Crime and Deviance

  • Created by: Laura P
  • Created on: 21-05-15 17:21

What is crime and deviance?

Crime = any act or omission which breaks the law.

Deviance = anything which breaks social norms 

According to sociologists, anything which is criminal must be deviant but deviance isn't always criminal.

1 of 114

Positivist thinking


Believe that crime/deviance is a social fact. 

Functionalists believe that social facts exsist and are clear cut regardless of the person involved. 

Believe that crime and deviance is absolute and not open to interpretation. 

2 of 114

Interactionist thinking

Belive that deviance is in the eye of the beholder (Becker)

Only the people involved can judge whether something is deviant or not. 

Deviance is relative to the time the judgement is made. Relative to the place and expectations of that place. 

3 of 114

Functionalist Theories

This is a structural theory of crime as functionalists believe that crime and deviance can only be explained by looking at the way societies are organised osically - looks at social structures.

DURKHEIM - anomie

Crime was rare in pre-industrial societies because family and religion were powerful agencies of socialisation and social control..

Crime rates are higher in cities as the complexity of modern life underminded the authority of religion and family. 

Consensus, community and social controls are weaker so people are more likely to experience anomie - a sense of moral confusion and normlessness when people no longer know what's expected of them, weakening their committment to shared values and rules. 

Durkheim believes that crime is:

  • normal
  • inevitable
  • functional
4 of 114


Functions of crime:

1) Binds the law abiding majority together: a collective sentiment which creates social solidarity. Makes society stronger as it allows people are are dissaproving of crime to get together against law breakers (e.g. terrorism creates public outrage).

2) It tests moral boundaires: crime helps to highlight outdated laws. Crime achieves change because if no one broke the laws they would never be changed (e.g. laws about homosexuality).

Responses to crime:

In a small scale society there are shared norms, close personal ties and easy communication. This results in self-regulation whereby the small society can deal with it's own troublemakers. 

In a large scale society there are multiple relationships whereby people do not know one another so can't keep tabs on behaviour. This results in the need for formal mechanisms of regulation

Non-conformity in a large scale society can lead to anomie.

5 of 114

Criticisms of Durkheim

- Durkheim believes people have a shared moral code, however not everyone believes in that moral code. Everyone has diffferent views (e.g. some people may believe that murder isn't always wrong).

- He fails to explain why certain social groups commit crime. 

-Marxists argue that he underestimates the level of conflict and inequality in modern societies. 

6 of 114


Merton takes Durkheims idea of anomie and turns it into strain theory. Based on the American Dream.

Merton argues that the causes of crime lies in the relationship between culture and the social structure of a society. In capitalist socieities, cultrual institutions (e.g. mass media) socialise people into believing that material success is a realistic goal. 

  • Culture establishes goals for people in society.
  • Societal structure provides the means for people to achieve these goals. 
  • In a well-integrated society, people use accepted and appropriate means to achieve the goals that society establishes - goals and means are balanced. 
  • When goals and means are not balanced, it can lead to deviance which can then lead to anomie. 
7 of 114


Merton argued individuals responded in different ways to their relationship between culturally accepted goals and the means of acheiving the goals:

Conformity: most of the population cope by doing their best. They accept the culturally accepted goals and the means of achieving the goals. 

Innovation: acceptance of cultural goals but they reject the conventional methods of attaining those goals. They then tturn to illegal means such as drug dealing, thieving and prostitution. 

Ritualism: the rejectin o material goals but still abide by means of attaining goals.

Retreatism: individuals who reject both the cultural goals and accepted means of acheiving the goals, by dropping out of society (e.g. alcoholism).

Rebellion: rejection of goals and the means of achieving the goals. Substitute new goals and new means. Often more radical (violence). 

8 of 114

Criticisms of Merton

Culturally biased towards USA

Ignores people who reject the goal, some groups have different dreams and goals. 

Does not explain WHY some people commit crime and others conform. 

Explains crimes that result in economic gain but does not explain any forms of violent and sexual crime. 

White collar and corporate crimes arise from access to opportunities, rather than being blocked. 

9 of 114

Marxist theories

Capitalism creates the potential for criminal behaviour. 

David Gordon

Most working class crime is a realistic and rational repsonse to class inequalities. 

The ideology of capitalism encourages criminal behaviour in all social classes. 

Capitalism promotes values such as competition, profit motive which encourages a culture of greed and envy.

The need to win at all costs or otherwise go out of business encourages capitalists to commit white collar crime and corporate crimes such as tax evasion.

10 of 114

Marxist theories


Sees the law as an ideological state apparatus which functions in the interests of the capitalist class to maintain class inequalties:

  • The law is concerned mainly with protecting major priorities of capitalism (e.g. wealth, property).
  • Law enforcement is selective and favours the rich (e.g. tax fraudsters are usually middle class and rarely get taken to court).
  • Lack of policing of white collar and corporate crimes to avoid arresting the middle class.

White collar crime = individual (fraud)

Corporate crime = something done by a company.

11 of 114

Marxist theories

Hazel Croall

Looked at white collar crime. 

White collar crime is crime that is committed in the course of legitimate employment, which involves the abuse of an occupational role. 

E.g. Fraud, computer crimes and tax evasion.

  • People who own the means of production have greater opportunties to make money from crime. 
  • Corporate offenders are rarely taken to court and are advised rather than punished: hard to find where the blame is. 
  • People do not fear white collar or corporate crime like they do violence or robbery so therrefore tehse offences often go unnoticed by the public gaze. 
12 of 114

Marxist theories


The government pass laws that are directly in favour of the ruling class. 

Laws of protection of property were uneccesary in fedual society as land was the main source of wealth.

The increasing importance of trade and moveable property, feudalism being replaced with capitalism has led to laws protecting property becoming more important - protecting interests of the ruling class. 

Another example:

After the plague, working class people should have been well off as many died so they should have been paid more for their labour. Instead, law changed to vangrancy laws which meant every able bodied person had to work at a fixed low rate to help work force shortage - benefiting ruling class.

13 of 114

Criticisms of traditional marxism

Reductionalist: when they argue tht laws are made in the interest of the ruling class, they are making it too simple.

Victimology: spend too much time looking at who commits the crime and not at victims. 

Economically determist: they see things only in one way (capitalist). Feminists say that they should consider how females and different races are affected not just classes.

Not aall capitalist societies have high crime rates (e.g. switzerland).

Left realists: type of neo-marxist who say that the poor commit crime against other members of the poor - not the rich committing against the poor through capitalism. 

14 of 114

Marxist vs Neo Marxist

Traditional and neo marxists agree:

  • that society is conflict ridden
  • that power is unequally distributed. 

They disagree:

  • that there is a simple relationship berween society's infrastructure and deviance. 
  • on whether a crime is a passive act forced by the system or a conscious act with a political motive. 
  • traditional marxists believe that working class are passive victims of capitalism who are driven by criminality factors they cannot control. Neo marxists reject this idea and believe that individuals have free will. People make choice about how they should react to the constraints placed on them by capitalism. 
15 of 114

Marxist vs Neo Marxist

Traditional and neo marxists agree:

  • that society is conflict ridden
  • that power is unequally distributed. 

They disagree:

  • that there is a simple relationship berween society's infrastructure and deviance. 
  • on whether a crime is a passive act forced by the system or a conscious act with a political motive. 
  • traditional marxists believe that working class are passive victims of capitalism who are driven by criminality factors they cannot control. Neo marxists reject this idea and believe that individuals have free will. People make choice about how they should react to the constraints placed on them by capitalism. 
16 of 114

Neo Marxist theories

Believe that crime represents rebellion. It is a deliberate choice which is a protest against injustice - not because they are poor and don't have a choice as traditional marxists suggest. 

Crime is not a passive response to a situation - it is a protest. 

For example, crimes against property such as theft are a reaction to wealth inequality. 

