Crime and Deviance Theme 7 - Post-Modernism and Crime

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Post-Modernism and Crime

  • Post-modernism is the process of moving from a 'modern' society to a 'post-modern' society - a more fragmented, individualistic, consumer-orientated, media-saturated and diverse society
  • They draw heavily on the interactionist tradition - in a post-modern society, deviance becomes the norm because nobody has a moral sense of what is right and wronf
  • More interested in explaining how crime and deviance is constructed
  • Late-modernists believe that social changes have changed the underlying causes of crime but we can still use old theories and concepts (like Functionalism and Marxism) to understand why crime happens                                                                                                                                                                                                                            


1. Difference - mass media highlights how different we all are
2. Incoherence - resurrecting the importance of the irrational: it's our emotions that are the causes of criminal behaviour (irrational and unscientific)
3. Fragmentation - 
disintegration of the traditional suppliers of norms and values 

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Robert Reiner (2008)

  • 1950s was the era of mass consumerism
  • Role of television and 'immediate gratification' (wanting the rewards of life immediately rather than deferring the rewards for later in life) - a combination of advertising and 'game show culture' (getting things quickly for no work) undermines deferred gratification 
  • Criminals tend to be impulsive, insensitive, risk taking and short-sighted about the future - this describes the perfect consumer in a capitalist society
  • Weakening of informal and formal social controls also affects crime                                                                                                                                              

CRIME EXPLOSION 1980s - 1990s

  • Margaret Thatcher's government were the key accelerant behind the crime explosion by increasing levels of unemployment, increasing low-paid and insecure jobs, creating a culture of egoism and consumerism and increasing social inequality                                                                                                                                                               


  • It's not because of zero tolerance policing and mass incarceration - there is evidence that crime rates have fallen without these policies in other countries 
  • There has been a fall in long term unemployment and a halt in the acceleration of inequality (female and racial equality laws)
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Mass Media and the Changing Nature of Crime

  • Yvonne Jeukes argues that the internet creates new opportunities to commit crime:                                                                                                   
  • Cyber traspass (hacking, viruses)
  • Cyber deception (identity theft, phishing)
  • Cyber p o r n ography
  • Cyber violence (stalking, threats)
  • International terrorism
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Controlling Crime

  • FORTRESS CITIES: where the poor and affluent become separated. Space either becomes privatised for the affluent and the paranoid (in safe gated communities) or it is segregated into poor ghettos                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
  • RISK MANAGEMENT: actuarial criminology/new penology - an insurance based strategy involving calculating the number of 'risky people' who must be monitored and managed in the population. Crime is seen as something to be lived with and managed, not to be dealt with at the root cause                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  • SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY: increasing the use of surveillance and regulation through the use of CCTV and information technology 
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  • Explains non-utilitarian crimes 
  • Recognises that there are other dimensions to crime 
  • Ignores 'justice for all' - only focuses on wealthy consumers
  • Lea and Young argue that Post-modernism is a rediscovered 'labelling theory' or radical criminology, which concluded a long time ago that crime was a social construction constructed by the wealthy, therefore Post-modernism is not saying anything new about crime 
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Late-Modernism and Crime

  • Young argues against the idea that crime is committed when there are available opportunities (Rational Choice Theory) or lack of control against criminal behaviour. These approaches do not explain why crime is so attractive to criminals                                                                                                                                                              


  • Stresses the highly emotional nature of crime - how the crime makes people feel
  • Crime is not rational, it's a reaction to the rational - crime is carried out because the rules are in place to be broken                                                                                                                                                                                   


  • The basis of identity construction for young people (work, family, community) are much more complex and fragmented
  • We live in an individualistic society - everything is unstable and uncertain
  • Constructing a masculine identity is harder in today's society - in offices, call centres, fast food outlets and supermarkets (they're not manual jobs)
  • Young people are trying to work out who they are in an unstable world combined with the confusion of working hard but struggling to make ends meet - this makes crime attractive
  • Criminals crave excitement, status and control which crime gives them
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