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NCJ Number: 81456 Find in a Library
Title: Value Commitment in Criminological Theory - A Review
Journal: Canadian Criminology Forum  Volume:4  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1981)  Pages:55-60
Author(s): A Gowen
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 6
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: Biases in sociological and criminological theories are reviewed, with attention given to value-neutrality, labeling, and objectivity.
Abstract: A fundamental principle in the criminological debate is the doctrine of value-neutrality. As formulated by Max Weber, the doctrine states that social scientists should maintain a separation between their values as human beings and their objectivity as scientists. However, the possibility or even desirability of this doctrine is now being questioned. Most traditional theories of deviance make value-neutrality a central operating principle which facilitate the acquisition of objective knowledge and help generate a greater understanding of the patterns of human behavior. However, most sociological and criminological theories are either deeply influenced by, or a direct reflection of, some ideology or value-preference. One of the major bias-inducing factors is the acceptance of the official or legal definition of crime. Acceptance of the legal definition constitutes in itself a value position and a surrender of objectivity. Perhaps the most dangerous ramification of the acceptance of official definitions of reality is the neglect of social agencies and control practices as objects of study. The system of control is taken for granted; researchers set out to describe its operation rather than its rationale. On the other hand, labeling theory forced criminologists to address the process of rule making and enforcement in the production of deviance. Labeling theorists generally have adopted the perspective of the deviant. In phenomenology, theorists take the meanings that individuals give to situations as their primary focus. This approach aims to improve sociological understanding rather than specify causes. Over 25 references are included.
Index Term(s): Criminology; Deviance; Labeling theory; Statistical bias
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