Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Journal of Criminal Justice

What is good criminal justice theory?
John P. Crank ⁎, Blythe A. Bowman
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska, Omaha, NE 68182, United States

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
This article assesses current work in criminal justice theory and identifies two criteria for theory—that which appeals to empirical validation, and that which appeals to historical tradition. Appeals to empirical validation are consistent with a scientific model, while appeals to historical tradition are consistent with an interpretive model of social science. Both models are described and the way in which each contributes to theory in criminal justice is discussed. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Introduction Nabokov once said of Invitation to a Beheading “I know a few readers who will jump up, ruffling their hair,” to which Nafisi (2004, p. 22) replied, “Well, absolutely.” Anyone reading Invitation would likely agree. It challenges, feigns, shifts in one direction while blurring into another, its characters come in and out of existence, and the ending is...well…explaining the ending is like describing a dream to someone who has never had one. It is a tactile, plastic work, a work that should make anyone in the justice fields uncomfortable about her or his work.1 Is Invitation good theory? It is certainly good fiction. There is no rule that says that theory cannot be fiction; indeed, in a sense all theory is fiction in its original meaning, in that it places into relief patterns of human behavior as those patterns are imagined by the theorist. As Gadamer (1976) noted, theory in the social sphere is always an alienation—an interpretation abstracted from the processes it seeks to represent. There are not concrete things out there that represent the stuff of criminal justice research—stuff like justice, due process, or police culture—that exist independently of the conceiving mind. The line between theory and fiction, however rigorously drawn, will always be highly interpretive. How, then, does one know if a writing is also a good theory? Are there a set of rules that one can look to that will tell what a good theory is? Certainly, rules abound for theoretical construction. Yet, the imposition of rules on theory carries a dispensation—that whatever is outside the rules is not-theory and should not be considered a legitimate source of ideas on how to theorize a topic. For justice research, especially at this early stage of theoretical development, is there “not-theory” to discard as the field moves forward? To say what cannot be theory is close to saying what body of ideas cannot be considered as justice.

⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 402 213 9194. E-mail address: (J.P. Crank). 0047-2352/$ – see front matter © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2008.09.005

The issue of theory goes to the heart of the field of criminal justice. Should the field be thought of as the study of the U.S. criminal justice apparatus, with theory rigorously located within that focused inquiry? Should the field have a more open-ended inquiry, looking at the different kinds of meanings that justice can have? Further, theory has implications for methods—should one stay within the scientific boundaries, intent on the criterion of statistical regularity in the validation of theory development? Should one look at theory more locally and more interpretively, tying it more closely to the world of its actors, or as Geertz (1994) put it, a more thickly descriptive approach? An attempt to codify theory is not an innocuous project. When thinking about rules for the selection or construction of theory, one must be beware of the implications of canon—the notion that a select body of works embody the important meanings of the field. Canon is always a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it provides its scholars and students with a sense of the identity and great works of a field. On the other, it tends to fix a field, locating it in space and time and providing a boundary on its identity that might inhibit flexibility and adaptation. Definitions of theory carry the same potential limitations—by adopting a set of formal procedures for defining what constitutes theory, one creates an area of non-theory that might be fertile for understanding or expanding justice practices. This article is about theory in the field of criminal justice. That criminal justice is an academic field is itself an open question. The distinction between the discipline of criminal justice and criminology is not established in any sort of academic sense. The core identity of the field of criminal justice—whether it be policy oriented, interdisciplinary, a criminology, or a field organized under the umbrella of justice broadly conceived—is up in the air (see Crank, 2003). Yet, in the current era, a number of writers are developing theory specifically located under a criminal justice rubric. Whether criminal justice has “come of age,” as Clear (2001) has asked and ignited controversy with the question, the development of a body of theory appropriate for a field of criminal justice is proceeding apace. This article looks at theory as it pertains to criminal justice broadly, by contrasting scientific social science theory to interpretive (also


J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572

called hermeneutic) theory. Interpretive approaches are considered because they have historically provided the most wide-reaching challenges to scientific notions of social science theory (Gadamer, 1981; Geertz, 1994; Giddens, 1976). By “playing” the two approaches to theory building against each other, one acquires a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each. The outcome of this “play” is not a discredit of either approach, but is intended to foster a keener understanding of the nature of the kinds of knowledge that the field of criminal justice develops as it forms theoretical identity. This article will “play” issues in the social science of criminal justice as follows. First, it will look at four works specifically written for criminal justice theory in the recent past. Second, it will consider the scientific model of social science, which appears to be the dominant model in criminal justice today, and at a hermeneutic model of social science, selected for this article and discussed in detail because this model poses basic questions to the scientific model traditionally understood. Third, this article looks at convergences between the two perspectives. This section is presented to move the discussion beyond an “either-or” conclusion regarding scientific and interpretive bases to knowledge, describing similarities consistent with the way other social sciences have adapted their fields to both philosophies of social science. The conclusions are presented as a “classroom discussion” in order to provide a broad statement of the contribution of both perspectives to theory. Contemporary works on criminal justice theory The development of criminal justice theory marks a passage. It is the transition of the academic field of criminal justice through its normative, nascent and inchoate youth, and—one hopes—toward some notion of academic maturity. It might be best to think of the formal development of theory in criminal justice as a stage in which it develops the scholarly capacity to reflect on itself. This stage is embodied in a corpus of ideas that, hopefully, helps criminal justice become something more than a specialized sociology, a branch of political science, a psychology of the dark side, or at worst, a multidisciplinary field absent core identity and constrained to the fringes of academic recognition. Four works have been written that specifically aim at the development of criminal justice theory. Two might be called scientific,2 in the sense that they tend to view theoretical development in terms of rigor in empirical hypothesis testing. Two can be described as interpretive, which means that they seem to be based on their author's personal estimations of the general theoretical traditions of the field, with a focus on big ideas with rich historical traditions.3 The scientific models are those of Bernard and Engel (2001) and Duffee and Maguire (2007). The interpretive models are those of Crank (2003) and Kraska (2004, 2006). The first perspective on theory-building considered here is Bernard and Engel's (2001) meta-theoretical model for theory construction. The field of criminal justice, the authors noted, has been focused on practice, and further scholarly progress of criminal justice as a scientific field will depend on its ability to develop theoretically. What theoretical regime, they ask, would provide a way for the field to advance? Bernard and Engel presented a model for theoretical growth grounded in scientific notions of criminal justice and organized in terms of empirical validity testing. Existing criminal justice theories should be grouped first by the dependent variables. They argued that dependent variables were of three types: behaviors of criminal justice agents, behaviors of criminal justice organizations, and characteristics of the justice system and its components. The effects of independent variables, drawn from different theoretical perspectives, should then be empirically compared for their relative explanatory power. Theories that provide little explanatory value could then be discarded. Theoretical unification, it is hoped, could be achieved through this kind of empirical testing. A second scientific perspective on criminal justice theory-building is found in the work of Duffee and Maguire (2007). Their edited work considered here is organized normatively; first, as an overview of criminal justice theory, then of those organizations responsible for U.S.