17 of 114

Neo Marxist theories

Taylor, Walton and Young: New Crimonology 

New crimonology is a radical view which combines Marxist views and interactionist views. 

They recognise that Marxism only focusses on the criminal but neo-marxism recognises that there are other organisations involved (family, victim, police, court, tax payer).

Taylor, Walton and Young insist that criminals choose to break the law. They deny that crime is caused by biology, anomie, subcultures, labelling or poverty. Instead they stress that crimes are deliberate acts with political motives. 

Deviants are not just passive victims of capitalism; they are actively struggling to alter capitalism

They believe that in a capitalist society, people have severe restrictions placed on their behaviour and urge support and sympathy for groups who struggle to escape from the chains with which capitalism restricts their freedom. 

18 of 114

Criticisms of new criminology

> Over romanticised view - may not be a protest, people are often bored so commit crime.

> Not always a political motive that underpins crimes such as **** and child abuse?

> Feminists say that women are still missing from this theory. 

> Hirst believes that neo-marxist views stray too far from it's origins.

19 of 114

Subcultural explanations of c+d

Subculture = a distinctive set of values that provide an alternative to those of mainstream culture. 

Reactive subculture = a reaction to and opposition against prevailing norms. 

Independent subculture = norms and values are self-contained and not necessarily oppositional.

20 of 114

Functionalist subcultural theories

COHEN -                                                   Reactive subculture (reject norms and values)

Looked at the delinquency subculture, focussing on gang delinquency amongst working class boys.

Believes that subcultures are sti7mulated at school through class divisions and that young people strive for status not success. Working class boys are denied success at school as their parents have failed to equip them with the skills they need, eaning they are placed in bottom sets. Often this leads to low paid jobs whereby they cannot succeed - denying them of status. 

This causes deviance amongst lower classes who do not have the same means or ideas of what success is. 

Deviance is a collective solution to gaining status. 

Working class boys experience a form of anomie called status frustration - they are dissatisfied with their low status in society so these boys join together and reverse the mainstream norms (congratulating eachother on deviant behaviour allowing them to achieve status and success).

21 of 114

Functionalist subcultural theories

Criticisms of Cohen:

1) Most working class boys actually conform at school despite educational failure. 

2) Cohen ignores female delinquency.

3) Steven Box argues that young offenders do not accept the values of the middle class - they are not rejecting the values of mainstream society as they do not believe in them in the first place. 

4) Bordua argues that cohen only focusses on lower class subcultures and fails to expain youth offending in general. 

5) Matza argues that most youths who are seen as delinquents actually accept most mainstream values and only committed offences under special circumstances therefore they are not 'committed' to a delinquent gang. 

22 of 114

Functionalist subcultural theories

MILLER:                                                                               Independent subculture

Looks at lower working class subcultures who hold different norms and values and want to achieve a number of things which the rest of society do not strive for. 

Miller does not see the deviant behaviour as occuring due to the inability of the lower classs groups to achieve success, but instead he explains crime in terms of the existence of distinctive lower class subculture who has 'focal concerns' which compensate for the boredom experienced in school and factory jobs. 

Working class youth have focal concerns which give meaning to their lives outside of work:

1) TOUGHNESS - lower class value this, shown through violence. 

2) SMARTNESS- want to outsmart others, leading to cons and stealing in 'clever' ways.

3) THRILL SEEKING - this culture looks for excitement, e.g. gambling. 

23 of 114

Functionalist subcultural theories

Criticisms of Miller:

1) Not all people from lower working classes accpet these norms and values and not all commit deviant acts. 

2) Strongly implies that working class culture is problematic and inferior compared to middle class culture - making his theory classist. 

24 of 114

Functionalist subcultural theories

CLOWARD AND OHLIN                                                           INDEPENDENT SUBCULTURE

Believe that the type of crime committed by young people depends on the type of illegitimate opportunity strucutre that is available to them in their area. 

They identify 3 different subcultures that arise from different types of IOS:

1) Criminal: In some areas there are established patterns of illegitimate opportunity in which people experience 'criminal careers'. This involves organised crime whereby it mirrors a business. 

2) Conflict: Areas such as innter cities whereby there is masculinised respect driven violence. People gain repsect through gang violence and some find it hard to resist membership due to the risk of not joining being too much. 

3) Retreatist: If young people fail to gain access to criminal or conflict subcultures, they may form retreatist subcultures in which the major activities are drug use and commit crimes such as burglary to finance it. 

25 of 114

Functionalist subcultural theories

Criticisms of Cloward and Ohlin:

1) Burke criticises Cloward and Ohlin's subcultural theory by saying that their theory is based on the false assumption that the working class are homogeneous (all the same) and also that drug use is infact common amogst the middle class. 

Criticisms of all functionalist theories:

Taylor et al say that all of these theories assume that everybody in America starts off by being committed to the success goal of achieving wealth. Some people have different goals. For exxample, someone may reject a promotion to a higher paid job as it will upset family life or cause stress. 

26 of 114

Marxist subcultural theories

Marxists believe that 2 things bind us together which stops us from joining subcultures: capitalism maintains control over the majority of the population in two ways: 

  • Ideological dominance: media promoting products, consumerist agenda.
  • Economic pressures: people want to keep their jobs and pay their mortages.

Only groups who are marginalised are not locked in by this ideology can have a resistance to capitalism. Brake argues that resistance is shown most by working class youth subcultures. 

Nightinggale argues that people still want the things that the media promotes and so commit crime to get them - subcultures emerge form being rejected from mainstream society - PARADOX OF INCLUSION

Marxists have similar views to functionalists however they believe that ideological dominance and economic pressure is wrong. 

People who join subcultures are the only people who have the opportunities to escape the two pressures as they are already marginalised.

27 of 114

Marxist subcultural theories

Criticisms of marxist subcultural theories:

Over reliant on class division to explain behaviour.

Doesn't explain why most people in classes don't offend.

Attempts to justify behaviour too much. 

28 of 114

Postmodernist subcultural theories

People join subcultures because it is thrilling - other theories are wrong as they try to find a rational explanation but subcultures aren't rational. 

Lyng: young males partake in 'edge work' as they like to flirt with danger and seek thrills. 

Katz: crime is seductive, young men are drawn in because it's thrilling, not because of any rejections.

Winlow: what it means to be masculine changes so men are always trying to achieve it - hegemonic masculinity. There is an absence of women in subcultures because women do not have the pressure to change like men do. 

29 of 114

Overall criticisms of subcultural theories

Interactionist David Matza belives that we hold two sets of values:

1. Conventional values: roles such as a father. 

2. Subterranean values: values of sexuality, greed and aggressiveness (generally controlled but we all hold them).

He believes that devitants drift between conventional and unconventional behaviour and young people are only part time law breakers and soon return to mainstrea values. Matza suggests that delinquents are simply more likely than most of us to behave according to subterranean vlaues in inappropriate situations.

30 of 114

Interactionism (labelling theory)

This is a social action theory. 

Functionalist - crime is a social fact (you are either a criminal or you are not)
Interactionist - crime is a social construction (people are not deviant, some people just attract the label of deviance. The labelling of someone can then lead to self-fullfilling prophesy)

The decision as to when an act becomes a crime is a statement made of those in social power and can impose their preffered definition on society. E.g. society generally disapproves of killing people although killing in self defence or in battle is considered acceptable and people are labelled differently. SAME ACT, DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES. 

Labelling theory proposes:

Deviance is socially constructed through reaction instead of action. 

31 of 114

Interactionism (labelling theory)


There is no such thing as a deviant act, no act is inherently criminal or deviant in itself - it only becomes deviant when others label it that way. 

The social construction of deviance requires two activities:

1) a group which lacks power and acts in a particular way.
2) a group with more power that responds negatively to it and labels it as criminal. 

Becker believes that a deviant is simply someone who has had a label apllied to them.

