Black's Theory of Law and Social Control

Bradley Campbell

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online April 2011 | | DOI:
Black's Theory of Law and Social Control

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Developed by Donald Black and since extended and applied to various subjects by a number of scholars, Black’s theory of law and social control addresses a phenomenon relevant to specialists in nearly every subfield of social science: the handling of human conflict. The theory’s subject matter is present wherever there are moral disputes, wherever one person has a grievance against another, wherever one person defines another’s behavior as deviant. Conflict may occur wherever there is social life, then, and it may lead to arrests, restraining orders, suicides, thefts, boycotts, protests, revolutions, and numerous other responses. But the nature of the disputes themselves does not explain how they are handled. Some insults may lead to homicides, for example, and some homicides may lead to executions. But not all of them do. Likewise not all landlord-tenant disputes result in lawsuits, and not all marital infidelity results in divorce. According to Black’s theory, this kind of variation—variation in social control, or the handling of conflict—can be explained sociologically. Every case of conflict has a social geometry (or social structure) consisting of the social characteristics of everyone involved—such as whether they are wealthy or poor and whether they are intimates or strangers. The geometry of the case predicts how it is handled. This type of explanation—called pure sociology—distinguishes Black’s theory not only from other theories of law and social control but also from all other theoretical paradigms. Pure sociology thus may be applied to subjects other than law and social control. Any form of social life may be explained with its social geometry.

Article.  11835 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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