criminal justice process—policing, the courts, and corrections. Scholars in each area wrote chapters assessing the general state of theory in each organizational area. Unlike Bernard and Engel (2001), who provided a meta-theoretical conception of theory building, the chapters in Duffee and Maguire's (2007) work generally provide an empirically grounded notion of theory development.4 This means that theory emerged from continuities identified in the systematic assessment of findings from empirical research conducted in each area.5 Two factors, Duffee and Maguire (2007) observed, affect how one should think about criminal justice theory: (1) the boundaries of the field of criminal justice, and (2) what kind of social science methodology should be used for theory-testing. The boundaries— that region that marks criminal justice identity, are described as follows: Criminal justice theory seeks to explain and examine the variations in, and the causes of, aspects of governmental social control systems, which select the criminal sanction over other forms of social control and shape the nature of the criminal sanction to be employed. (p. I-24)6 Importantly, the authors did not limit the definition of theory to U.S. criminal justice systems, practices, or attitudes. This allows for a quite broad notion of justice practices to enter into the ambit of appropriate theoretical inquiry. Additionally, the definition states a focus on governmental-level criminal justice systems, so it does not appear to allow for theory that focuses on non-state actors such as Amnesty International. With regard to methodology, Duffee and Maguire (2007) are solidly in the ranks of the scientific model of social science methods. This is suggested by chapter two, in which Snipes and Maguire (2007) offer a five-pronged test to identify criminal justice theory, adapted from Dubin (1978). It is presented in Fig. 1. The five-pronged test in Fig. 1 accomplished several purposes. It bounded the arena of interest to official responses to potentially criminal behavior. That potentiality must be reasonable. The entity carrying out the official response must be a part of the criminal justice system. Additionally, the theory must fit the model of accepted social science standards. Crank (2003) presented a sharply different notion of criminal justice theory, questioning both the boundaries in contemporary criminal justice practice and the use of scientific methods. An openended notion of justice, not a more focused identity of American criminal justice, should be the central organizing concept of the field. Crank argued that justice could not be conceived only in terms of crime control practice. There are simply too many competing claims and beliefs regarding the meanings and purposes of justice. Justice is at its core problematic: an open-ended inquiry whose meanings cannot be fixed. The role of social science inquiry was not to find common ground, but to explore the many forms justice can take (see Warnke, 1999). With regard to the field of inquiry, Crank provided no boundaries at all. Crank can be said to ground his work in a challenge

Fig. 1. Snipes and Maguire’s (2007) five-pronged test to identify criminal justice theory.

J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572


to what he viewed as the conflation of the term justice with U.S. criminal justice practices, taking the position that it is a “black box” term—a term, according to Latour (1987), whose meanings become taken for granted, but when considered closely are subject to broad and contested interpretations.7 Kraska (2004, 2006, p. 6) looked at theory in terms of “orientations of understanding.” He selected the term “orientations” because they were ways of thinking that “orient our thinking about criminal justice and crime control in specific ways.” His works identified the implications of eight different orientations for thinking about the nature of the criminal justice system—each telling the story of criminal justice from a different point of view or reference. The purpose of these orientations was to show that the field's diversity of thought was a theoretical strength. Kraska also referred to orientations as metaphors (see Morgan, 1986) because they highlighted certain aspects of scholarly thinking about criminal justice. His concept of orientations is quite similar to the interpretive notion of traditions in that both represent schools of thinking carried by particular groups, and so his way of organizing theory is consistent with an interpretive notion of theory building. Kraska framed the boundaries of theory by locating the purposes of analysis to what he called the criminal justice “apparatus.” He selected the term apparatus rather than the more commonly used criminal justice “system,” in order to include non-state actors and other groups such as the media who are associated with justice practice. Apparatus was a finesse on the term “system,” typically used as an umbrella term to describe the tens of thousands of organizations that make up U.S. penal practices. Apparatus also served to broaden the focus of analysis. Through the use of terms such as “apparatus” and “orientations,” Kraska sought to keep the field boundaries open and flexible. These four theoretical works vary on two dimensions pertinent to this article—whether they find theory to be good because it is of sustained interest to particular communities of interest, or because it can be empirically validated. Crank and Kraska derived their conceptions of criminal justice theory from broad, open conceptions of justice. Both, additionally, selected perspectives that they perceived to represent current trends in the field of criminal justice, though Crank expanded his theory stable with perspectives adapted from other social sciences. Their work can be said to appeal to recognizable theoretical traditions in criminal justice or a related field. That is, these theories had gained legitimacy within scholarly communities involved in the development of the field of criminal justice, and they “fit” the authors' notions of the more important ways justice was conceptualized. This can be called theoretical development by appeal to tradition. Appeals to tradition are always interpretive—they find the value of a perspective in a community of interest. The meaning of a corpus of ideas in a work are consequently the interpreted product produced by the intent of the author, the traditions of interpretation that have been appended to the work over time, and the perspective of the reader. For example, both Crank and Kraska selected critical theory, typically traced to the writings of Marx. Critical theory has been of sustained interest by a scholarly community that has established itself as a source of critique of Western capitalism.8 The body of work that makes up this historical tradition contains not only the original writings of Marx, but subsequent works that have interpreted Marx, and work on conflict theory, class, and political economy. For example, Reiman's (2004) assessment of ideology, class, and criminal justice, now in its seventh edition, is a current work that falls solidly within this tradition and shows that critical writings continue to receive support within an academic community of interest in the field of criminal justice. Finally, student and instructor discussions in the classroom, or contemporary monographs, are the most current actualization of the way in which that corpus of work and attached meaning find life for current readers.

These works differ on two important dimensions. Bernard and Engel (2001) and Duffee and Maguire (2007) located their ideas of good theory in clearly defined notions of criminal justice, through the use of crisp theoretical definitions, and by assessing empirical research. This approach can be described as an appeal to empirical verification. Legitimacy of theory was based on the extent to which hypotheses could be empirically validated. Conceptual terms are clearly defined and have measurable empirical referents. When one considers critical theory in this way, one finds its value in the extent to which it has been empirically tested and not rejected. That it might be supported or advocated by a community of interest, independent of empirical testing, is irrelevant. The history of the works associated with the Marxian tradition is important only insofar as that history clarifies its conceptual definitions, empirical linkages, and testing procedures. Notions of good theory, as this article interprets them from these four works, are difficult to reconcile in terms of each other. If one follows the lead of Snipes and Maguire (2007) and of Bernard and Engel (2001) because of their emphasis on scientific rigor, does this mean that the only good theory is that which falls within the ambit of the scientific model of social science? Put differently, should a methodological issue—the ability to measure concepts—drive what one finds to be acceptable theory? On the other hand, if one prefers Crank (2003) and/or Kraska (2004, 2006) for their appeal to tradition, is one opening the door for any old thing to be studied as theory that dares to call itself such and has a following? For example, can one call liberal and conservative political ideologies theories, even recognizing that they make use of a coded and partisan language? Herein is a most interesting puzzle. From what high captain's perch can one choose which is a better way to theorize criminal justice? What standpoint outside of theory can one take to decide which is the best way to think about theory? These questions push the inquiry toward the philosophy of the social sciences to examine these different theoretical perspectives. Perhaps philosophy of social science can help answer the question—which is better theory? Theoretical implications of different models of social science The scientific model of social science. The first two works, Bernard and Engel (2001) and Duffee and Maguire (2007), were based in a scientific model of the social sciences. The empirical model of science has been widely studied in the philosophy of science. Popper (2000) famously provided central elements of the scientific model of theory, widely studied and recognized for their general applicability, presented in Fig. 2. The empirical conception of science presented in Fig. 2 is integral to the physical sciences. This model is not politically neutral. To the contrary, its elements represented—and continue to represent— foundational challenges to hierarchical bases of knowledge. Scientific theory emerged as an Enlightenment challenge to the central hierarchies of the Middle Ages, church and state. Its challenge stemmed from its notion of “truth.” That which one takes as truth, the products of scientific research, can be derived from one's own observations. If the church says something about what it means to be human, one can measure it and see if it is true. If the government tells someone what it is doing, well, that person can go out and gather data to see if it is true from their (scientific) point of view. The scientific model of social science is strongly democratic. It strips authority over knowledge from the state and church and relocates it in the individual citizen. It should never be thought of as politically neutral, because it is at every step a challenge to the knowledge produced, legitimated, and controlled by central state hierarchies. The challenge of science to hierarchies of church and state continue to be vibrant in the current era. For example, the scientific


