Study Questions for
I. Katz's Seductions of Crime
1. Why has Katz decided to study foreground aspects rather than background forces in
his attempt to explain criminal behavior?
2. According to Katz, what are the major shortcomings of the statistical and correlational
studies of positivist criminology?
3. Why does Katz argue that the challenge for criminological explanation is "to
specify the steps of the dialectic process through which a person empowers the world to
seduce him to criminality?"
4. For each type of crime what are the "individually necessary and jointly sufficient
1. How does Katz define a modal criminal homicide as "an impassioned attempt to
perform a sacrifice to embody one or another version of the 'Good'?" Give examples.
2. Why is Katz's explanation of righteous slaughter particularly useful for explaining the
killing of children, spouses, and other close relatives? What types of murder does this
model not cover?
3. Describe the steps in the process from humiliation to rage. From rage to sacrifice.
4. Why does Katz argue that the reliance by social scientists on traditional demographic
variables (e.g. race, gender) has proven inadequate for understanding murder? How does
Katz combine these factors into his analysis?
1. What are major elements that together constitute the experience of a "sneaky
2. What is your opinion of Katz's anthropomorphic explanation of shoplifting?
3. What type of criminal thinking is typified by the phrase: "It would be so
4. In what sense is shoplifting a dramaturgical performance? Discuss the anxiety this
generates within would be shoplifters.
5. Why is it that many shoplifters end their careers after the first time they are caught?
What separates these offenders from career shoplifters?
6. Discuss the relation of each of the following metaphors to shoplifting: (a) ludic (b)
religious (c) sexual.
7. What insights does Katz offer on the relationship between shoplifting and (a)
adolescence (b) social class?
1. What are the 3 levels or degrees of initiating aggression which Katz believes to be
typical of the "badass?"
2. Give examples of "tough" outward physical appearance and dress. What physical
behaviors and social interaction patterns, including language usages, demonstrate
3. What constitutes evidence of the "alieness" of badasses? What are its
particular forms among Mexican-American youth who have joined gangs?
4. How would a badass demonstrate that they truly are "mean?"
5. Discuss what Katz means by "chaos" and "soulful chaos" as it
relates to "being mean." Give examples.
6. How do each of the following relate to being taken seriously as a badass? [a]
paraphernalia of purposiveness [b] mind f---ing [c] the bump [d] 'whachulookinat?'
1. What are the three major components of Katz's model of street gangs?
2. Discuss some of the major differences between middle class and lower class
"gang" behavior and our societal perception of each.
3. What roles do the following elements play within lower-class street gangs? [a] turf [b]
"colors" [c] ethnicity [d] gender
4. How important is violence in the "generation of dread" gang members hope to
foster? How do they demonstrate it?
5. How does Katz back up his statement that "the mass media's coverage of gang
activities is a powerful stimulant to members' involvement?"
6. What does Katz believe to be the major motivational factors explaining why lower-class
kids join street gangs?
7. Why is "poverty" an inadequate explanation of lower-class gang formation?
1. Discuss the paradoxical nature of professional robbery.
2. What are the three recurrent stages in the practice of robbery?
3. Discuss examples of the ways robbers attempt to insure that they always have the upper
hand regarding their victims.
4. How does a robber "convince" a potential victim that they are indeed about to
5. What are the relationships between the extent of victim injuries during robbery and
such factors as (a) whether the criminal is armed, unarmed, and what type of weapon they
have and (b) victim characteristics [e.g. age, gender, race, feebility, level of
6. Why do most of the delinquents who experiment with committing robberies not choose it
as their preferred method?
1. Why does Katz argue that those who persist in committing robberies usually do so as
part of their commitment to a hedonistic lifestyle?
2. What is the relationship between drugs and robbery, according to Katz?
3. Do you think that Katz's use of criminal life histories like those of Malcolm X or
Henry Hill adequately "proves" his theory about robbery? What limitations do you
see to this approach?
4. Why does Katz consider the way that career criminals earn and "spend" money
so crucial to understanding their criminal behavior?
5. What are the major characteristics of a "hardman?"
6. How does a committed career robber balance "chaos and control?"
1. As you read through this chapter, did you notice any signs of "racial
bias" or subtle racism in Katz's descriptions?
2. What is the relationship between robbery and [a] race [b] gender [c] social class?
3. Why are there so few female robbers?
4. How does Katz explain the fact that non-black robbers rarely victimize blacks while
black robbers do choose about half of their victims from the non-black population?
5. In what ways does Katz argue that robbery as an occupational choice for career black
robbers was the result of the lack of organized rackets in the black community?
6. Compare the types of insults used among lower-class black delinquents and criminals to
those employed by white street toughs.
1. What are the major ways in which cold-blooded, "senseless" killings are
different from other murders?
2. What are the 3 major components to Katz's discussion of cold-blooded,
3. Discuss Katz's application of religious metaphors to explain primordial evil.
4. What does the author mean by the dizziness of deviance? How does this theory relate to
the inner experiences of career criminals on parole?
5. In what ways are time and place important components of the narrative events in a
cold-blooded, "senseless" killing?
1. What are the limitations of traditional sociological and psychological accounts of
2. What is the relationship between moral emotions and crime?
3. Why does Katz consider the theories of Merton and Cloward and Ohlin sentimental? What
does Katz offer in their place?
4. How would the study of white-collar crime be different if Katz's approach were applied?
5. What insights into the actions of subway vigilante Bernard Goetz does Katz offer?