Powerful groups create rule or laws in order to define what counts as crime or deviance and label those who fail to conform to these social controls as criminals. 

Social control is made up of police, social workers, probation workers and judiciary who work on behalf of politically powerful groups. 

32 of 114

Interactionism (labelling theory)


Distinguishes beween primary deviance and secondary devaince.

Primary deviance refers to insignificant acts that have not been publically labelled (e.g. smoking weed)

Secondary deviance is the result of societal reaction to labelling. Being caught and labelledd as a criminal can involve being stigmatised. The individual can then become a master status which means that soceity interprets all actions and motives in the context of that label. (for example someone labelled as a sex offender will shape the way someone looks at them in any other context).

The consequence of secondary deviance is that it may then lead to a self fullfilling prophsey meaning that the person may take this label on board, start seeing themselves as a deviant and then acts accordingly. 

The person may seek comfort, normality and status in a subculture of other people branded with similar labels which then creates further deviance potential. 

33 of 114

Interactionism (labelling theory)

An example of secondary deviance is a study carried out by  CHAMBLIS:

  • Studied two groups of boys who went to the same American high school. 
  • The 'saints' were a group of middle class delinquent boys and the 'roughnecks' were a group of working class delinquent boys.
  • Both committed the same amount of antisocial behaviour but the saints were not seen as delinquent and if they did come into contact with the police they were able to negotiate their way out of trouble. 
  • Overtime the roughnecks developed a self fulfilliing prophesy.
  • All the saints graduated and got middle class jobs.


34 of 114

Interactionism (labelling theory) CRITICISMS


Peter Akers argues that the deviant act is always more important than the societal reaction to it. 

Deviants dont need to wait until a label is attached to understand what they are doing is wrong.

Akers criticises labelling theorists as they present deviant people as 'normal' and the 'same' as everyone else until they are given a label but he argues that there must be a reason why the label is attached to some and not others. 


The process of being labelled is up for negotiation. Some are able to reject. 

He studied male prostitutes and asked if they saw themselves as gay - they said they were straight showing how easy it is to reject a label. 

35 of 114

Interactionism (labelling theory) CRITICISMS

  • Labelling theory fails to explain why people commit deviance in the first place, before they are labelled. 
  • Labelling theory implies that once a person is labelled as deviant, a deviant career is inevitable. 
  • Little evidence that deviance is really amplified by a label. 
  • Why is someone active enough to choose a deviant path but too passive to fight the label. 
36 of 114

Labelling theory vocabulary

Label = a way of differentiating and identifying people.

Negotiated response = turn the label into their advantage and accept it. 

Master status = the main thing noticed about that person, label defines them.

Deviant career = stages people go through from commiting deviance, being labelled to then seeing themselves as deviant. 

Looking glass self = believing what others tell you about yourself. 

Self fulfilling prophesy = a prediction which makes itself become true. 

Moral panic = outrage stirred up by the media about a particular group. 

Moral entrepreneurs = peron who tries to enforce or create rules. 

Deviance amplification = when the action of the rule enforcers or media brings about an increase of deviance. 

Folk devils = people seen as troublemakers by the media. 

37 of 114

Left Realist explanations of crime

Left realists see crime as symptomatic of the society. 

Causes of crime:

Lea and Young believe working class and african caribbean young people commit crime due to 3 things:

Relative deprivation = media and advertising leads to young people feeling deprived compared to others. Working class youth feel relatively deprived compared to middle class and african caribbean youth feel relaively deprived compared to the white majority. Indivdiualistic culture and relative deprivation leads to criminal behaviour. 

Marinalisation = people recognise they have political/economic issues but have little power to change their situation. Negative responses from people in power leads to resentment towards mainstream society. 

Subcultures = some people who experience relative deprivation and marginalisation may form deviant subultures for support. 

38 of 114

Left Realist explanations of crime

Soltuions to crime:

Improve policing and control: police need to have a community approach so that communities have confidence to provide them with info about crime. Get rid of stop and searches as this is instituional racism.

Dealing with structural causes of crime: the main cause of crime is the unequal nature of capitalist society. Crime can only be reduced by improving people's opportunites to achieve a decent standard of living. 

Social crime prevention: should takle the economic and social conditions that cause people to commit crime. 

39 of 114

Left Realist explanations of crime - evaluation

  • Hughs says that left realists have drawn attention to the reality of inner city crime but it ignores white collar and corporate crime. 
  • There is little evidence to support the view that young working class or black criminals interpret their reality in the way described by Lea and Young. 
  • Fails to explain why the majority do not commit crime. 
  • Fails to account for opportunist crime committed by adults. 
40 of 114

Right realist explanations of crime

Right realists see crime as symptomatic of the individuals. 

Causes of crime:

Underclass theory: Murray belives there is a lower class subculture. Subscribes to deviant values and transmits these to their children through primary socialisation. Often are on benefits - welfare dependency has led to lone mother families leading to boys having no father figure to discipline them and may turn to delinquent males on the street. 

Rational choice theory: Clarke argues that the decision to commit crime is a choice based on a rational calculation of the consequences. If the benefits outweigh thee costs, people are more likely to offend. Currently costs are low as they see punishment as weak and ineffective. 

Control theories: Hirschi argues that most people do not commit crimes because they have four controls in their lives:

1) attachment: commited to family relationships
2) commitment: career, business, home.
3) involvement: volunteers, jobs, respect may be lost if they commit crime.
4) belief: people may have been brought up with strong morals. 

41 of 114

Right realist explanations of crime

Solution to crime:

Police should stop the little crimes before they turn into big crimes.

Wilson (broken window thesis): police should stop the first stone from being thrown to prevent crimes developing further. 

Situational crime prevention: meaures aimed at reducing opportunity for crime, increasing the risk of the criminal being caught and target hardening. 

42 of 114

Right Realist explanations of crime - evaluation

  • Rex and Tomlinson reject the idea of the underclass as a deviant subculture that is voluntarily unemploye and devoted to criminal behaviour. They point out that poverty is often caused by factors out of control of the poor (e.g. recession).
  • No evidence that there is a dsitinct underclass with different values. 
43 of 114



Positivst sociologist who believed that even an indivdiualistic act like suicide is influenced by societal and economic issues. 

Tested suicide empirically through scientific methods. Empiricsm means you should be abe to use your senses to prove something. 

He used 19th century offical statistics of suicide from different countries across time - META ANALYSIS. 

He found 3 patterns:

1) within single societies the suicide rate remains constant over time. 

2) the suicide rate varies constantly between different societies. 

3) the suicide rate varies constantly between different groups within the same society. 

44 of 114


Suicide rates:

  • Durkheim argued that the consistancy of suicide rates across Europe meant that they were social facts.
  • Durkheim used comparative method, comparing sets of official statistics to discover what is socially responsible for suicide. 
  • Patterns were stable, as apposed to a random act.
  • The rise and fall in suicide rates appeared to be related to socail factors, such as economic recession, economic prosperity.
  • They were higher in protestant countries than in catholic countries due to stronger social controls being placed among catholics. (but really it could be because suicide is against the catholic religion). 
  • Variations in suicide amongst members of society, for example unmarried and childless people had higher rates. 

Suicide rates are therefore varied according to the level of social integration and moral obilgation the individual has (amount of ties that keep them living).

45 of 114


Types of social structure that lead to different types of suicide:

1) Egoistic: modern western societies, focussed on individualism therefore integration is weak. Suicide rates are high due to people not having social ties to stop them. 
Durkheim noted that Catholic societies have lower suicide rates than protestants because catholics feel a stronger sense of community and stronger religious identity. 

2) Altruistic: individuals are so well integrated that they value the group more than their individuality. Putting other people first. For example having such deep committment to your religion resulting in suicide bombing.

3) Anomic: the normal structure of society has broken down because of rapid social change, resulting in uncertainty. For example if a wealthy person goes through the recession and then becomes poor, the confusion and anomie may lead to suicide. 

