What is Crime?

Raymond J. Michalowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Since its emergence in the 19th century, orthodox criminology has suffered from the contradiction of claiming, on the one hand, to be a value-neutral, intellectual discipline, and on the other, operating as part of the ideological apparatus of the political state by taking state definitions of what is crime and who are its criminals as the starting points for criminological inquiry. This essay examines the ways in which criminology has suffered from this internal contradiction, with particular attention to how it has been constrained by political, economic, and professional forces to focus primarily on crimes whose collective harm to society falls well below the harms caused by the wrongful, but often legal acts of economic and political elites. It concludes with the recognition that the kind of critical inquiry emblematic of the work of Bill Chambliss is essential if criminology hopes to remain relevant to the challenges of the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-199
Number of pages19
JournalCritical Criminology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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