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Critical criminology and the social sciences
Critical criminology and the social sciences

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2.2 The scope of critical criminology

Critical criminological perspectives or criminologies represent a dynamic, interconnected yet diverse range of theories, perspectives and methods that share a commitment to providing an alternative approach to the ways in which crime, justice and harm are examined. Critical criminological approaches have continually pushed the boundaries and scope of criminology, creating new areas of focus and innovation in relation to its subject matter, methods and theory.

Although there is much diversity and difference between critical criminological strands, they are united in their emphasis on economic and social conditions, the flows and uses of power, the interplay between crime, ‘race’/ethnicity, gender, and/or social class, and their concern to seek out marginalised perspectives and investigate multiple truths.

Critical criminologists often prefer to be called social theorists, historians, sociologists, feminists and activists, in rejection of the arguably conservative and state-compliant label ‘criminologist’. They have sought out and examined new areas that are often excluded from governmental and mainstream criminological agendas. For example, the critique of activities involving state and corporate harm that produce human suffering or environmental degradation and economic bias in the name of profit and power has long been the mission of critical criminologists. Other critical criminological perspectives have focused on the global issues of human trafficking, terrorism, environmental exploitation and human rights abuses – often entailing a critique of the unlawful actions of governments and large transnational corporations.