Situational Crime Prevention and its Discontents: Rational Choice Theory versus the ‘Culture of Now’


Address for correspondence: Keith Hayward, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Cornwallis North East, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF. Email:


The rational choice theory of crime and its cognate field of study, situational crime prevention, have exerted a considerable influence in criminal justice policy and criminology. This article argues that, while undeniably useful as a means of reducing property or acquisitive crime, rational choice-inspired situational crime prevention initiatives are limited when it comes to offering protection against a growing number of so-called ‘expressive crimes’. Developing this critique, the article will criticize the sociologically hollow narrative associated with rational choice theories of crime by drawing on recent research in social theory and consumer studies. It argues that the growing tendency among many young individuals to engage in certain forms of criminal decision-making ‘strategies’ may simply be the by-product of a series of subjectivities and emotions that reflect the material values and cultural logic associated with late modern consumerism.