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Criminology Concepts, Fall 1999

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: December 4, 1999
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Concept 2: Quinney's Dynamic Veiw of Crime

Information on this concept was taken from pp. 213 ff. of Williams III and McShane's Criminology Theory, Quinney's "The Social Reality of Crime."


Black Letter Definitions

"dynamic perspective of crime":

A dynamic perspective is one that recognizes that all social processes are interdependent and continually subject to change with conflict and tension a natural part of that change, often because of differences in power and because humans actively choose available alternatives. Applied to crime, this means that crime is defined by social processes, with those in positions of power defining and enforcing those definitions, and those affected by those definitions actively choosing available alternatives. (Richard Quinney, op.cit, at p. 217-222)


On p. 214, Quinney describes the static model, as analyzed by Dahrendorf. That model assumes stability and consensus. It assumes that roles are defined, laws are clear, crime exists and can be controlled. Quinney's view of crime as dynamic recognizes that although roles may be defined within some groups, they are always in conflict, a conflict which may be productive of needed change. Dworkin cites the tension in the law as the question of which legal doctrine or approach shall be applied. Habermas cites the tension as between individual freedom and community needs. There are many tensions, and definitions of crime are subject to those tensions. Earlier this semester we spoke of the changing definition of elder abuse.


Questions to Spark Ideas

  1. Why is conflict generally viewed as "not as good" as consensus?

    Because consensus implies agreement and stability. Conflict implies on-going change and instability as the conflicts work out the issues. Non-stable changing systems are harder to describe (both mathematically and sociologically) than static systems. Also there is a factor of increased stress with social change. The same stress that leads to an intolerance for ambiguity. But fundamentalist, static belief systems adapt poorly to changes in the social context over which we have no control. Conflict more accurately acknowledges those social changes and attempts to provide adaptation.

  2. What does Quinney mean by the "social reality" of crime?

    As I understand it, Quiney means that crime, like other human behavior, is a complex behavior on the part of individuals who have been shaped to a large extent by the social context in which they act. Crime is one of the altlernative responses to that social context. In order to understand and reduce the harm to Others that crime inflicts, we need to understand the complexity of social reality. Along with that, would go the need to be sure that our attempted solutions do, in fact, reduce the harm, not inflict a different kind of harm.