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The Open University

The meaning of crime

The Open University via OpenLearn


Tough on the causes of crime'. A famous phrase, but what is crime? This free course, The meaning of crime, examines how we, as a 'society', define crime. You will look at the fear that is generated...


  • Introduction
  • Learning outcomes
  • 1 What is a crime?
  • 1 What is a crime?
  • 1.1 The meaning of crime
  • 1.2 The recognition and pursuit of crime
  • 1.3 Summary
  • 2 Tales of fear and fascination
  • 2 Tales of fear and fascination
  • 2.1 Social attitudes towards crime
  • 2.2 A society frightened by crime?
  • 2.3 A society fascinated by crime?
  • 2.4 Summary
  • 3 Beyond common sense?
  • 3 Beyond common sense?
  • 3.1 Claims about crime
  • 3.2 Counting the crime problem
  • 3.3 Quantitative and qualitative evidence
  • 3.4 Interpreting the crime problem
  • 3.5 Evaluating claims, using evidence
  • 3.6 Summary
  • 4 Explaining crimes
  • 4 Explaining crimes
  • 4.1 Exploring the claims about crime
  • 4.2 Structure and agency in the explanation of the crime problem
  • 4.3 Structural explanations I: biology
  • 4.4 Structural explanations II: families
  • 4.5 Structural explanations III: cultures
  • 4.6 Agency explanations: rational choice theory
  • 4.7 Summary
  • 5 Questions, questions
  • 5 Questions, questions
  • 5.1 How did we get here?
  • 5.2 Where can we go from here?
  • 5.2.1 Beyond the UK
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Acknowledgements


5.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

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  • Profile image for Alimi Morufat Olajumoke
    Alimi Morufat Olajumoke
    The course' The meaning of crime' has been of a great help to me as a person who wants to study criminology. The course is designed by The open university for people who want to know about the slightest thing that can be considered as crime such as driving a non licensed bicycle, or driving in a pavement without permission.
    The course is a really great course and of great impact on both those looking forward to studying criminology and those who want to know about what can be considered as a crime.

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