Paradigm shift or normal science? The future of (biosocial) criminology

Publication Title

Theoretical Criminology

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



Biocriminology, biosocial criminology, Nicole H Rafter, paradigm shift, sociological criminology


For much of the history of criminology, tension has existed between sociologically oriented and biologically oriented perspectives. In recent years, a new, more nuanced approach has emerged which attempts to take both perspectives seriously and integrate them into a biosocial criminology. Yet, it remains, in large part, a fringe field of study. We argue that this is due, primarily, to critical as well as supportive scholars’ views that the ‘biosocial’ perspective represents a paradigm shift in the field of criminology. In this article, drawing on our work with the late Nicole Rafter, we present a case that rather than a paradigm shift, this biosocial turn simply represents a maturing field. In doing so, we describe the ways in which biosocial criminology examines crime and antisocial behavior as a biological and social phenomenon. At the same time, we also point out some cautions with respect to this body of work. We conclude with a vision of the future of (biosocial) criminology.