J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572

Duffee and Maguire (2007) and of Bernard and Engel (2001) are organized in terms of the scientific model. From the vista of the scientific model of the social sciences, they are good models for the development of theory. Kraska (2004, 2006) and Crank's (2003, 2004) works, on the other hand, appear less well scientifically organized. Kraska seems somewhat out of focus, concerned primarily with big ideas and showing incidental regard to their testability. Crank, on the other hand, appears to be positively misguided, arguing that criminal justice theory should be organized around an immeasurable and open-ended idea of justice, and that the recognition of the limitations of standpoint theory undercuts even the possibility of common identification of a neutral terminology for scientific testing. The hermeneutic model of the social sciences. The works of Crank (2003, 2004) and Kraska (2004, 2006) are more consistent with a hermeneutic approach to social science because the selection of theories appeals to tradition and to communities of interest. The hermeneutic philosophy rejects fundamental elements of the scientific approach. One such fundamental element in empirical science is the notion that a field can develop a neutral or objective language—a scientific discourse—through which it can translate the world into an object of its research. The problem is that, to have a neutral language, the language must be tied to things—it must represent things—in some sort or underlying reality on which all can agree. In the social world, however, these things do not exist. Giddens (1976) observed that there was not, at the level of reality substrate, a layer of social knowledge that is “certain.” The perspectives of social scientists were instead a product of their historical traditions. Social scientists used social meanings through a discourse that they are already inside of, peering outward from their discourse to make sense of the intentions of whatever group they were interested in, oftentimes reinterpreting that group's behavior into the discourse already understood by social science. There was a great deal of knowledge production, but no understanding. Abstract concepts find meaning by an appeal to local sensory experiences. Consequently, the meanings of concepts are always a product of local sensory data, not universal truths. Attempts to find objectivizing, neutral definitions of social concepts always push social scientists back on their culturally understood meanings—and away from any objective social reality. When someone asks what a crime is, for example, one might provide an example to which that person can relate. Its meaning is rooted in concrete sensory experience. All the words in the social science of criminal justice have meanings that are only sensible locally and practically, finding their meaning within particular traditions, and they exist by appeal to what the senses show. This problem can be called Giddens' (1976, p. 135) caution: there is no “theoretically neutral observation language.” Knowledge, in other words, is always knowledge from a point of view; it represents one's historical perspective. Giddens' caution emphasizes the local basis of sensory knowledge. Social knowledge is always rooted in local experience and finds its meaning within particular communities of interest. Consequently, there is no independent, objective source that one can turn to that will provide an impartial, neutral interpretation of the world.10 Giddens thus shifted social thought in a hermeneutic direction, and the hermeneutic model will be considered at this point as an alternative to the scientific model. Hermeneutics, also called interpretive social science, has provided a notion of theory that challenges central assumptions of the scientific model. If there is no neutral language, how can one account for what one witnesses? Consider the following thought experiment, intended to illustrate the interpretive challenge to a scientific social science. Imagine an apple falling from a tree. A scientist could, with a great deal of mathematical precision, write and test an equation that would precisely predict the velocity of the falling apple at any point in its trajectory. Suppose, however, that there is a complication. What if the rate at which the apple fell depended on the attitude of the apple?

Fig. 2. Popper's model of empirical science.

theory of evolution has been the subject of a great deal of debate by those who believe that evolution and divine human origins are incompatible notions. In 2005, the Kansas Board of Education voted six to four to approve public school science standards that cast doubt on the scientific theory of evolution. It was the third time in six years that the board had rewritten standards regarding the teaching of evolution. The new standards were drafted with the assistance of advocates of “intelligent design,” a view of history that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power (CNN. com, 2005). Intelligent design is widely supported in the United States. A Gallup poll in 2006 found that over half of all Americans rejected scientific evolution and believed that “God created man exactly how Bible describes it” (Editor and Publisher, 2006). President George W. Bush in 2005 endorsed the teaching of intelligent design in schools (, 2005). One can see in these challenges to evolution that Enlightenment notions of science continue to be controversial.9 The scientific model has been central to theory development in the social as well as the physical sciences. One can refer back to Timascheff's (1967) widely cited definition of sociological theory to find a definition consistent with the scientific model of social science. Timascheff was selected because his work marks the critical time in the early history of American sociology when it began the move toward scientifically-based empirical theory. According to Timascheff (1967): A theory is a set of propositions complying, ideally, with the following conditions: one, the propositions must be couched in terms of exactly defined concepts; two, they must be consistent with one another; three, they must be such that from them the existing generalizations could be deductively derived; four, they must be fruitful—show the way to further observations and generalizations increasing the scope of knowledge. (p. 10) Popper's scientific model of science applied to social science is evident in Timascheff's description of theory. Timascheff (1967) noted that “every theory...must be subjected to verification” (p. 10). Observation enables evaluation: generalizations—the root concepts of theory—“are drawn from facts observed in the field or in closely related fields” (p. 5). If theories postulate different outcomes, observation methods must be used to decide which theory is most compatible with the “testing experience.” This is a notion of social science theory grounded in empirical observation and subjected to testing and falsification. The goodness of the four criminal justice works can be assessed in terms of the scientific model of social science theory. The works of

