Ideology: Criminology's Achilles' Heel?

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Few things prevent the accumulation of reliable knowledge more surely than ideological intransigence (Blankenship & Wachholz, 1989). Sociopolitical ideology forms, shapes, and colors our concepts of crime and its causes in ways that lead to a tendency to accept or reject new data according to how well or poorly they cohere with that ideology. While all scholarly disciplines have had their ideological battles (see Walsh, 1997, for a brief history of this in chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology), perhaps no discipline has been more plagued by it than criminology. The ideological divide in criminology lies primarily between criminologists who focus on strictly environmentalist theories that give short shrift to individual differences, and those who focus on individual differences and wish to integrate insights from the biological sciences into criminology. The former tend to be radicals and liberals and the latter tend to be conservatives and moderates (Wright & Miller, 1998).

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