Across Crimes, Criminals, and Contexts: Traps Along the Troubled Path Towards a General Theory of Crime
In the search for the etiology of transgression, one theoretical venture is prized above all others: a general theory of crime. However, the term itself is inconsistently defined and its feasibility rarely questioned. This paper forms an explicit definition of general theory as that which purports to explain one or more of the following: (1) all types of crime, (2) crime committed by all types of people, and (3) crime across all contexts. While the search for a general theory has refined theoretical thinking and guided decades of empirical research, each of these three goals constitutes a conceptual trap wherein the desire for parsimonious universality inherently discounts the complex and multifaceted nature of human behavior. Thus, theorists of the etiology of crime must begin to explicitly acknowledge and further explore the justifications for and ramifications of general theories of crime.
Madfis, Eric, "Across Crimes, Criminals, and Contexts: Traps Along the Troubled Path Towards a General Theory of Crime" (2012). Social Work & Criminal Justice Publications. 355.