J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572


Imagine an experiment in which the scientist measures the velocity and finds that it changes. Sometimes it is fast, and sometimes it is slow. Suppose the apple was itself intentionally changing the rate at which it fell, and the scientist could not accurately assess the speed with which the apple fell unless she took into account what the apple was thinking while it was falling? This certainly makes physics a lot more complicated! Now the scientist cannot predict the behavior of the apple without knowing what the apple is thinking. She certainly cannot predict its future behavior with any accuracy, because she will never know ahead of time what the apple will be thinking at some hypothetical future point in time. What does she do to understand the apple's behavior? Well, she can ask the apple what it is thinking. Did it want to fall? Does it blindly accept its fate or rage against the dying of the light? Does it know how to adequately express what it is thinking? Will, moreover, the scientist understand its answer? What if the scientist does not understand the language of the apple? This is the interpretive issue writ in apples —one can only know what the behavior of other people means by including the way they think about their behavior into assessments of them. Can the scientist ask one of them and find out? Should all of the apples? Is the scientist even sure that their attitudes and behavior are related? What if the apples disagree about the reasons for what they did? To know why the apple acted as it did, the scientist would have to know what the behavior means for the apple. Meaning is always meaning for a subject, and to determine that meaning one must find out what the subject is thinking (Taylor, 1994). A theory of apple behavior has to be based on what the apple is thinking—a scientist cannot apply some objective notion of science to the apple to explain it. After all, it is its behavior, not the scientist's, that one seeks to explain. The apple best understands its behavior, and a scientific theory will be the strongest to the extent that it fully comprehends the apple's reasons for its behavior. The apple has to tell the scientist that. This is immensely complicated when one takes into consideration that the meaning of the apple's behavior only exists in broader fields of meaning—the traditions in which it learned and practiced its behavior. The apple seems to be acting socially—its behavior seems tied to the behavior of other apples around it. Understanding the meaning of the actions of the apple, consequently, can only occur by locating its individual behavior in that broader field of behavior. This means that meaning, for the apple, is always contextualized—it occurs within a broader field of meanings. To understand human action in the field of criminal justice—the “apples” that constitute the subject matter of the justice fields—the scientist has to figure out what behavior means to the actors in it, recognizing that those meanings are always intersubjective and find their meanings in an intersubjective field of meaning. The scientist needs to know the meanings as apples see them, and the scientist needs to tie that meaning to broader structures of meaning (Taylor, 1994). This is certainly a lot more complicated than studying atoms! Structure of meaning—webs of significance, to borrow Geertz's fabulous phrase—are more than some dictionary notion of agreement or consensus. Taylor emphasized that common understandings of the world have to already be in place before consensus can occur. Common understandings require shared language and shared experience. This means, in the language of hermeneutics, that people develop shared meanings because they are similarly situated in a particular historical tradition. These terms—structures of meaning, webs of significance, and historical traditions, all mean similar things, except that the idea of a historical tradition also means that the meanings individuals have of themselves as social beings, is located in particular places and times. The less one as a scientist knows of them, the further one is from that historical tradition, the less one understands it. That social scientists find meaning within a historical tradition complicates interpretation, and it brings one back to Giddens' caution.

Not only is it interpreting what another person is doing, it is interpreting it from one's historical tradition. This interpretation— call it self—faces another—call it other. So, even while self is trying to learn the meaning of other's sense-making, self also is historically situated, using self's sense-making to make sense of other. In the social sciences, self is a field of inquiry. Other can be another person, a text, a culture, or a law—any human creation that carries meaning. The core issues of self and other—that encounter of traditions—are the same. The model of hermeneutic inquiry is about learning about the other. The metaphor used to describe the development of knowledge is called the “hermeneutic circle.” According to this metaphor, self approaches other with an openness and a willingness to accept that the view of the other is potentially truthful—that indeed it may be more truthful than self's. Self changes in the process of interaction with other. Other also changes in the process of interaction with self—self's interpretive tradition is expanding to account for the truths as other's tradition is expanding to account for self's. Knowledge, then, emerges in a constant, ongoing repositioning and closing of self and other. The process of repositioning of self and other, as knowledge accumulates, is called the hermeneutic circle.11 Hermeneutic theory Hermeneutics provides a different way to think about theory. Below, by looking at the interplay between a hermeneutical and a scientific criminal justice, this article provides for consideration of the relative strengths and weaknesses of both hermeneutic and scientific theory of criminal justice. Good theory is located in historical traditions. If theory is not general—that is, it does not seek explanation of some aspect of humankind generally—one should not conclude that it produces relativistic or arbitrary results.12 Knowledge, Gadamer (1976, 1981) argued, is located in interpretive communities and carries a historical tradition. By historical tradition is meant that texts are the product of a social setting with its own particular language, values, these meanings have intersubjective validity within identifiable communities. The knowledge that develops from interpretation is local shared sense-making about behavior. Good theory, in this sense, is theory that provides an explanation of collective sense-making, and is good to the extent that it reproduces and provides insight into the way a group finds meaning in its lifecircumstances. Knowledge is always—hermeneutically speaking—located in historical traditions. Notions of truth, right and wrong, and indeed the meaning of language is itself seen as historically situated. For a social science, this means that the language it uses to describe its area of study is also historically situated. This has particular implications for the social science of criminal justice. What is the historical tradition for the discourse of criminal justice, and does that history have implications for a social science of criminal justice? The answer, discussed below, is that much of the social science of criminal justice takes its language from the contemporary practice of criminal justice in the U.S., and consequently carries the motivations and purposes of the state in its use of that language. The discourse of criminal justice practice, with its use of terms such as personal responsibility, deterrence, crime, just desserts, is not an objective language. Its “reality substrate” is the practice of U.S. criminal justice organizations, and its language is the discourse of what characterizes U.S. crime control practices. This discourse imparts its own theories of criminal behavior, typically organized around principles of personal responsibility, often behaviorally indicated by a willingness to admit to guilt. These theories are the rhetorical basis for decision-making across the crime control continuum, from the discretionary decision to arrest, to pre-sentence reports at sentencing,


J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572

to treatment opportunities in an institution, to parole hearings for early release. Criminal justice practice, in this everyday sense, is about the application of an interpretation of the law to a theory of the individual's behavior, framed in terms of crime and crime control. A central feature of crime control discourse is that it is normatively dominant. This means that it asserts itself over any other individual's normative systems with which it comes into contact. As Cover (1986) noted with regard to the judiciary, criminal justice practice is not interpretive—it does not seek knowledge about the other. It is deliberately destructive—it aims at the destruction of the normative world of the “other.” The discourse of crime control practice, consequently, is not and can never be an objective rendering of human behavior. It represents the way in which the state organizes and acts upon its definitions of behavior, to suppress other ways of thinking and justifying human behavior. Scientific approaches to criminal justice, however, tend to use the language of crime control as if it were an objective rendering of human behavior. As Crank and King (2007) noted, to the extent that social scientists treat the language of the state as if it were an objective scientific language, they are co-opted in and tend to reinforce the crimecontrol purposes of the state, whether or not they agree with those practices. How, then, does a criminal justice researcher separate herself from the language of the state? One refocuses her research back on the meanings provided by the “other,” the inquiry shifts from a practice based on the state's interpretation of the meanings for the other's behavior—lack of responsibility, parenting problems, offending rates, uniform crime rates, victimization, predatory behavior, or the like—and into a direct inquiry of the other as to the reasons for their behavior. Recall the “apple” thought experiment: the behavior of “apples” is to be understood in its own terms—the intersubjective relationships between group members, or their “webs of significance”—that give the meanings for their actions. The behavior of those caught up in justice system practices cannot be understood in the language of criminal justice, which is an imposed language and will destroy, over a relatively short time, an understanding of the justice issue. The actual reasons for particular actions that may have propelled someone to break the law—the issues of justice, morality, or economics—will be replaced with a discourse that destroys that individual's local “truths.” To the extent that the field of criminal justice research relies on the states discourse to develop its scientific perspective, it participates not in the collection of truth, but in the legitimation of its destruction. Within an interpretive scheme, a researcher is not seeking a single right and wrong outcome—a single underlying social reality. Truth is socially mediated. It is always local and resides within a group's shared traditions, and local truths are part of an interpretive community's way of coming to terms with its common problems. Hence, efforts to understand their discourse represents the closing of the hermeneutic “circle” by comprehending what their social and everyday world means in their terms. The process of inquiry and the development of a narrative always locate a researcher as a person seeking meaning as it is understood by the group of interest, even when deconstructionist methods are used. As suggested by the “apple” example, meaning is interpreted in the context of the researched—their web of significance—and how those individuals imbue action with meaning. Otherwise the meanings scientists bring are in the end only the meanings they already had, and as Gadamer correctly noted, only an alienation from the world researched. If good theory is not universalistic in orientation—if social scientists abandon the notion that they should seek certain knowledge about crime, crime control, or criminal behavior, for example, then what is it that they are trying to learn? The answer to this question is another principle of interpretation. The purpose of knowledge is to carry on the conversation, the next point of discussion. Good theory carries on the conversation. Here, the discussion returns to the hermeneutic circle, previously described as an ongoing

