Process-Sociology as 'The Hinge': Toward Integrated Theories of Crime and Deviance

Michael Atkinson, The University of Calgary

While occasionally referred to as a 'contemporary' sociologist of growing influence (Burkitt 1991; Layder 1986, 1994), the work of Norbert Elias has been generally under appreciated in most sociologicaL sub-disciplines. Save for the exploration of Elias' work within the sociology of sport (cf. Dunning 1999; Maguire 1999; Sheard 1997), the tenets of Elias' process-sociology have only begun to be critically examined through empirical research. In this discussion, I make a case for exploring theoretical insights on crime, criminality, and deviance tacitly contained within Elias' work. While his writings were not intentionally geared toward the advancement of a general theory of crime, his interpretations of 'civilising processes' (Elias 1978, 1983), his research of figurational power relations (Elias & Scotson 1965), and his conceptualisations of interdependency (Elias 1981, 1991) contain core elements required for a theoretical explanation of crime and deviance--such as, the explanation of individual crime, the explanation of societal crime rates, the exploration of the reactive components involved in crime, and, the functions of formal and informal social control. It is argued here that a process-sociological framework is well-suited for bridging seemingly dissonant existing theories of crime into a conceptually comprehensive and unified theory of rule-breakiing behaviour.

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Updated 05/20/2006