Hagan, J., McCarthy, B., & Herda, D. (2020). What the study of legal cynicism and crime can tell us about reliability, validity, and versatility in law and social science research. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 16.
We call for a further appreciation of the versatility of concepts and methods that increase the breadth and diversity of work on law and social science. We make our point with a review of legal cynicism. Legal cynicism’s value, like other important concepts, lies in its versatility as well as its capacity for replication. Several classic works introduced legal cynicism, but Sampson & Bartusch named it. Kirk & Papachristos used a cultural framework to broaden it and added essential measures of perceived unresponsiveness and incapacity of police to ensure neighborhood safety and security. A structural theory of legal cynicism explains minority residents’ skepticism of, and desperate reliance on, police in the absence of alternative sources of safety. Historical and ethnographic studies play especially important roles in broadening the versatility of legal cynicism for the study of crime and responses to it.