conversation between self and other. The understanding that self is able to ultimately achieve—the merging of the horizons, Gadamer famously observed—is an expansion of self's effective history to include the “text” of the other.13 In the future, someone who shares a similar interest will have the advantage of incorporating self's views into hers, since self will have become part of the tradition of the text. The writing of this article on theory is an example of this point. The authors wrote this article to try to think through a writing strategy to compare scientific and interpretive social science during a historical period when the field of criminal justice seems to be undergoing theoretical maturation. The motive is to open the field to the broader creative activity available in the other social sciences, the humanities, and in other places in the world that practice quite different notions of justice than those observed in the U.S. The authors cannot, however, possibly know how or even if “future person” will interpret this work within her particular historical perspective. This is because the authors can never know the shared meanings of the world she will inhabit. What will the field of criminal justice look like when she scans across the passages of time to the work being carried out in this era—if the field even exists? Will she see an interpretive turn in criminal justice as a side-bar, or will it take on importance in “future-place?” What new knowledge and collected truths might she have for understanding justice? All such knowledge is beyond reach, as a social scientist, because the authors cannot “climb into the heads” of future people and understand their meanings as they will experience them. For this reason, good theory resists prediction. Social scientists cannot freeze-frame time for the meanings they give to things and then assert that they have it right for all time—what an act of intellectual arrogance that would be! The goal of theory, consequently, is not to develop predictive ability but to “carry on the conversation.” To “carry on a conversation” carries a great deal of meaning (see Rorty, 1979; Warnke, 1987). Rorty (1979) asserted that carrying on the conversation is the essential work of science. Science cannot come to final answers, but science can find new and fresh ways to understand its domains. This notion extends readily to the field of criminal justice. By conceiving of criminal justice as a conversation, scholars could engage in an ongoing dialogue about what different and potentially fruitful forms justice could take. The field of criminal justice grows by seeking new ways to think about the practice of criminal justice. This notion is echoed in Warnke's (1993) discussion of conversation and justice: The subject of a hermeneutic conversation, so conceived, is neither principles of justice to which everyone could agree nor the truth of opinions. It is rather the possibility of different interpretations of a tradition and of the practices, experiences, and opinions it includes. (p. 137) Ongoing dialogue—the conversation between different views of justice—is important because “the issue is no longer as much one of rightness or wrongness but one of continuing revision and reform” (Warnke, 1993, p. 137). This hermeneutic notion of justice both enables an ongoing questioning of contemporary practices and provides a forum for understanding differences in practice as interpretive differences rather than as moral shortcomings. Good theory is empirical. By empirical is meant that knowledge is derived from observation or experience. To be empirical means that one relies on sensory experience to develop knowledge of the world. Scientific method is often tied to empirical analysis: the practice of experimentation relies on sensory experience and is empirical. Similarly, the knowledge of a hermeneutic or interpretive social science is also empirical. Knowledge, interpretively understood, is tied to effective history—that part of history that people use on a daily

J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572


basis to deal with routine problems. Human action, located in the intersubjective worlds acted out by ordinary people, is the proper focus of study. Interpretation is at harmony with scientific theory on this point—it is opposed to “armchair” theorizing, and locates good theory in the ability to associate meaning with observable behavior. The process of theory building, however, is different between scientific and hermeneutic notions of social science. In scientific theorizing, the findings of empirical analysis are generalized back to a set of abstracted concepts. This notion of theory is framed in a discourse whose meanings are those of the research or scientific community. With interpretive theory, on the other hand, findings are framed in a discourse whose meanings, to the extent possible, are drawn from the community being studied. One can state, then, the two philosophies of social science are in agreement on what empirical knowledge is and why it is important. They disagree on the way in such knowledge is attained and on subsequent interpretations aimed at generalizing findings. To explore the way interpretation looks at the attainment of knowledge and the ability to generalize from it, the authors turned to Geertz's interpretive work in the field of anthropology. Geertz's (1994) discussion of the meanings of local culture in his article “thick description” is a widely-cited application of interpretation to the field of anthropology. By thick, Geertz indicated that cultural description goes “all the way down to the most immediate observational level” (p. 229). Any reading of culture that distances it from the observational level will “divorce it from its applications and render it vacant” (p. 223). The focus of empirical research should, consequently, be at the local or observational level. Geertz (1994) argued that interpretation served to expand the diversity of ways one thinks through human cultures: The essential vocation of interpretive anthropology is not to answer our deepest questions, but to make available to us answers that others, guarding other sheep in other valleys, have given, and thus to include them in the consultable record of what man has said. (p. 231) Keeping interpretation grounded in the language and actions of local traditions had implications for theory: it needed to be closer to the world of observation than is often seen in scientific notions of social science. Theory, because of this, was constructed from immediate generalizations from cultural data. The product of this way of constructing theory was not to “codify abstract regularities,” as Geertz viewed scientific theorizing, but to “make thick description possible” (Geertz, 1994, p. 228). In interpretive terms, thick description is a method that aids in understanding the “other” as completely as possible. A student of criminal justice might challenge Geertz's notion of thick description, not with regard to its aptness for knowledge production in the field of anthropology, but whether such a local way of theorizing is adequate for studying the beliefs and practices of criminal justice in the U.S. The challenge to criminal justice is to develop a “thick description” of criminal justice practices that is locally based, yet broadly insightful regarding practices in the U.S. Consider LaFree and Russell's (1993) observation that all roads in American criminology lead to race. Students of criminal justice, reviewing literature on race, might ask: is the criminal justice system racist? How can “thick description” help to answer to this question? Consider Lemann's (1992) study titled “The Promised Land” as a work built around thick description, though its overall purpose was to describe broad social changes. This study provided a detailed description of the African American migration from the rural South to the urban North from 1900 to 1960, called the “great migration.” Detailed historical references and oral histories provided an immediate, practical sense of the way in which individuals at the time experienced the great migration. A discussion of machine politics in Chicago in the early 1960s provides a historical picture, at the level of