4) Fatalistic: very oppressive societies where people experience over-regulation - people lose the will to live. For example in a prison or psychiatric institution. 

46 of 114


Evaluation of Durkheim's ideas


  • More valid results as he used official statistics. 
  • Halbwachs agrees with Durkheim but adds that urbanization is a factor that is likely to reduce social integration and creates an impersonal society causing people to commit suicide. 


  • Suicide statistics in the time Durkheim studied may not be reliable as there was no medical examination of the dead.
  • Durkheim failed to explain why suicide is the most likely result of not enough integration, why not other courses of action such as crime?
  • He was bias as he ignored statistics that did not fit with what he wanted to find out. 
  • No one knows the intention of the deceased so how can you put them into the different classifications?
47 of 114

Suicide - interpretivist

From an interpretivist perspective, people act in terms of meaning and it's the job of sociologists to interpret the meanings which direct human action. 

DOUGLAS argues that suicide is not an objective fact and that in order to understand suicide rates we need to find the cultural meanings that are attached to suicide in different societies. 

1) societies do not share the same meanings of suicide. 
e.g. Japan think suicide is honourable whereas in most areas of Europe it is regarded as morally wrong therefore people's potential for suicide depends on the society they live in.

2) The more integrated a society is, the more likely it is that a high suicide rate will be covered up rather than prevented. Family and friends may try to conceal the death of a loved one because of the stigma attached to 'suicide'. 

Douglas argues that the label of suicide is a result of negotiated meanings through the police deciding whether the act was criminal or not for example. 

48 of 114

Suicide - interpretivist

BAECHLER - suicide as problem solving

Baechler has developed Douglas's approach through using case studies of suicide in existing literature and classifies suicides according to their meanings. 

Baechler views suicidal behaviour as a way of responding to and trying to solve a problem. 

1) Escapist suicides = escaping a horrible situation (e.g. grieving the loss of someone).

2) Aggressive suicides = vegence, making another person feel guilty. 

3) Oblative suicides = way of achieving somethinig more desribable (e.g. to join afterlife)

4) Ludic suicides = deliberate risks which may lead to death

More explicit than Douglas in suggesting causes of suicide can be found but unlike Durkheim he does not believe that suicide can be explained in terms of external factors. 

Taylor criticises this by saying individual cases often fit a number of categories depending on interpretations the researcher makes of the victims motives. 

49 of 114

Suicide - extreme interpretivism

Exreme interpretivism = PHENOMONOLOGY 

Phenomonoligists argue that you can't put social assumption on an individual meaning. 

See the process of catergorisation as being key and that statistics are simply the products of opinions of those who produce them - critical of Durkheims theory. 

They don't look at what causes crime but how certain assumptions are made, they believe that the only thing we can understand are the reasons why deaths get labelled as suicide. 

Suicides are not social facts, they are meanings. 

50 of 114

Suicide - extreme interpretivism


Is criticial of Durkheim's use of official statistics - believes they are socially constructed by victims, doctors, friends, realitves and significantly the coroners. 

He focusses on the role of the coroners - legal officers whose function is to investigate suspicious death. Death is not a suicide until it has been labelled as such by a coroner. 

Atkinson conducted observations, inquests, interviews and examined coroners records. 

They look for primary and secondary cues to look for suicide:

Primary cues = suicide notes, mode of death (e.g. overdose) and location of death. 
Primary cues are insufficient to prove suicidal intent. 

Secondary cues = life historys (e.g.state of mind prior to death), this comes from negotiation with relatives who may atttempt to influence the coroners verdict. 

51 of 114

Suicide - extreme interpretivism

The 'open verdict' is used if evidence is insufficient to allow them to come to a definte conclusion. 

Atkinson drew attention to the unreliability and invaldity of suicide statistics by examining the use of the open verdict in the UK. He carried out a social experiment whereby he gave the same social cues to English and Danish coroners and found that Danish tended to be more rigorous in their scrutiny of evidence as the open verdict does not exsist in their judicial system. 

In conclusion, Atkinson suggsts that we cannot take suicide statistics at face value as Durkheim did. 

52 of 114

Suicide - extreme interpretivism

TAYLOR - 'person's under trains'

Carried out a study on people who met their deaths when they were hit by tube trains.

He investigated 32 deaths where the mode and scene of death were indentical and no suicide notes were left. Only 17 were labelled as suicide. On observation, Taylor concluded that suicide verdicts were not returned on the other 15 because relatives influenced the coroners interpretation of secondary cues. 

Taylor concluded that you are more likely to be classified as suicide if:

  • history of mental illness
  • social disgrace
  • no good reason to be at the train station
53 of 114

Suicide - extreme interpretivism

Evaluation of Taylor

  • Taylors theory is hard to test because it rests upon the meanings given to suicidal actions by those who take part in them and these meanings can be interpretted in different ways.
  • For those whose suicide attempts result in death, the meanings can only be inferred from circumstantial evidence, since they are no longer able to explain their motives. 
  • Individual suicides may result from a combination of motives, with the result that they do not fit neatly into any category. 
54 of 114


Are para-suicides suitable studies?

Para-suicide is when someone attempts suicide but fails to actual kill themselves.

+ Although the person failed, they are the closest information source of finding out motives behind suicide. 

+ Give us some degree of insight

- If a person truly wanted to end their life they would choose a method that would not fail therefore not valid as their motives may be less powerful than people who have succeeded. 

- The indivdiual may feel ashamed or embarassed so may not be truthful in their answers due to social stigma. 

55 of 114


Globalisation = a world without boarders. Increasing interconnectedness of societies.

What happens in one locality is shaped by distant events. 

Reasons why globalisation has occured:

1) The media (e.g. television)
2) The internet 
3) Transport (e.g. cheap air travel, allowing migration and tourism)
4) Trade (global market place).

Held et al claim that there has been a globalisation of crime. The increasing interconnectedness of crime across nationaal borders and the spread of transnational organsied crime. 

Globalisation creates new opportunities for crime, new means of committing crime and new offences (e.g. cyber crimes can now occur). 

56 of 114


Castells argues that there is a global criminal economy which is worth over £1 trillion a year. 

There is both a demand side (West) and a supply side (Third World Countries).

Hobbs and Dunningham note that crime is increasingly 'glocal' which mean that it is still locally based but it is now more likely to have global connections. Examples of this are:

  • Illegal drugs trade (local prices and availability of drugs in the UK depend on how efficiently global drug trade gangs can move drugs around the world).
  • Sex trafficking for prostitution.
  • Smuggling legal goods (e.g. alcohol)

New global communications have created new opportunites for crime. The internet has generated new types of cyber crime:

  • Financial crimes
  • Credit card fraud
  • Identity theft and physhing 
  • Hacking 
57 of 114


Why have global crime networks developed?

  • To feed a demand from the affluent West - especially for drugs and prostitution. 
  • Because of inequalities in the global capitalist economoy (e.g. for example in Colombia, local farmers prefer to grow illegal crops such as the coca plant (creates coccaine) as it brings in more money than conventional crops). 


  • Global criminal gangs are not the only ones responsible. Transnational corporations also commit global crimes (a company that's in more than one country).
  • Taylor argues that globalisation has made it easier for elite groups and transnational corporations to move funds and profits around the world to avoid taxation. 
  • Also, transnational companies can now switch manufacturing to low wage countries to gain high profits - causing poverty and expanding inequalities. 
  • Increasing materialistic culture promoted by the media portrays success in terms of consumption which encourages people to turn to crime.
58 of 114


Radical criminologists point out that many global crimes are committed by powerful people, who use their influence to ensure that no laws exsist to criminalise their activities. 
Radical criminologists therefore argue that crime needs to be redefined to include all activities that harm living species and the environment that they live in - the study of such harm is called zemiology

Global risk consciousness (postmodernist idea)

Beck argues that global crime has created a new set of insecurities and anxieties (risk consciousness).

