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A General Theory of Expropriative Crime: An Evolutionary Ecological Approach

Lawrence E. Cohen and Richard Machalek
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 94, No. 3 (Nov., 1988), pp. 465-501
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2780251
Page Count: 37
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A General Theory of Expropriative Crime: An Evolutionary Ecological Approach
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Abstract

Ever since Durkheim, many social scientists have subscribed to the premise that deviance and crime anre "normal" properties of naturally functioning social systems. When trying to explain the causes of these behaviors, however, many social scientists typically resort to the idea of "pathological" origins. On the whole, social scientists have yet to explain how and why "normal" individuals operating in unexceptional social environments deviate and commit crimes, Recent developments in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology provide new insights that promise to explain how deviance and crime arise naturally in populations of interacting individuals without necessarily implying genetic influences. We interpret criminal behaviors by which offenders expropriate goods or services from others as expressions of diverse behavioral strategies that derive from normal patterns of population-level social organization and interaction. This views accommodates both explanations that focus on individual causes of crime and those directed toward social factors. Our approach permits the generation of novel hypotheses and fully accommodates, simplifies, and helps unify important and diverse insights and findings amassed by a wide range of disciplines and theories that have tried to account for the nature and distribution of crime.

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