individual actors, of the broad shift of the democratic party from its racist character prior to 1960 to its civil rights focus after 1967. As large and important as it was, the great migration is only one part of the broader puzzle regarding the relationship between race and crime. Is it possible to grasp such large social themes affecting criminal justice within a way of thinking about theory and research framework designed to illuminate local truths? Questions such as “is the criminal justice system racist?” cannot even be framed without employing a very broad, sweeping terminology. The answer to such questions is that, even at such a broad level, interpretation plays a role. The meanings associated with migration, or with racism, are developed from the way in which they are viewed by the actors who experienced them. The gathering together of many individual narratives provides meaning to historical events as they were understood by their participants. Indeed, it is primarily through the interpretive work, the thick descriptions provided by oral histories and interviews, that one can make sense of it.14 One can apply Taylor's observation made earlier—general notions are understood only by appealing to concrete events. It is only by studying events at that level that one gains interpretive knowledge—the events as lived by those who experience them. The central point taken from this is that, when trying to explain broad social events, one is engaged in a quite different activity from generalizing theory. Lemann (1992) developed a sweeping perspective, but he focused on a specific event—the great migration—as it was experienced by its participants. It is his “thick description” that gives meaning to the great migration, and that meaning is provided by the participants he interviewed. Convergences The history of hermeneutic and scientific models of social science is dense with disagreement and conflict. Indeed, one can argue that, from the early work of Gadamer forward, hermeneutics has aimed at challenging scientific notions of social science. When the two philosophies of social science are compared for their practical (as opposed to philosophical) implications for theory development, however, they are not—at the level of research implications—so polar. To the contrary, they tend to complement each other in some ways, and caution each other in other ways. A review of convergences between the two perspectives is consequently presented in this section. 1. Both models represent a substantial advancement in social scientific maturity over normative criminal justice research. Academic criminal justice in the U.S., Morn (1995) reminds, emerged from police training in the early twentieth century and consequently has always contained powerful normative characteristics. That means that the way it organized its teaching tended to mirror the organization of crime control practices in the U.S. It also meant that the focus of much of its early research was in relatively straightforward notions of function—to what extent can knowledge produced by academic criminal justice contribute to the varied goals and purposes of criminal justice organizations, with those goals representing such diverse ends as crime suppression and rehabilitation. Criminal justice theory, under this model, was that body of knowledge that aided the practice of criminal justice. Both the scientific and the hermeneutic models for theory building carry the capacity for critique of such normative approaches. The scientific model, as it is presented in the works in this article, is a broad-ranging effort to develop theory to understand the behavior of criminal justice organizations. Explanations of criminal behavior or of the behavior of those caught up in the crime control complex represent an incorrect specification of the dependent variable— which is the behavior of criminal justice organizations. Similarly, the interpretive model looks at normative practices, not from the point of


J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572

effectiveness, but what they tell one about the meanings and social constructions of justice organizations and their participants. 2. Both models are radically democratic. The scientific model of social science is democratic, in the sense that the goals of research are the development of knowledge about crime control practices according to the interests of the researcher. Hence, conflict theorists may be interested in the way in which political economy variables affect social control which carries an implicit (and sometimes explicit) critique of the organization of political and economic power in the U.S. Similarly, “thick descriptive” research on police organizations, such as VanMaanen's (1978) “asshole” may reveal information not particularly attractive in its descriptions about attitudes and behaviors of police officers. Importantly, both models of theoretical development invoke methodologies that focus the researcher to real world activities, and that require for the determination of their ideas of appropriate social science development by criteria external to the observer. In the case of scientific social science, that criteria is represented by standards of validity and reliability, and in the case of hermeneutic social science, the criteria is integrity—the extent to which an explanation comprehensively explains what it seeks to explain. 3. Both emphasize the empirical and distrust “armchair theorizing.” The discussion of hermeneutics above emphasized the grounding of hermeneutic inquiry in the concrete traditions of particular communities of interest. Geertz's (1994) work in anthropology was presented as a “thickly descriptive” example of empirically based efforts to understand the focus or a research project. Similarly, scientific notions of social science focus on the grounding of theory in “empirical” research. Gibbs (1972) described the linkages between the “real world” and broader conceptual schemas in terms of epistemic statements, which were inductive linkages that allowed vertical generalizations from real world observations, through data, to empirical hypotheses, and to conceptual hypotheses. Indeed, both perspectives find theory only meaningful to the extent that it can be tied to concrete observations. 4. The primary challenge to hermeneutics and scientific social science in the field of criminal justice is positivistic social science. Positivistic social science is that form of scientific social science, associated with Comte, that places moral value in the pursuit of underlying social “truth.” A mathematical social science could identify “truth,” thus it could be used to predict human behavior for the betterment of humankind. That in turn would enable social scientists to set goals and achieve progress. The goal of early positivistic science was the identification of broad theories aimed at explaining human activity conceived broadly, and uncovering the truths of that activity. “True” concepts could be identified if social scientists gathered enough information. Strong prediction could be attained by studying the same concepts in multiple settings, and an understanding of human behavior, immanent and apart from its empirical setting, could be acquired. With prediction, one could control behavior that was inappropriate, by manipulating in a human setting the various local indicators of general theoretical concepts. This positivistic notion of social science, though looking much like the scientific model of social science, differs on important dimensions when one looks at contemporary criminal justice theory conducted under the scientific model. After a great deal of research in the field of criminal justice, few strong universal predictors of behavior have emerged. Moreover, none of the criminal justice models for predicting crime, including models based on previous criminal activity, work very well, in the sense that they explain a large quantity of the variance across fields of activity. One also witnesses a variety of social scientific works that are openly resistive to general prediction and to any notion of behavioral control of human subjects. For example, research conducted into

institutional theory of organizations, popular in the study of police and correctional organizations, argues that the behavior and values carried by criminal justice organizations in the value structures of principal audiences, especially those in local communities, not in immanent notions of human behavior. In this way, institutional theory seems to bridge both hermeneutical and scientific social science. Another example is seen in contemporary class theory, with its strong traditions of Marxist influence, that has often focused its work on what can only be called an open rejection of the authority of the state in human affairs. The hermeneutic approach is openly resistant to the normative model. It is grounded in notions of multiple truths rather than one truth, with such truths characteristic of the particular traditions of local communities. For this reason, truth is never immanent, but is always tied to some group's traditions. The predictive power of any scientific model is thus rejected, because the ideas and traditions that mark the future cannot be known to present actors. Thus, in the play of research work, both hermeneutical and scientific social science have proven themselves to be highly rebellious to normative criminal justice and to support for state crime control practices generally. Conclusion: elements of good theory Today's class is nearly finished, and everyone is restless. Students' eyes flicker toward the clock. One can hear hallway chatter and rustle. In the back of the room, a graduate student raises his hand as the class lurches to its finish. “I have just a quick question. So is Invitation to a Beheading good theory or not?” It's a good question, and like all good questions, the answer is yes and no. If the instructor applies the scientific model of social science to it, Invitation is not good theory. It does not provide a scientific sensibility from which one can derive empirical hypotheses. One cannot even be sure what questions to ask of Invitation in order to derive empirical hypotheses. It certainly bears on the practice of criminal justice. Many criminal justice students will enact the will of the state as if it were their own will. They should understand the way that rough force and blunt edge is experienced by those on whom the state takes a dislike. Are they ready for the arbitrary outcomes that sometimes accompany the criminal sanction? Can they fathom what it does to the human psyche to put it in a cage for decades? Invitation invites quite good literary theory. A great deal of commentary has been written on it (see Connolly, 1998). It is full of descriptions of coarse, banal art perhaps intended to convey a discourse of totalitarian regimes. The story unfolds and collapses in on itself as it unfolds. The animate living and the stony background confuse each other, sometimes changing roles. The end is unclear, ambiguous, and dramatic. The story line seems to end as one knows it must, but when it does, one do not know what happened. Well, one knows—the words are there, plain enough—but the meaning is not in the words. It is hidden behind them. Invitation is, in short, everything empirical hypothesis testing, using a scientific notion of social science should not be. From the perspective of interpretive social science, Invitation looks much more promising as theory. In the interpretive field, one would read Invitation, one would review the traditions that have emerged around it—a literary tradition is, from the point of view of interpretation, part of the work. One would ask what it tells about the totalitarian Soviet Union and its manner of policing. One would ask what the purpose of the author was, and what purposes have been seen by other writers who wrote in similar traditions—perhaps Tolstoy, and certainly Dostoevsky. Is there a non-totalitarian way to think about the prison experience? Can one use Invitation to better understand the empirical traditions of Soviet penal practices? Finally, one could look at this material and ask what “themes,” or broad sensibilities and central issues—underlay Invitation the work,