In the past, any risk of becoming a victim of crime originated in our local environment. Increasingly, we are at risk from crime that originates thousands of miles away (e.g. global terrorism). 

This has led to Western governments tightening immigration and border controls which has negatively led to media hysteria about immigrants and assylum seekers and an increase in hate crimes such as racist attacks. - MORAL PANICS. 

59 of 114



Difficult to research the scale of global crime due to many global crimes being committed by powerful people who have the ability to avoid being criminalised - thus there could be a dark figure of global crime. 

Difficult to police as international laws are ill definied and international criminal justice agencies do not have global powers to pursue global criminals. 

Not all sociologists agree on what is 'criminal' 

60 of 114

Green crime

Green crime refers to crime against the environment. 

Green crime is seen as a form of global crime because:

1) The planet is regarded as a single ecosystem. Harm done to other species or aspect of the environment such as the air, ocean and foest are increasing having a negative impact on the future of human life. 

2) Green crime generally tends to be carried out by powerful people, particularly transnational coportations such as oil and chemical companies .

BECK: the more that science and technology develops, the more this problem becomes the 'risk society'.

Beck points out that many of the threats to the ecosystem are manufactured risks and are a result of demand for consumer goods. 

Increasing greenhouse emissions are conrtibuting to global warming and climate change which could lead to future disasers like flooding. 

61 of 114

Green crime

SOUTH classifies green crime into primary crime and secondary crimes:

Primary green crime = the direct result of the destruction of the planets resources (people know they are going to damage the planet).

  • deforestation
  • water pollution such as oil spillages. 
  • air pollution
  • species decline 

Secondary green crime = result of rules being flouted that seek to regulate environmental disaster.

  • dumping toxic waste (countries send waste to undeveloped countries on a ship and pay them to dispose of it - risk of sinking). 
  • breach of health and safety rules (e.g. nucleaar reactor in Russia went into meltdown as it was not properly maintained, leaching out nucleaarr material and causing pollution as far as Italy - CHERNOBYL).
  • Pollutants in Inda leaking - causing many deaths - BHOPAL). 
62 of 114

Green crime

Policing green crime

Ridley and Dunsford: rarey successful in identifying and punishing key individuals. 

Green crime is difficult to police for 2 key reasons:

1) There are few local or international laws governing the state of the environment. International laws are hard to construct because not all countries agree to sign up to global agreements.

2) Many of the laws that do exsist are shaped by capitalist interests. Governments in the developing world particularly are reluctant to rein in transnational corporations because they are dependent on the income these companies generate. 

63 of 114

Green crime


Radical criminologist WHITE argues that the present law is inadequate for dealing with green crime. 

He argues that green crime should be defined as any action that harms the environment or creatures within it even if no law has technically been broken. 

This is because most of the worst environmental crimes committe by big businesses are not actually illegal and therefore not criminal.

Current laws are inconsistent as they differ across countries.

White argues that green crimonology takes an eco-centric view of environmental harm whereby damage to the environment/species is seen as a threat to the future. This opposes to the anthropocentric view of big business which assumes that humans have the right to exploit the environment for their own benefit. 

White argues that this capitalist anthropocentric ideology is respsonsible for a great deal of environmental harm.

64 of 114

Green crime


BECK believes that we need a new foundation for green criminology. 

Need to rethink science/technology for a green future. 

Both are vital because new green crimes will come into existence and will change the world. 

Need to highlight the link between green crime and social inequality. 

Need to assess the role of green social movements - e.g. greenpeace but governments currently are trying hard to stop them from highlighting green crimes. 

65 of 114

Green crime

Evaluation of green criminology

+ Recognises the growing importance of environmental issues.

- It focusses on harm rather than criminality which means that green criminology is often accused of being engaged with subjective interpretation rather than objective scientific analysis, and is therefore biased. 

- Hard to pin point who is responsible.

- How do you get enough momentum to make a change?

66 of 114

Human rights and state crime

State crime = any illegal activity carried out by agents of the state

Agents of the state include:

  • Armed forces
  • Secret services
  • Civil servants
  • Police
  • Prison services 
  • Politicians

Most crimonologists accept that crimes committed by states across the world would probably include: genocide, ethnic cleansing, torture, assassination of politicial opponents and invasion of less powerful states. 

Mcalughlin has idenitified cencorship of the media and institutional racism as state crimes. 

Schwendinger argues that definitions of state crimes should be extended to include human rights crimes. He argues that any violation of human rights should be defined as illegal. 

67 of 114

Human rights and state crime

There is disagreement about what constitutes state crime for the following reasons:

  • State crime is carried out by powerful people who can define their activities as being legitimate. 
  • The powerful can impose their definition of crime on soceity they can define killing as criminal if it is done by a memeber of the public but as justified if done by a solider or police officier. 
  • Kelman and Hamilton believes that state crimes are 'crimes of obidience' - people commit them because they have been socialised into believing it is their duty to obey and that their behaviour is necessary against enemies. 
  • Cohen criticises Schwendinger's view that state crime should include violations of human rights. Crimes like torture are clearly criminal but economic exploitation is not clearly criminal even though it is morally unacceptable. 
  • He also argues that it is difficult to find out the true extent of state crime because governments deny their actions. They try to justify crimes against people (e.g. deny their victims by labelling them as terrorists).
  • Criminality of the act may be outweighed by the fact that the act was committed in the 'interest of national security'.
68 of 114

Human rights and state crime


Mr Mckinnon hacked into the US military computer system claiming he was simply looking for UFO's.

There was a 10 year extradition battle to get him over to the US so he could be prosecuted and potentially put in prison for 60 years. 

The UK government blocked the move due to it breaching his human rights as he has aspergers syndrome. 

However, celebrations over McKinnon’s victory have been tainted by accusations of racism, because of extradition to the US of a British Muslim terrorism suspect who also had Asperger’s.

69 of 114

Human rights and state crime

To conclude:

Marxists would sy that people are brainwashed so much so that they do not see state crime. 

Overall critique:

Protection of the national interest outweighs the potential damage from the crime. 

70 of 114

Ecological theory of crime

About how your locality and time of day has an impact on the act of committing a crime.

Offical crime statistics show that crime is not evenly distributed between geographical areas. It is higher in urban areas than in rural areas. 

Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft define urban/rural:

Urban: a mechanically developed social relationship characterised by impersonal connections. 

Rural: a spontaneous socail relationship characterised by strong social bonds of kinship and sentiment. 

British crime survey suggests people in rual areas worry less about crime and urban livers are more likely to express that they experience high levels of anti-social behaviour. 

71 of 114

Ecological theory of crime

Sociologists have examined the ecology of owns and cities in order to explain crime:

Examined Chicago and saw that it was arranged into distinct neighbourhoods/zones which had their on values and lifestyles. 

They look at the inner city (zone of transition) and found in was characterised by cheap rent, poverty, immigrants and high crime rates. 

Most crime took place in the zone of transition but people only live there tempoarily but crime rates stayed the same. Thus suggesting that the high crime rates were not due to the cultural characteristics of immigrant groups but instead they were due to the values in that particular area. 

Culture of crime, learned behaviour in zones of transitions mean that crime becomes acceptable and it is passed on to younger generations. This is caused by SOCIAL DISORGANISATION whereby the constant movement of people leads to little sense of community. 

72 of 114

Ecological theory of crime

Cultural behaviour is shaped by those aroun them. If people live in a socially disorganised area frequently associate with people who make their living from crime, them they are more likely to also support law breaking activity. 

The amount of investment you have in your community (links with differential association). The more investment you have in your society, the more likely you are to feel guilty if you commit crime. 

COGNITIVE MAPS: Brantigons and Brantigons 
Map of your life that is familiar to you. If you commit a crime it's going to be somewhere you go most days as it is easier due to knowing more about the area. 

