Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice

2014 Edition
| Editors: Gerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd

Understanding Cross-National Variation

  • Steven F. MessnerEmail author
  • Gregory M. Zimmerman
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5690-2_675


Cross-national inquiry can make several distinctive contributions to the understanding of criminal violence. One, it permits an assessment of variability in levels and patterns of violent crime. In his classic discussion of the “normality of crime,” Durkheim (1964:66) argued that crime is “closely connected with the conditions of all social life,” leading him to conclude that a society without crime is inconceivable. The same may very well hold true for violent crime in contemporary nations. Coercive action has intrinsic utility for obtaining compliance from others, and thus a certain degree of violence may be an inevitable feature of complex forms of social organization. Nevertheless, cross-national research elucidates the range of possibilities for minimizing levels of criminal violence.

Two, cross-national inquiry is indispensable for establishing the generality of theories of violence and the need for any scope conditions (Kohn 1987). As Lilly et al. (1989:11) observe,...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Arts, and SciencesUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA