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Sociological Theories of Crime

5. Radical and Critical Criminology

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In this lecture, we think about radical criminology, critical criminology, and left realism, focusing in particular on: (i) radical criminology, its basis in Marxist thought, its core idea that capitalism is the primary cause of crime, and criticisms of it – most importantly that it does not offer practical solutions to crime in the present; (ii) critical criminology as an approach which retains focus on inequalities under capitalism, whilst attempting to overcome the failings of radical criminology; (iii) left realism, its core concern of offering practical left-wing solutions to crime, its notion of the square of crime, and criticisms of it.


In this course, Dr Francesca Menichelli (University of Surrey) explores sociological theories of crime. In the first lecture, we consider early approaches to explaining crime, particularly those from a Functionalist perspective, including Émile Durkheim’s concept of anomie and Robert Merton’s strain theory. In the second lecture, we look at subcultural theories, such as Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin’s notion of illegitimate opportunity structures. In the third lecture, we look at the relationship between crime and place through the ideas of the Chicago School and broken windows theory. Next, we examine labelling theory and moral panics – approaches which look less at explaining why people commit crime and more at how crime is defined by society. In the fifth lecture, we outline three theoretical perspectives influenced by Marxism – radical criminology, critical criminology and left realism. In the sixth and final lecture, we explore ideas grounded in rational choice theory, such as Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson’s routine activity theory.


Dr Francesca Menichelli is Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey. Her research focuses on crime prevention, policing and social control, and her teaching covers a broad range of criminological issues. She is author of Order and Conflict in Public Space (2016).

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APA style

Menichelli, F. (2022, April 29). Sociological Theories of Crime - Radical and Critical Criminology [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Menichelli, F. "Sociological Theories of Crime – Radical and Critical Criminology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Apr 2022,

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