Nighttime world creates it's own opportunities for crime (e.g. pubs and clubs).

People have different opportunities for crime (e.g. women are too busy stereotypically). Depends on how accessibly and attractive the target is. 

73 of 114

Ecological theory of crime - Evaluation

  • Shaw and Mckay's analysis of crime is tautological, meaning that it is unclear what comes first, the crime or social disorganisation? For example, social disorganisation might be the effect of high crime rates, not the cause of them.
  • The majority of people living in areas with high crime rates choose not to commit crime. There is little evidence of adolecent commitment to gangs or subculturess - challenging cultural transmission and differential association. 
  • The ecological approach neglects the fact that evidence of inner city crime often comes from OCS which may tell them more about the policing of crime in certain areas rather than crime itself. For example, the high crime rate in inner city may be due to the over policing and excesssive stop and searches in these areas.
  • BALDWIN AND BOTTOMS blame tipping for urban decline. Tipping involves the law abiding section of an area being driven out by anti social behaviour and may be replaced by friends and relatives of the people responsible for anti-social behaviour. Tipping the society to be regarded as a problem. 
74 of 114

Patterns of crime

Two sources of info:

> Records kept by police and court which are published by the Home Office (Official statistics).

> Research carried out by the home office looking at the victims of crime (Crime Survey for England and Wales).

The crime survey is thought to produce a more realistic picture of crime than OCS as it includes crimes that are not reported to the police or recorded by them. 

OCS are usseful because they can be used to assess the effectiveness of criminal justice initiatives such as the anti-social behaviour order. A significant rise or fall in statistics may indicate the level of success of a particular social policy. 

Interpretivist socioligists suggest that the ways in which criminal statistics are collected and socially constructed are unreliable so the picture of crime offered by the OCS does not reflect reality. 

75 of 114

Patterns of crime

Overall levels of crime have decreased since 1981:

  • More surveilance
  • More effective policing 
  • Laws are tougher
  • Improvments in the economy - less reasons to commit crime (marxists disagree).


  • 50% of all crimes are committed by young people. 
  • Unemployment, drugs, risk taking, self fullfilling prophesy, peer pressure. 


  • 90% of criminals are male. 
  • More opporunities, masculinty. 


  • African caribbean - more likely to be stop and searched. 
76 of 114

Patterns of crime


Refers to the amount of criminal activity that never appears in offical statistics. 

Interpretivist sociologists argue that OCS so not account for all the crime committed in the UK, only accounts for crime recognised as such by victims and by the police. 

Dark figure of crime can be illustrated in different ways:

  • Some offences are not recorded in OCS, such as tax fraud which is more likely to be committed by wealthy people. 
  • Some crimes may not be recorded as the police regard them as too trivial to classify. 
  • Many people do not report crime because they do not have faith in the police.
  • Some people not aware a crime has been committed against them (e.g. child abuse) 
  • Some victims fear humiliation - e.g. ****. 
  • Some offences such as soft drug offences may not be reported as they appear to have no victim

There are approx 10 million crimes commited a year but only 4 million are reported. 

77 of 114

Patterns of crime


Interpretivists argue that OCS tell us more about the nature of policing in the UK than about crime.

  • Evidence of canteen culture of the police showing that they have ractist values. Police officiers stop and search black people more than White - potentially a reason why ethnic groups appear more criminal in OCS. - evidence found in the MacPhearson Report. 
  • In general young people are more likely to fit police stereotypes about criminality. 
  • Feminist sociologists argue that male officers tend to adopt paternalistic attitudes towards female offenders - chivalry thesis. 
  • Marxists argue that the state collect and construct the criminal statistics in ordee to serve the interests of the ruling class. The ideological function of OCS is to criminalise groups to divert attention away from class inequalities. 
    However Young and Lea note that Islington crime survey data suggests the OCS are largely correct and that young working class people do commit more crime than other groups.
78 of 114


Self report studies: carrying out a study on a criminal to find out if they committed a crime.

Problems with self report studies:

  • Young working class youthsmales are likely to exaggerate the amount of crime committed to further a macho image. 
  • Crimes of a serious nature are unlikely to be reported for fear of the legal consequences. 
  • Females are likely to under-report to conform to ideas of feminity. 
  • Some people may be unaware that they have commited a crime. 
79 of 114


Victim studies 

Victimisation surveys are social surveys in which members of the public are asked whether they have been victims of crime (usually within the last 12 months). 

Positivist victimology:

Hoyle believes that these surveys seek a more accurate picture of victimisation than police records. 

Walklate sees this apporach to victimology as concerned mainly with patterns, trends and regularities in the distribution of victims across social groups. 

The first victim survey carried out in Britain was the British Crime Survey and was key in developing positivst victomology. 

However, Watts et al argue that the victims identified in victim surveys are the victims that the state chooses to see. Victims of white collar or state crime are unlikely to appear in conventional victim surveys because questions are not included which cover these types of offences. 

80 of 114


Radical victimology

Newburn describes radical victimology as an approach which 'has focussed on the vulnerability of particular groups'. It is sought to draw attention to the crimes of the powerful, including the state. 

Left realists made extensive use of local victim surveys to examine the impact of street crime on those in low income neighbourhoods. Walklate belives that the victim survey enabled them to assert the importance of situating criminal victimisation within the power structure of society. For example, lower income people had lower power levels and were less likely to have insurance meaning more likely victims of burglary. 

Kuazlarich et al argue that state crime can aslo be studied from this perspective. Victims of state crime tend to be among the poor and powerless. 

81 of 114


Feminist victimology:

Feminist victim surveys tend to produce qualitative data on female victims of male crimes - particularly sexual and violent crimes. 

Feminists are critical of the structured interview method used by the BCS. Hilary Graham has argued that interviewers impose te researchers categories on women and make it difficult for them to express their experiences. 

Dobash and Dobash carried out the first victim survey on domestic violence.Conducted unstructured interviews and found that 23% of the sample had experienced domestic violence but believed it was expected in a marriage and consequently rarely complained about it or reported it. 

The BCS is focussed on achieving quantitative data where realist and feminist surveys aim to achieve an empathetic understanding (verstehen) and qualitative data. 

82 of 114

Ethnic differences in crime rates

African- Caribben people are over represented in the offical crime statistics  and in the prison population. 

Interpretivists argue that crime statistics do not tell us much about ethnic criminality bt instead tell us about their involvement with the criminal justice system. The evidence suggests that the OCS may not be a true record of ethnic minority crime but rather a reflection of levels of disrimination towards ethnic minorities. 

Phillips and Bowling argue that the black community is subject to oppressive military style policing - e.g. stop and search is 6 times more for black than white. 

Daly carried out overt participation observation into the Greater Manchester Police in order to discover their racial attitudes. He found that institutional racism occured and there was strong evidence of racist views.

Institutional racism = the everyday practices and procedures of an organisation lead to discrimination against ethnic minority groups. 

83 of 114

Ethnic differences in crime rates

Holdaway argues that police canteen culture is still characterised by racist language and jokes. For example, police officers are more likely to leave the police service within 2 years if they are from an ethnic minority. 

Example =

The MacPherson report conlcuded that the London police were guilty of instituional racism after teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered because he was black. Outcome of a gang culutre scenario but the police mis-handled the case. 

Phillips and Bowling argue that the negative labelling by the criminal justice sytem leads ethnic minorities to feel hostile towards the police. Crime is therefore an expression of the hostility they feel towards the police. 

84 of 114

Ethnic differences in crime rates


  • Race Relations Act is strengthened to ensure that police policies and practices do not discriminate on the grounds of race such as stop and search. (however there must be reason why the RR act was needed in the first place).
  • Young ethnic minorities are known as the 'available population' and are out at unsociable hour when most crime is committed, rather than the colour of their skin.
  • Young black people DO commit more crime. Tony Sewell believes this is because of the triple quandary:

1) they cannot relate to mainstream culture because they believe teachers, police etc are racist. 
2) they are influenced by media emphasis on the need for material things. 
3) lack a positive male role model. 

