EDWIN H. SUTHERLAND AND THE MICHAEL-ADLER REPORT: SEARCHING FOR THE SOUL OF CRIMINOLOGY SEVENTY YEARS LATER *

Authors

  • JOHN H. LAUB

    1. Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Sociology and a faculty associate at the Maryland Population Research Center, both at the University of Maryland. During the 2005–2006 academic year, he is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. His areas of research include crime and deviance over the life course, juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice, and the history of criminology. He has published widely including most recently Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70, co-authored with Robert J. Sampson, Harvard University Press, 2003. This book has received three major awards: The Albert J. Reiss, Jr., Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association's Crime, Law, and Deviance Section; the Outstanding Book Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences; and the Michael J. Hindelang Book Award from the American Society of Criminology.
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  • *

    The 2005 Sutherland Award Address was delivered at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Toronto, Canada, November 16, 2005. When I look at the list of those who have received the Edwin H. Sutherland Award from the American Society of Criminology, I am humbled and grateful for this honor. I thank Travis Hirschi, Rob Sampson, and Rick Rosenfeld for their insightful comments on an earlier version of this paper. I also thank Elaine Eggleston Doherty and Sarah Boonstoppel for their superb research assistance.

Abstract

In response to a devastating critique of the state of criminology known as the Michael-Adler Report, Edwin H. Sutherland created differential association theory as a paradigm for the field of criminology. I contend that Sutherland's strategy was flawed because he embraced a sociological model of crime and in doing so adopted a form of sociological positivism. Furthermore, Sutherland ignored key facts about crime that were contrary to his theoretical predilections. Recognizing that facts must come first and that criminology is an interdisciplinary field of study, I offer life-course criminology as a paradigm for understanding the causes and dynamics of crime. In addition, I identify three warning signs that I believe inhibit the advancement of criminology as a science and a serious intellectual enterprise.

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