J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572


and how can those themes be related to contemporary criminal justice practices. This is the general method of the hermeneutic circle— expanding horizons to understand the other—and as one does so, one increasingly merges their horizon with the horizon of the traditions encompassed by the work. It is this search for common themes—the patterns that allows one to make sense of the work and its traditions in terms of the justice institutions—that give rise to an understanding of Invitation that is indeed theoretical. So yes, Invitation is good theory, but to recognize it as such one has to view the field of criminal justice as an interpretive social science. It is not good theory because it is a brilliant work of fiction. It is good theory because it is fecund—it stimulates ideas, it forces one to think in unaccustomed ways, and it locates one within the important justice issues of recent times. To use it as theory though, one has to tie it, in some practical way, to the penal practices prevalent in the Soviet Union in the era in which it was written. Standing alone, it is better conceived as literary theory, not social science theory. Applied to social traditions empirically specified in time and space, then one can use it as theory. Another student looks around, then raises her hand. What, then, is good theory? How does one know it when one sees it? A few students sigh—they are ready to go. There is no right answer, of course. There is no truth, but there are many truths. That's the central point of this essay. If one were to distill the previous discussion, bring it to a conclusion that said what good theory was, one can identify two general characteristics of good theory. First, a good theory has integrity. Integrity means that a way of thinking through a problem—a theory—associates itself with criteria for its own evaluation. Within the interpretive literature, integrity is the notion that a way of thinking—a theory, in this case—is able to provide a more complete explanation of its domain of interest than any other explanation. The question of integrity is this: does the theory provide not only a way of giving meaning to the world but also for assessing whether the meanings it provides are accurate? Here, one should take Kuhn's (1962) central lesson to heart—all theories are limited in time and place, and all eventually will be replaced by new ways of thinking. There is no “right” theory in an absolute sense, but there can be many right theories. Integrity is often cited as a criterion for assessing the goodness of interpretation. How can one know if one interpretation is better than another? One looks at the breadth of its explanatory power, when it focuses on the meanings that infuse behavior. Interestingly, when this very hermeneutic notion of integrity is applied to a scientific model of social science, it holds up quite well. A scientific model has a great deal of integrity. It carries with it mutually agreed upon criteria for proving or disproving the explanations it provides. Scientific social science is, in a sense, good interpretation. If scientific social science is to appeal to interpretation for legitimacy, it must work within the constraints to good interpretive theory imposed by interpretation—that it is recognized as the expression of a tradition that provides local truths, rather than the guarantor of a broader or more fundamental notion of truth, and that its truths are not independent of its empirical settings and the local meanings that append to those settings. Even with these constraints, the works by Bernard and Engel (2001) and Duffee and Maguire (2007) are high in integrity. The notion of empirical hypothesis testing, whether or not one agrees with it, is a widely held, mutually agreed upon set of conventions for assessing the truth of theories. Secondly, good theory is fecund. Fecundity is the ability to stimulate the imagination. Good theory is that which can excite the way one thinks through justice and criminal justice issues. Something is fecund if, over time, it continues to generate interest, whether or not it has been empirically rejected. Why are some works fecund and others not? In this article, the authors argue that an idea is fecund because it is tied to some problem faced by a community of interest. A theory, then, is fecund because it

shows how some group or individual conceptually organizes some real world problem faced by that community of interest. Even if a theory may seem to defy empirical investigation—and it may or may not—it is fecund if it stimulates interest over time. Marx's work has been fecund—it is tied to the industrial revolution, another profoundly fecund idea—and it stimulates interest in the inequalities of wealth in a capitalist system. The issue of race in criminal justice is fecund, because many constituent groups consider it to be of considerable importance and because issues of racial differencing and exploitation have haunted the U.S. since its founding. The organization of theory by Crank (2003) and Kraska (2004, 2006) appear to be consistent with the criteria of fecundity. Kraska selected his “orientations of understanding” because they were areas he had found, through his career, that they were the most widely used general categories of explanation for criminal justice behavior. Crank selected five general categories that he said reflected contemporary thought, and also had been of interest in other social sciences. The work of both Kraska and Crank seem to fall clearly into the category of fecundity—they represent ideas that have been around for a while, and have been sustained by communities of interest independently of assessments of their internal coherence. For the young field of academic criminal justice, the integrity of its theories is of central importance. To acquire legitimacy in a scholarly community, the field must focus empirically on its domain of interest. By addressing issues of integrity the theory developed in the field will survive legitimacy challenges. Integrity, as recognized in terms of scientific rules of social science and in interpretive principles of empirical completeness of explanation, legitimizes criminal justice theory in a scholarly community concerned with empirical applicability. Integrity is particularly important when it is applied to one of Giddens' (1976) criteria of good science—it is unflinchingly critical of its own work. Fecundity ensures that the field continues to seek important ideas, even though it does not sometimes seem to know what to do with them. Fecundity insures that the field keeps open to important ideas, or put interpretively, that it seeks the richness of ideas that make up important justice issues in the world. Integrity facilitates intellectual honesty, and fecundity helps the field stay focused on important ideas. Notes
1. Vladimir Nabokov's (1989), Invitation to a Beheading, New York, Vintage (reissue edition). Cincinnatus' story is one of the great Russian novels of life in a totalitarian regime. Cincinnatus bears on the field of criminal justice because the story line is about prison and execution. All the interpretations of those events, however, are highly interpretive, and there is substantial literary disagreement on central meanings in the narrative. The essential question here is—should one seek a definition of criminal justice theory so encompassing. 2. The use of scientific techniques in the social sciences is frequently called “positivist.” This term, however, carries a great deal of intellectual baggage and ideological conflict, so will not be used until later in the article, where positivism is compared to contemporary notions of scientific criminal justice. 3. These categories are not mutually exclusive. Hypothesis testing for theoretical development is clearly a very big idea, providing the framework for the scientific revolution that characterized the Enlightenment. Both positivist and interpretive traditions, however, have each staked out their intellectual territories in ongoing debate in the philosophy the social sciences (see e.g., Martin & McIntyre, 1994), and are accordingly distinguished here. 4. Chapter four (Castellano & Gould, 2007) is an exception and focuses on the neglect of justice in criminal justice theory. 5. This article not saying that it is Duffee and Maguire's intent to produce grounded theory. Instead it is saying that their theory is generated from a mass of the findings produced by a mass of specific research efforts. 6. The opening four chapters each provide different notions of boundaries, and the authors suggest that the reader develop her own notion of criminal justice theory and what it ought to be. 7. That justice should be the organizing domain of academic criminal justice also was advocated by Castellano and Gould (2007), whose work appears in one of the works considered here, Duffee and Maguire (2007). The authors begin with a question—whether the American justice system, and in particular U.S. penal practices— are just. The question cannot be answered in a meaningful way if the boundaries of the field are defined by state-based justice systems. The question propelled justice theory