85 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

Patterns of crime:

Officially recorded crime statistics indicate that males are 5 times more likely to commit crimes than females. However self report study by CAMPBELL puts the male/female ratio at 1.5:1 suggesting women are less likely to be reported - chilvary thesis. 

Most socioligists accept than women commit less crime than men - leonard believes that the major explanation for this fact is that women are more likely to conform to rules and social controls than men. 

However the commitment to the rules may be undermined by social class and age. 

86 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

Why do females commit less crime than men?

Differential socialisation: Ann Oakley

Oakley suggests that males are socialised into aggressive, self-seeking individualistic behaviour that may make them more inclined to take risks and commit crime, 

Females are socialised into a less criminal set of values. e.g. to be caring and tender towards others. 


Not all females/males are socialised in this manner. 

Females are increasingly being socialised like boys (e.g. female footballers). 

87 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

2) Differential controls: Frances Heidensohn

Heidensohn argues females are more conformist because patriachal society imposes greater control over their behaviour:

1) Teenage girls revolve around bedroom culture so socialise at home, unlike boys who are more likely to socialise on the streets. (McRobbie & Garber)

2) Girls avoid gainging a 'bad reputation' or labels by avoiding deviant behaviour. (Lees)

3) Women are more likely to be controlled by their roles of wives and mothers so have little time for illeagal activity. (Heidensohn)

4) Women fear male violence so may avoid public places where crime normally occurs. 


Some women may not be married or have children.

Evidence of joint conjugal roles meaning women are less of a subject to male dominance. 

88 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

3) Rational choice theory: Carlen

Carlen notes that working class females commit crimes because they lack the four controls that stop people committing crime:

1) Attachment: being committed to family relationships that could be threatended by criminality. 
2) Commitment: peoplle who have worked for years and have career/come " " ".
3) Involvement: people actively involved in the community and criminality could threaten their role.
4) Belief: brought up to believe in rules and respect of the law.  

Carlen argues criminal women are women who have failed to gain qualifcations to gain a legitimate job and have come to the conclusion that crime is the only route to a decent standard of living. 

In their situation, they analyse the costs compared to the benefits of commiting crime and decide crime is the best. Criminal records reinforce future crimes as it makes it harder to get a job.

However: Carlen does not explain why many women in poverty choose not to commit crime.

People commit on impulse, not analysing costs/benefits. 

89 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

4) The feminisation of poverty: Walklate

Women have become increasingly more likely to experience low pay and benefits than men. 

Crime such as shoplifting and prostitution is a reaction to poverty and is an economic necessity, to provide their children with food and clothes. 


The equal pay act has been introduced.

90 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

5) Liberation theory: Alder

Alder argues that as society becomes less patriarchal, women's crime rates will rise. 

Women's liberation from patriarchy will lead to a new time of feamle criminal because they will have greater opportunity and confidence to commit crime. 

E.g. women able to commit white collar crime if they can now gain higher up positions. 


Senior positions are still dominated by men (glass ceiling). 

Most female offenders are still working class so are probably motivated by the same factors as working class men (poverty, envy, powerlessness) that accompany being in a marginalised position in society. 

91 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

6) Post modern perspectives: Croall

Suggets teemage girls are usually motivated to commit crime by three interelated factors:

1) a drug habbit (which often leads to prostitution and shoplifting).

2) the excitement that often accompanies the act of commiting crime. 

3) The conspicuous consumption of goods such as desinger labels which are often target of shoplifting. 

92 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

Why do men commit crime?

James Messerschmidt devloped Oakley's ideas and argued that boys in the UK are socialised into a hegemonic masculine value system that stresses the difference from women and particular mascluine goals that need to be achieved to become a 'real man':

  • Reputation - want respect from other men
  • Authority and control
  • Objectification of women and celebration of being male through promiscuity. 
  • Toughness
  • Territorial loyalty - gangs

Messerschmidt believes working class youth's experience of eduation is one of underachievement due to anti-learning laddish sunculure (willis) - leading to gang culture. Middle class men motivated by hegemonic value system to commit white collar & corporate crime. 

He fails to explain why not all men use crime to accomplish hegemonic masculine goals. The majority are law abiding. 

93 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

Simon Winlow: changing nature of masculinity 

Suggests that men used to express their masculinity through their work, being breadwinner and leisure time. Therefore meaning levels of crime were low. 

However, mass unemployment in the 1980's in industrial communities meant that men could no longer express their masculinity through their work or by being the breadwinner.

Winlow argues that young men increasingly value violence as it offers a release from boredom and access to status. 

The nature of criminal opportunity has changed due to economic changes. Criminality is now an entrepeneurial concern. Crime has now become a career in itself. 

94 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

Postmodern studies of masculinity and crime:

Katz: argues that young males commit crime for the pleasure or thrill that is derived from the risk of being caught. These thrills are called transgressions. 

Lyng: suggests that much of crime is edgework as it is between the thrill of getting away with it and the potential danger of being captured and punished. 

95 of 114

Gender differences in crime rates

Domestic abuse

Dr Turton argued that there is a big dark figure of domestic abuse due to society not interfering and victims not reporting it. 

Domestic abuse involves the abuse by one partner against the other in an intimate relationship. 

9/10 cases men are the abusers - exercise of power. But due to greater eqaulity of women, men are increasingly the victim. 

Domestic violence, crime & victims act 2009

  • Allows the court to impose restraining orders. Introduced when evidence shows victim needs protection but insufficient evidence to convict.
  • Civil legal aid can be made available to the vicitm if they need advice and representation.
96 of 114

White collar crime

Criminal acts committed by non-manual workers in the course of their work.

Types of white collar crime:

Occupational: crimes committed at the expense of the organisation. 

Corporate: crimes committed on behalf of the organisation. 

Biases in law enforcement:

Hughs and Langan suggest that white collar crimes are difficult to detect and to convict offenders of as they tend to be:

  • complex
  • low visibility
  • diffusion of responsibilty 

e.g. international phone hacking scandal by employees of the News Corporation hacked celebs phones and also victims of the 7/7 bombings

97 of 114

Mass media

The mass media is traditionally defined as:

"The methods and organisations used to communicate to large audiences"

Traditional examples = tv, newspapers, magazines

But there have been huge changes in the media due to the development in the modern world: mre specialist media output, communicating with smaller groups of people through internet and satelite TV.

These changes have lead sociologists to simply talk about the media and include any kind of technology which helps people to communicate. 

98 of 114

Effects of the mass media

Hypodermic theory:

This adopts the view that audiences are passive and so are directly influenced by media output. (e.g. Bandura's Bobo Doll - but lacked ecological validty, 'copy cat killings'  Nathan Martinez killed step mother after watching natural born killers 10 times but he had been abused by father so was already emotionally vulnerable).

Selective theory:

This theory is critical of the hypodermic theory by emphasising that individuals interpret the media output according to their pre-exsisiting views and therefore media serves only to reinforce our views. This supports the idea that the media acts as as agent of secondary socialisation. 

Cultural theory:

This theory is critical of the other two theories as they only look at the short term effects of the media. 

Cultural theory emphasises that the media has long term effects on its audiences over time, the values and norms of society change. This particularly applies to post modern soceities such as our own which are becoming more media saturated. 

99 of 114

Mass media and crime

Stories about crime and deviance are important in the mass media. Provides knowledge.

Williams and Dickinson found that British newspapers devote 12% of the content to crime and 60% of that is violence. 

Sociologists argue that our knowledge of crime and deviance is socially constructed. 

However the media can give a distorted image of crime, criminals and policing in may ways:

1) The mass media set an agenda and influence the issues people think about. 

