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There is a rich intellectual history to the sociological study of crime and punishment that encompasses multiple and interrelated traditions. Some of these traditions trace their roots to the European social theorists of the nineteenth century, particularly Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx. Although only Durkheim and Weber systematically studied law (and only Durkheim actually studied punishment), all three social theorists facilitated the development of sociological research and theory on crime and punishment. Durkheim's Suicide: A Study in Sociology for example, investigated the relationship between social integration and suicide rates, which, in turn, provided a model of inquiry for multiple generations of sociologists investigating the social causes of crime, delinquency, and social deviance. Similarly, Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society inspired sociologists to examine the relationship between social structure and the organization of law and punishment. Weber's ideas concerning the "rationalization" of society and the legitimate bases of legal authority compelled sociologists to think comparatively and brought a historical dimension to sociological inquiry on law and punishment. Marxist sensibilities begat a small, but vibrant, industry of radical criminologists and sociologists of law and punishment who located both the causes and control of crime in the exploitation, injustice, and class conflict inherent in capitalist society.


Criminal Law | Law | Law and Society | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Sociology