kind of introduction that is usually published nowadays. Rather, the present introduction is a deliberate attempt to write a genuinely diff erent kind of treatise. In my view, most of the introductions used nowadays in Western Europe and the United States have major shortcomings. Let me name but a few:

  • – they generally have a one-sided focus on the development and status of criminology in the country where they are produced, in the countries of the author's own language, or in the English language area;
  • – they usually view the history of criminology as merely a lead-in to discussion of its contemporary evolution;
  • – they divide up the history of criminology into relatively sterile portraits of a few individual forerunners or into a fairly insignificant series of quotations from their works;
  • – they devote either no attention or completely inadequate attention to important episodes in the history of criminology, such as its role in the totalitarian police states of the twentieth century;
  • – they treat criminology mainly as a loose collection of old and new ideas from Europe and America regarding crime and the response to crime;
  • – they all too easily disregard the social context within which new ideas about crime and its containment have emerged and have found more or less resonance in the outside world;
  • – they generally fail to use quotations, disagreements, and references to encourage independent perusal by the reader of important general works or specific studies; and
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