Contemporary Crises

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 371–391

Cultural relativism and comparative criminology

  • Piers Beirne

DOI: 10.1007/BF00728670

Cite this article as:
Beirne, P. Contemporary Crises (1983) 7: 371. doi:10.1007/BF00728670


The recent spate of comparative studies of crime is long overdue as a potential palliative to the traditional ethnocentrism of American criminology. But their comparative method is uncritically taken from two incompatible propositions derived from Durkheimian empiricism. As such, the generalizations about criminal behavior that these studies advance should be treated more with caution than optimism. This essay discusses the alleged advances over Durkheimian empiricism made by two distinct forms of cultural relativism.

If what every man believes as a result of perception is indeed to be true for him; if, just as no one is to be a better judge of what another experiences, so no one is better entitled to consider what another thinks is true or false... then, my friend, where is the wisdom of Protagoras, to justify his setting up to teach others and to be handsomely paid for it?

Socrates, in Plato'sTheaetetus

Copyright information

© Elsevier Science Publishers B.V 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piers Beirne
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern MaineUSA

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