Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 46, Issue 1–2, pp 51–63 | Cite as

The criminological potential of pure sociology

  • Mark Cooney


The pure sociology perspective invented by Donald Black, a general theoretical framework for the prediction and explanation of social reality, has considerable potential for the scientific understanding of criminal behavior. Several scholars have profitably drawn upon Black’s proposal that a significant amount of crime is a form of disputing or social control, especially to explain violent conflict. However, pure sociology has not yet been extended and applied to criminal behavior more broadly. A pure sociology of predatory behavior, for instance, would address the location and direction in social space of predators, prey, and third parties. In expanding criminological thought, however, pure sociology also challenges it. Pure sociology explanations are not restricted by time or place, a feature not easily realized with a concept so closely tied to a relatively recent social invention: the state. Additionally, the supra-psychological, -anthropocentric, and -teleological nature of pure sociology generates explanations of behavior that are at odds with many of the assumptions of traditional criminology. Ultimately, then, pure sociology yields a new paradigm for the explanation of behavior the state defines as criminal.


Police Officer Social Control Criminal Behavior Social Distance Social Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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