Underused potentials for criminology: Applying the sociology of knowledge to terrorism

Abstract

Knowledge has for a long time been a central category in criminological thought, the etiological and reaction sides alike. On the etiological side, rational choice, neutralization techniques, the learning and unlearning of motivations, practices and codes, and, lately, efforts toward a cognitive criminology exemplify approaches that refer implicitly or explicitly to ‘knowledge’. Yet, with the exception of George Herbert Mead’s work, the sociology of knowledge has barely been explicitly used. This paper argues that the conscious consideration of the sociology of knowledge, including neo-Durkheimian, neo-Marxist, and neo-Weberian traditions, promises great benefit to criminological thought. Such consideration sheds light on the distribution across time and space of cognitive and normative tools that contribute to patterns of norm breaking behavior. A brief overview of the implicit use of ‘knowledge’ in criminological theory is followed by an elaboration of the potential benefits for criminology from incorporating leading traditions in the sociology of knowledge. The article concludes with an illustration for the case of terrorism as it rises simultaneously, but seeks distinct targets, across regions of the world.

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Correspondence to Joachim J. Savelsberg.

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Savelsberg, J.J. Underused potentials for criminology: Applying the sociology of knowledge to terrorism. Crime Law Soc Change 46, 35–50 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-006-9046-0

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Keywords

  • Social Capital
  • Social Control
  • Knowledge System
  • American Sociological Review
  • Collective Memory