2) The media decides what should be reported about (news values)

3) The media exaggerate crimes and amplify deviance. 

100 of 114

Mass media and crime

1) Agenda setting:

The media influence the issues people think about because the agenda for public discussion is laid down by the mass media. 

The media cannot report every criminal activity. Therefore they are selective in the incidents they chooose to report. 

People are only able to form opinions on and discuss the crime and deviance they have been informed  about. 

Media representation may therefore influence what people believe about crime and deviance. 

101 of 114

Mass media and crime

2) News value

Reiner argues that the media coverage of crime and deviance is filtered through journalists' view on what makes an event newsworthy. The idea of newsworthiness is driven by what are known as 'news values'.

News values are assumptions and values held by editors and journalists which guide them in choosing what is newsworthy. Journalists tend to emphasise elements of of a story that makes it newsworthy. 

Key values:

Predictability: predictable stories are more likely to be covered.
High status people: crime involving celebs/important people. 
Simplification: events that are easily understood.
Children: children as offenders or victims. 
Violence: enables drama, action and excitement.
Personalisation: human interest stories about individuals. 

102 of 114

Mass media and crime

3) The exaggeration of crime and amplification of devaince 

Greer found that all media tend to exaggerate the extent of violent crime. 

They dramatise, exaggerate and sensationalise crimes in order to generate interest - giving a false impression of the real extent of such crime. 

The media exagerate the risk of people becoming victims to take attention away from other important crimes such as white collar crime. 

Deviance amplification:

The media may create crime and deviance through creating moral panic. 

A moral panic is an exaggerated and irrational over-reaction by society to a percieved problem. 

103 of 114

Mass media and crime

What happens in a moral panic?

  • Media identifies a 'problem group' that is seen as a threat.
  • Negative stereotypes are made - creating folk devils 
  • Problem is amplified by exaggerated reporting. 
  • Media symbolize the group by hairstyle, music for example, so the public can identify. 
  • The media invites moral entrepeneurs (people with influence e.g. politicians) to condemn the group/behaviour. 
  • Media predicts further trouble. 
  • This puts pressure on authorities to curb the problem which increases policing and severe punishments. 
  • Leading to self fulfilling prophesy - leading to deviance amplification

Cohen notes that moral panics often lead to deviancy amplification - what was initially a fantasy probelm now becomes a very real problem. 

104 of 114

Mass media and crime

Perspectives on moral panics

Functionalists see moral panics as ways of responding to the sense of normlessness created by change. By dramatising the threat to society in the form of a folk devil, the media raise the collective consciousness and reassert social controols when central values are threatened. 

Marxists such as Stuart Hall argue that moral panics are used by the capitalist state to divert attention from the mismanagement of capitalism. Moral panics keep attention on crime such as mugging or theft and away from crisis' such as recession. However there is no evidence that the police and media purposely create moral panics as political diversions. 

Left realists argue that moral panics are often based on reality and the groups identified are often a very real threat to those living in inner city areas. They argue that moral panic theorists often deny the reality of the subject matter. 

Young and Lea argue that portraying such crime as fantasy made up by the media is naive because such crime has real negative outcomes for people in inner cities. 

105 of 114

Mass media and crime

Is the concept of moral panic relevant today?

Due to the diversity of news reports, opinions and reactions, people are much more sceptical of media interpretations and are less likely to believe them.

It is more difficult for the meedia to define issues in such as way that can develop into a moral panic. 

McRobbie and Thornton argue that the concept of moral panic is now outdated in a sophisticated society with advanced technology such as 24 hour rolling news. Most events are no longer reported for long enough to sustain the interest that traditional moral panics created. 

106 of 114

Mass media and crime

Media as the cause of crime:

It has been suggested that some audiences may imitate violence or anti-social behaviour as seen on television. The media is regarded as a powerful secondary agent of socialisation which shapes the behaviour of young people. 
(E.g. Huesmann: children learn from observing others; characters of tv model behaviour in which they imitate.)

Media content has also encouraged vulnerable groups to commit crime and deviance by exposing them to negative role models and desensitising them to the effects of violence. 

Most sociologists argue that criminal behaviour is caused by a number of factora including poor socialistion, poor parenting, peer pressure and mental illness - media cannot be a sole cause of crime. 

107 of 114

Mass media and crime

Cyber crime:

Thomas and Loader define cybercrime as "computer mediated activities that are either illegal and are conducted through global electronic networks".

British police define cyber crime as "the use of any computer network for crime".

The internet creates new opportunities for crime. 

Wall identifies four categories of cybercrime:

1) cybertrespass = hacking

2) cyber deception = identity theft

3) cyber ***********

4) cyber violence = text bullying. 

108 of 114

Crime control, prevention and punishment

Government policies have been influenced by two conflicting sociological theories: Right and left realists. 

Right realists emphasise the individual. They note that people choose to commit crime because the benefits outweigh the costs. So society needs to increase the costs of crime.

Left realists focus on the organisation of society and espeically inequality which creates an environment where crime could be seen as the norm. 

109 of 114

Right realism


Situational crime prevention refers to measures aimed at reducing opportunties for crime. 

Increase the costs of people being caught and reducing opportunies. 


CCTV: each person in the UK is captured 30 times a day on cctv - increasing chances of being caught. 

Community service orders: offender required to undertake unpaid work for the benfit of society - increasing the costs of being caught. 

  • Displacement - people just move where targets are softer. 
  • Marxists says this ignores white collar, corporate and state crimes. 
  • Left realists argue that SCP ignores the root cause of crime such as poverty. 
110 of 114

Right realism


Wilson argues that crime is caused by anti-social behvaiour such as vandalism and if these behaviours are tolerated it creates an 'anything goes' culture so encourages criminal activity. (broken window thesis). 

Most likely to occur if there is little sense of community - formal and informal social controls are weak. Police may feel antisocial behaviour isn't their responsbility and focus on more serious crime. 


Zero tolerance: police should aggresively tackle all types of crime and disorder, not just serious ones. 

Any environmental decline should be tackled immediatly before TIPPING occurs. 

111 of 114

Left Realism


Left realists and other critical sociologists such as marxisms believe SCP and ECP are doomed to fail because we should TREAT CAUSES NOT JUST THE SYMPTOMS OF CRIME. 

Econmic and social conditions need to be addressed such as poverty, unemployment, poor housing and education.

They argue tht urban crime is a rational response to a lack of legitimae opportunities and the powerlessness that deprived groups feel in terms of improving their situation. 

Left realists argue that economic and social reform projects need to be introduced:

e.g. Nacro: uk charity aimed at changing lives of disadvantaged people, giving them positive alternatives to crime. 

Economic investment in poorer communites to create jobs. 

Shifts responsibility of crime from individual to society. 
Doesn't explain why many people in poverty do not commit crime. 

112 of 114


Role of punishment:

  • DETERRENCE: increases costs of crime
  • PROTECTION: protects the public 
  • REHABILITATION: reformation of offenders so they will not return to criminal careers. 

Does prison work?

Matthews argues that little help is given to reform people so no.

There is a high rate of recidivism (repeat offending) suggesting that prison does not deter people from crime. This could be because people get so institutionalised that they cannot cope with life outside of prison so reoffend - particularly the case with homeless people. 

113 of 114

Sociologists view of criminal justice system

Durkheim: Punishment needs to aim towards rehabilitation so that people can fit back into society and the status quo can be maintained. Prison is an appropriate punishment as it reinforces conscience collective and reminds people of the power of authority. 

Marx: Punishment tends to reflect class interest. When there was a surplus of labour, capital punishment was used lots. When labour was short, more prisons built and inmates forced to work - allows those in power to exert their authority. 

Elias: decreasing amounts of public violence and the need for privacy has been emphasised. No longer is public punihsment a thing as the aims of punishment has changed from seeking retribution to now seeking reformation. 

114 of 114


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Crime and deviance resources »