ABSTRACT

The purpose of this chapter is to tell the story of the rise and fall of theories of crime, law and punishment. At the simplest level the objective was to account for the major particular theories that have appeared over the centuries in the field, focusing especially on those theories which relate the three components of law, enforcement and behaviour. The favour or disfavour the theories have received is described with an assessment of the weight of the empirical evidence for and against. In some cases theories continued to receive support even in the face of rather solid contradictory evidence and, when this happened, some suggestions as to why have been offered. Running through this account are indications as to how the theories have been used politically, as means to argue for greater or lesser repression. There are, then, several themes to follow in the unfolding of the story —the structure and content of the theories, the empirical evidence for and against them, their acceptance and political usefulness.