Crime as social excess

History of the Human Sciences 27 (2):60-74 (2014)
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Abstract
Gabriel Tarde, along with Durkheim and others, set the foundations for what is today a common-sense statement in social science: crime is a social phenomenon. However, the questions about what social is and what kind of social phenomenon crime is remain alive. Tarde’s writings have answers for both of these capital and interdependent problems and serve to renew our view of them. The aim of this article is to reconstruct Tarde’s definition of crime in terms of genus and specific difference, exploring his criminology as a case of his general sociology. This procedure shows that Tarde succeeded in creating a comprehensive theory of crime and criminals founded not only on his most well-known concept, imitation, but also on his equally important concepts of invention, opposition, social logic and social teleology. For Tarde, crime is a complex phenomenon related to criminal inventions, criminal propagations, the production of penal laws, the execution of controls and punishments, and the collective reactions to all these.
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