Cultural criminology is a theoretical, methodological, and interventionist approach to the study of crime that seeks to understand crime in the context of its culture. It views both crime and the agencies of control as cultural products. Cultural criminology seeks to highlight how power affects constructions of crime, such as laws created, laws broken, and the interplay of moral entrepreneurship, moral innovation, and transgression. Crime and crime control are believed to be shaped by the meanings assigned by culture.
The theory is a perspective that has developed in both the United States and the United Kingdom since the mid-1990s with writings having important cross-national impacts. The theory views crime in the context of an offenders culture as a motive to commit crime. The theory gives motives to a crime whereas other theories such as rational choice explain what was gained.
Cultural criminology dates back to the mid-1990s. It draws heavily on the Chicago School of sociology and the 1970s Marxist and neo-Gramscian criminologies.
New theories of cultural criminology take into account the role of space in the construction of crime, positing, for example, that where an action takes place is as important as the effect of the action in determining criminality.
Originally, cultural criminologists utilized one of two main research methods: either ethnographic and fieldwork techniques, or the main qualitative research techniques associated with the scholarly readings. Cultural criminologists today also employ research methods such as participative action research or "narrative criminology". They remain constant, however, in their rejection of abstract empiricism.