How do we understand the nature and origin of crime in society today? Criminology is the special field of study that addresses this question, and criminologists have offered hundreds of explanations for crime. In his book, Explaining Criminal Conduct, Knepper argues that these many different explanations derive from seven basic, organizing areas relative to our ideas about human nature, the human body, the mind, society, language, [race relations, and spirituality]. He assesses how adequately each area helps us understand crime and the criminal, and the theoretical positions that shape ongoing social policy.
The first chapter introduces the process of intellectual inquiry that is followed in criminology. Chapters Two through Eight each consider one of the basic theoretical areas of criminological explanation, beginning with the thought of a key founder and tracing its elaboration through contemporary practice. In addition, each chapter assesses the coherence of that particular approach and its value in the formation of public policy. The final chapter sketches a moral basis for government intervention.
The criminologist's task is not just to uncover some unknown source of criminal behavior by means of social-scientific technique. Criminology's greatest promise lies in its articulation of those enduring elements of moral tradition that provide an appropriate basis for ethical public policy concerning crime. Explaining Criminal Conduct expresses the hope for an understanding of criminal conduct grounded in respect for the dignity of each human being.