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Theories of Delinquency.

SHOEMAKER'S THEORIES OF DELINQUENCY IS A CAREFULLY CRAFTED AND WELL-written text. It provides an excellent introduction not only to theories of criminal behavior as they apply to juveniles, but also to theoretical perspectives that can be applied to adult criminal behavior. Beyond its wellrounded theoretical coverage, the book contains an introductory chapter that briefly reviews some issues of concern to criminologists. This chapter contains valuable information that is essential to those embarking upon the study of criminal behavior. The material covered here is presented clearly and concisely and covers such thorny issues as causality, defining a theory, and the verification of theories. In my view, this material could be expanded upon, since it serves as the basis of many primary assumptions that criminologists make in theory construction and theory testing. Shoemaker's introductory comments about theory and theory testing cover points that need to be pounded" home to introductory criminology students who might otherwise form false premises about the field and its ability to solve the crime problem. Shoemaker does these students a great service by reviewing these issues up front in an easily understandable and accessible format. In addition, Shoemaker's approach is useful because it can serve as an anchoring point for criticizing theories of crime and help students develop the ability to criticize theories of criminal behavior as well as purported tests of those theories.

The book's overall framework is well planned. Each theory is treated according to the following divisions: specific assumptions, key concepts, discussion of the literature, and an evaluation of the approach's theoretical structure and empirical findings. Such an approach makes it easy for the introductory reader to follow the arguments being made, besides the evidence and criticisms that are offered of each theory. The book contains 12 chapters focusing on biological and biosocial explanations, psychological theories, social disorganization and anomie, lower-class theories of delinquency, interpersonal and situational explanations, control theory, labeling theory, radical theory, female delinquency, middle-class delinquency, and an integrative concluding chapter. The integrative chapter presents several interesting arguments, and makes for a fine conclusion that shows the need to consider multiple points of view when examining the question of crime causation.

As in many textbooks, the treatment of certain approaches is short, though not inaccurate. The book, however, is certainly well suited for undergraduate introductory courses on both juvenile delinquency and criminology. I have used the first edition of this book in my criminology classes and have found it quite satisfactory. However, advanced undergraduates and graduate students would need material to supplement the theories Shoemaker reviews. Nevertheless, the book remains an excellent introduction to the field.

There are several areas in which the book could be improved. These deficiencies, though, still do not detract from the overall usefulness and quality of the book. For example, the chapter on biology and crime could have included a more in-depth examination of the "quiet" revolution in the biological sciences that explore human genetic development. This view is revolutionary to the extent that genes are no longer viewed as fixed and static blueprints, but are seen as the starting point in the development of the human being. Currently, gene structures are seen as interacting with and being affected by environmental factors that shape the gene and its impact. In this view, then, it is possible to explain how lower-class lifestyles may affect genetic structures that cause certain abnormalities to appear in the lower class more often than in other classes. This view has a further advantage: it places biological theory in a social context, tying it to both economic factors (i.e., class) and environmental factors (i.e., pollution, hazardous waste, and the location of these hazards in lower-class communities). This gives the biological approach a more well rounded" emphasis, and destroys some of its reductionist tendencies. Such an addition would also make available to students materials that could be used to criticize many early biological theories of crime. In addition, a revised, more modem view of biological theory could contribute to the integrative discussion advanced in the conclusion to the book.

My second criticism concerns the chapter on radical criminology. Shoemaker has neglected a great deal of recent work in this area. Although his review of Quinney's or Greenberg's work is accurate, these authors, and the radical approach in general, has undergone great revision over the last half of the 1980s. Thus, by depicting radical criminology through a review of the early works of radical criminologists, Shoemaker paints a picture of the still emerging, undeveloped radical position. Such a view does not reveal the more refined and mature position to which contemporary radical criminologists adhere. Nor does it review the debates radicals have had, and continue to have, among themselves. Because of this dated view, even some of the criticisms that Shoemaker levels against the radical position are moot, having been addressed in numerous, more recent works that fall outside the scope of this chapter. This chapter, in my opinion, is the one that requires the greatest effort to revise. There are so many changes occurring in this dynamic and everchanging perspective, so many revisions and new interests being added, that it is difficult even for radical criminologists to keep up and remain current (in making this claim, I am not excusing Shoemaker's oversights here). I hope that this chapter is revised for future editions, of which I am sure there will be many.

A final aspect of Shoemaker's book that makes it attractive as a textbook is its packaging as a paperback. As teachers, we often like to give our students many views of a topic by using multiple books. This tendency, however, must be balanced with the cost of textbooks. Paperbacks, in my view, are the perfect solution, since students can buy four or five paperback books for the cost of one hardcover textbook. Furthermore, as authors, we need to take greater control over our products and insist on publication of our books in paperback editions, not to mention on recycled paper stock. (I am assuming that our goal in writing textbooks is education and social reform, not income.)

In closing, I would like to note that no book is perfect. Textbooks, in particular, are difficult to write, especially those aimed at an undergraduate audience, where complex theories must be presented in an accessible and understandable format that is both brief and accurate. In addition, contractual limitations (which the audience knows nothing about) affect the book's content and the author's ability to expand its contents. Given such limitations, I think Shoemaker has done a fine job. I would also like to borrow a phrase used by movie reviewers to summarize my view of this book by giving it a "thumbs up."
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Lynch, Michael J.
Publication:Social Justice
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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