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

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In this free course, Critical criminology and the social sciences, you have identified the key characteristics of some of the main disciplines and subject areas within the social sciences, including psychology, law, sociology and critical criminology. You considered the kinds of social problem with which critical criminologists are concerned and then applied this knowledge to the case study of Sonae – a case that many consider to be an archetypal ‘crime of the powerful’.

You also explored how academics from psychological, legal, sociological, and criminological backgrounds might attempt to make sense of the global financial crisis of 2008, which should have helped you to understand the key strengths and limitations associated with these social science disciplines and subject areas.

In summary, you have learned the following:

  • Social science is made up of many different academic disciplines, each with their own distinctive characteristics.
  • Critical criminology is a field of study that focuses predominantly on how issues relating to harm, crime and justice can be understood in relation to unequal distributions of power, resources and recognition.
  • Psychology is a discipline that focuses predominantly on mental processes and how these shape individual and social behaviour.
  • Sociology is a discipline that focuses predominantly on the development, structure, and functioning of human societies.
  • Law is a discipline that focuses predominantly on how a rule or set of rules can be applied to particular situations to resolve disputes or conflicts.
  • Approaching the same topic from different disciplinary perspectives can bring different things into focus and result in very different understandings of the same social issue.
  • Bringing together different disciplinary perspectives on a particular topic, although oftentimes difficult, has the potential to generate a more rounded and rich understanding of that topic than any one disciplinary perspective can produce on its own.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course DD212 Understanding criminology [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .