A level sociology

Explanation on theory and methods

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  • Created by: Nora
  • Created on: 13-02-09 14:42


Social construction of crime & deviance

The nature of deviance is socially constructed

Like interactionists classical Marxists such as Pearce (1976) suggest that what counts as crime and deviance is based on subjective decision making by the powerful.

However unlike interactionists, classical Marxists seek to explain law creation, and in doing so have a stronger view on the links between deviance and power. They maintain that most (although not all) laws are largely created by the state to protect the interests of the powerful ruling class.

This can be illustrated with recent employment and trade union laws that control the activities of the powerless. Laws implemented by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s undermined trade union power by limiting numbers on picket lines and requiring secret ballots before strikes.






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social construction

The extent of deviance is socially constructed


Like interactionists Pearce (1976) suggests that the extent and distribution of crime and deviance is socially constructed.He maintains that the law is selectively enforced so that powerless groups are more likely to be policed, arrested, and prosecuted than powerful groups. This can be illustrated with a comparison of social security and tax fraud. The cost of tax fraud is 4x the cost of dole fraud, yet there are 56x more prosecutions for dole fraud than tax fraud.


Unlike interactionists, classical Marxists go on to explain why the law is selectively enforced, again giving it a stronger view on the link between deviance and power.They argue that selective law enforcement serves to create the belief that crime is a working class problem and therefore directs attention away from crimes committed by powerful groups. It is also said to reduce working class solidarity (togetherness) by creating the belief that working class criminals are the ‘enemy’ rather than the bourgeoisie who exploit them on a daily basis.

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Social order and control

Social order and social control - (only use this section for a specialist social order or social control question)

Marxists argue that social order is maintained principally through ideological social control.

Marxists argue that institutions such as education, health care and religionarepart of the superstructure or ideological state apparatus which transmit ruling class ideologies (ideas).

These ideologies ensure that the working class are kept in a state offalse class-consciousnesswhich prevents revolutionary thoughts, and hence why a capitalist social order is maintained.

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