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Contemporary Criminological Theory


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutorAlex Aldridge
  • Assessment: a 4000-word essay (100%)

Module description

This module will provide the core theoretical provision for the MSc Criminology. You will critically engage with the most prevalent and influential criminological theories, concepts and approaches - both those that seek to explain criminal behaviour and those which attempt to explain crime control and criminal justice in the twenty-first century. You will therefore engage with two primary threads of contemporary criminological theory: (1) the branch of theories that seeks to explain crime and criminality in a way that is straightforward and useful for policy makers and practitioners; and (2) the more critical branch of contemporary theory which seeks to explain the dramatic changes to the criminal justice system and the crime control apparatus over the past several decades.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Understanding, Contextualising and Critically Evaluating Contemporary Criminological Theory
  • Crime as Opportunity 1 - Routine Activities, Rational Choice and ‘Criminologies of the Everyday’
  • Crime as Opportunity 2 - Defensible Space, Crime Pattern Theory and Designing-Out Crime
  • From Anti-Social Behaviour to Career Criminality - Broken Windows, Early Intervention and the Rise of ‘Hybrid Sanctions’
  • Forget Grand Theory, Let ‘Big Data’ Guide the Way: Predictive Analytics and the ‘Death’ of Criminological Theory
  • Cultures of Control - Changing Patterns of Crime Control and the Politics of Law and Order
  • Governing Through Crime - The Rise of the Crime Victim and Simon’s ‘Lawmaking Rationalities’
  • Risk and ‘Actuarial Justice’ - Probabilistic Crime Prevention and the ‘New Penology’
  • Therapeutic Interventionism - Medical Models, Harm Reduction and the Treatment Paradigm

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand, critically evaluate and deploy key contemporary criminological theories, concepts and ideas
  • understand and critically explore contemporary criminological debates about the causes of crime, the nature of crime control in contemporary Britain, and the purpose and trajectory of the criminal justice system
  • critically analyse the relationship between criminological theory, criminological research and criminal justice practice
  • understand and contextualise the theoretical perspectives that inform specific ideas and policies
  • critically evaluate the research evidence that supports and/or contradicts certain theoretical approaches to understanding crime and the criminal justice system
  • articulate clearly and fluently your own views with regard to the viability of theoretical concepts and ideas, as well as the impact of wider changes to crime control and criminal justice.