Critical Criminology

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 245–265 | Cite as

Representing Theory and Theorising in Criminal Justice Studies: Practising Theory Considered

  • Jon Frauley


The author considers the role and place of theory in criminal justice studies. The argument is that the operation and interrogation of fundamental categories is integral to social scientific enquiry and if criminal justice studies is to resist a technocratic “protective service” orientation it must promote theorising and thinking conceptually via the texts which represent the discipline to undergraduates. Although theory is situated at the core of social science curricula, there is little or no agreement on its role or place in research and pedagogy. The dominant understanding of theory within criminal justice studies (including its sociological and criminological incarnation) is that it is something to be referred to. What is seldom emphasised in theory or methods texts is the practice of theorising. Texts that are designed to be the student’s first contact with the field of criminal justice studies, and which reflect broader attitudes toward social enquiry, seldom consider the methodological and pedagogical issues related to the production and role of analytic concepts and do not present social science as an imaginative or reflexive practice. Drawing on critical realist metatheory, this paper advances a distinction between social and sociological problems and social science and protective service toward illustrating that a social science approach to the study of criminal justice demands the operation and interrogation of analytic categories and explicit consideration of issues of epistemology and ontology. Works which seek to avoid this serve only to foster a passive rather than active engagement with their subject matter.


Social Science Analytic Concept Social Scientific Enquiry Science Curriculum Active Engagement 
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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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York University Canada

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