J.P. Crank, B.A. Bowman / Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (2008) 563–572 Cover, R. (1986). Violence and the word. Yale Law Journal, 95, 1601−1635. Crank, J. (2003). Imagining justice. Cincinnati, OH: Lexis/Nexis. Crank, J. (2004). Standpoints of police culture. In Q. Thurman & A. Giacomazzi (Eds.), Controversies in policing. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson. Crank, J., & King, K. (2007). Babble: A theater in justice and discourse. Critical Criminology, 15, 343−363. Dubin, R. (1978). Theory development. New York: The Free Press. Duffee, D., & Maguire, E. (2007). Criminal justice theory: Explaining the nature and behavior of criminal justice. New York: Routledge. Editor and Publisher. (2006, March 8). Gallup: More than half of Americans reject evolution, back Bible. Retrieved from news/article_display Gadamer, H. (1976). Philosophical hermeneutics. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gadamer, H. (1981). Reason in the age of science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Geertz, C. (1994). Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In M. Martin & L. McIntyre (Eds.), Readings in the philosophy of social science (pp. 213−232). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Gibbs, J. (1972). Sociological theory construction. Binghampton, England: Dryden Press. Giddens, A. (1976). New rules of sociological method. New York: Basic Books. Kraska, P. (2004). Theorizing criminal justice: Eight essential orientations. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press. Kraska, P. (2006). Criminal justice theory: Toward legitimacy and an infrastructure. Justice Quarterly, 23, 167−185. Kuhn, T. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. LaFree, G., & Russell, L. (1993). The argument for studying race and crime. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 4, 273−289. Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lemann, N. (1992). The promised land: The great Black migration and how it changed America. New York: Vintage-Random House. MacIntyre, A. (1988). Whose justice? Which rationality? Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Martin, M., & McIntyre, L. (1994). Readings in the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Morgan, G. (1986). Images of organization. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Morn, F. (1995). Academic politics and the history of criminal justice education. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Nabokov, V. (1989). Invitation to a beheading (D. Nabokov, Trans.). New York: Random House. Nafisi, A. (2004). Reading Lolita in Tehran. New York: Random House. Popper, K. (2000). Conjectures and refutations [Excerpt from original 1963 publication]. In T. Schick (Ed.), Readings in the philosophy of science (pp. 9−13). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. Reiman, J. (2004). The rich get richer and the poor get prison: Ideology, class, and criminal justice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Rorty, R. (1979). Philosophy and the mirror of nature. Princeton, MA: Princeton University Press. Snipes, J., & Maguire, E. (2007). Foundations of criminal justice theory. In D. Duffee & E. Maguire (Eds.), Criminal justice theory: Explaining the nature and behavior of criminal justice. New York: Routledge. Taylor, C. (1994). Interpretation and the sciences of man. In M. Martin & L. McIntyre (Eds.), Readings in the philosophy of social science (pp. 181−212). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Timascheff, N. (1967). Sociological theory (3rd ed.). New York: Random House. VanMaanen, J. (1978). The asshole. In P. Manning & J. VanMaanen (Eds.), Policing: A view from the street (pp. 221−238). Santa Monica, CA: Goodyear. Warnke, G. (1987). Gadamer: Hermeneutics, tradition and reason. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Warnke, G. (1993). Justice and interpretation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Warnke, G. (1999). Legitimate differences: Interpretation in the abortion controversy and other public debates. Berkeley: University of California Press.

into the realm of values, acknowledged by the authors. They argued that justice scholarship should recognize and assess the ideological bases for current justice practices. Only through an inquiry grounded in notions of justice could one think meaningfully about the broader purposes and ethics of justice practice in the U.S. 8. Does the appeal to historical tradition predetermine the conclusions drawn as regards a particular tradition's conceptualizations of justice? The answer is a qualified yes. Central to hermeneutic notions is that key concepts and ways of thinking find their meaning within historical traditions, and that, to understand those meanings one must learn to think in the manner of thought characteristic of those traditions. For example, MacIntyre's (1988) work on justice locates “justice rationalities,” or ways of thinking about justice as it ties to socially expected ends, to specific historical periods and writers who were characteristic of those periods. It is a qualified yes, in that any interpretation involves both self and other, and so other's justice is qualified by self's ability to comprehend other's justice. 9. One should not be sanguine that science, based in scientific method, will continue to hold sway over authoritarian bases of knowledge located in church and state. It is not clear that the principle accomplishment of the Enlightenment—the overthrow of hierarchical authority as the source of knowledge about the world—will endure. 10. Any language one turns to simply is an interpretation of the first interpretation, and may not be an interpretation to everyone's satisfaction. As Warnke (1987) observed, any language that used to try to enjoin common ground with another language is really an assertion of one perspective over the other. It is still, however, a perspective grounded in some tradition. Moreover, there is an infinite regress in the problem of attempts to find a common language—one ends up appealing to another language to explain how their language better explains another language, and then one needs another language to explain that explanation, ad infinitum. 11. Gadamer (1976) insisted that self is always already inside the hermeneutic circle. What he meant by this was that a person is always making sense of the world with which she is interacting and changing as a result of the sense-making. 12. Warnke (1987, p. 80) noted that “Indeed, on Gadamer's view this historical experience limits the potential arbitrariness of my understanding for, insofar as my understanding of a given object is rooted in a whole history of interpretations of that object, I am protected from an entirely idiosyncratic interpretation of it.” 13. By effective history, Gadamer meant that part of one's background that is brought to bear on problems at hand. One doesn't have access to their full cultural history—only that part of it into which one has been socialized, and then only a part of that is used on a routine basis. That latter part is their effective history. 14. This does not mean that one cannot understand the consequences of racist acts differently, or that one cannot have the wisdom of hindsight when one looks at the consequences of acts called racist. Interpretively speaking, self always brings self's horizon to bear against the horizon of those with whom self interacts, with the expectation that self has something to learn from other, however uncomfortable that knowledge might be. Self in this sense does not impose its interpretation on the “other” even when self suspects that other is racist or the victim of racism.

Bernard, T., & Engel, R. (2001). Conceptualizing criminal justice theory. Justice Quarterly, 18, 1−30. Castellano, T., & Gould, J. (2007). The dominance of CRIME and neglect of JUSTICE in criminal justice theory: Causes, consequences, and alternatives. In D. Duffee & E. Maguire (Eds.), Criminal justice theory: Explaining the nature and behavior of criminal justice. New York: Routledge. Clear, T. (2001). Has academic criminal justice come of age? Justice Quarterly, 18, 709−726. (2005). Kansas school board redefines science. Retrieved from http://www. Connolly, J. (Ed.). (1998). Nabokov's ‘invitation to a beheading': A critical companion. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful