Key Sociologists Crime & Deviance


Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Durkheim - crime is a normal part of healthy societies: in every society, some are inadequately socialised + prone to deviance. Individuals + groups become increasingly different from each other, shared rules of behaviour become less clear (anomie).

All change starts as deviance. Individuals with new ideas challenge existing norms, firstly appears as deviance.

Davis - Safety Valve - Prostitution acts to release men sexual frustrations without threatening nuclear family.

AK Cohen - Warning Light - deviance indicates institution malfunctioning e.g. high truancy rates indicates problem with educuation system.

Merton - Strain theory - people engage in deviant behaviour when can't achieve socially approved goals by legit means. Structural (unequal opportunity) and cultural factors (emphasis on success goals)

AK Cohen - Status frustation - deviance results from lower class ability to achieve mainstream succes goals by legitimate means e.g. education. WC boys face anomie in MC system because culturally deprived, lack skills to achieve, bottom of status hierarchy.

Cloward & Ohlin - 3 Subcultures - WC youth denied legitimate opportunities + deviance as result of this. Not everyone adapts to lack of legit opportunities by turning to innovation (utilitarian crime). Some turn to violence + drug use.

Lack of illegitimate opportunity structure as well as legitimate.Criminal, Conflict and Retreatist subcultures as a result.

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Labelling Theory

Becker - social groups create deviance by creating rules + applying them to particular people whom they label as 'outsiders'. Person only acts/becomes deviant when labelled as deviant by others.

Pillavin & Briar - police decisions arrest based on stereotypical ideas about manner, dress, gender, class, ethnicity, time + place.

Cicourel - police use typifications of typical delinquent. Those fitting more likely to be stopped, arrested and charged.

We cannot take crime statistics at face value or use them as a resource.

Young - study of hippy marijuana users - police persecution of them as junkies (societal reaction) led them to retreat into closed groups + drug use became central activity (self-fulfiling prophecy). Control produced opposite.

Cohen - study of mods + rockers - media exaggeration and distortion became moral panic, growing public concern. Police arrested more youths, provoking more concern.

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Marxist Theories

Gordon - crime rational response to capitalism and found in all classes.

Chambliss - argues laws to protect privat property is the base of capitalist economy.

Reiman - shows crimes of the powerful much less likely to be treated as criminal offences and prosecuted.

Carlson - sample of 200 firms, all those who broke health & safety laws, only 1.5% of cases were prosecuted.

Pearce - argues crime + law benefits capitalism by giving 'caring face' creates false consciousness.

Taylor, Walton & Young - capitalism based on exploitation & inequality. State makes & enforces laws in interests of capitalism, criminalises WC. Cap should be replaced by classless society, would reduce crime.

Taylor et al -

sees workers as driven to commit crime out of economic necessity. reject view with any theories that claim crime is caused by external factors e.g. anomie, blocked opportunities.

take voluntaristic view (idea we have free will) crime conscious choice with political motive e.g. robin hood.

Criminals deliberately struggling to change society.

want to create fully social theory of deviance - comprehensive theory that would help change society for better.

theory would have two main sources: traditional marxist ideas about unequal, labelling theory ideas about meaning of deviant act of actor.

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Realist Theories


Wilson & Hernstein - biological differences between individuals to make people innately predisposed to commit crime, due to personality traits e.g. aggressiveness, risk taking, low intelligence.

Murray - nuclear family undermined by welfare state, creates welfare dependency + growth of underclass to fail to socialise children properly.

Clarke - rational choice theory assumes individuals rational beings with free will.

Felson - routine activity theory - for crime to occur, must be motivated offender, suitable target, absense of capable guardian e.g. police or neighbour.

Wilson & Kelling - must keep neighbourhoods orderly to prevent crime. e.g. graffiti must be dealt with.


Lea & Young - 3 causes of crime = relative deprivation, subculture & marginalisation.

Police rely on public for info, losing public support, flow of info dries up + must rely on military policing e.g. swamping of an area.

Young - late modernity & crime - in modern society since 70's, problem of WC crime worse due to harsher welfare policies, unemployment, job insecurity, poverty.

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Gender, Crime & