Self-Control, Conscience, and Criminal Violence: Some Preliminary Considerations

  • Helmut Thome


Many criminologists have followed Gottfredson and Hirschi’s verdict on the uselessness of conscience as an explanatory concept within criminological theory. The present chapter challenges this assessment and explores the analytical potential of “conscience” not only for the explanation of (violent) crime but also for shedding light on other aspects of social practice and exchange. It proposes the expansion of self-control into a multi-dimensional concept that comprises different functions of human agency related to the requirement of (a) expressing personal identity, (b) securing long-range personal interests, and (c) maintaining cooperative relationships with others (solidarities). The chapter also examines facets and forms of positive and negative self-appraisal, in particular shame and guilt, and considers the protective or aggravating impact they may have on aggressive or violent conduct. Some additional—and occasionally ambiguous—features of both the conceptual meaning and the social praxis of “conscience” are also discussed, taking the cognitive–developmental approach to the analysis of moral conscience as a major point of reference.


Criminal Behavior Moral Obligation Moral Belief Moral Norm Moral Disengagement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Sociology, Martin Luther UniversityHalle-WittenbergGermany

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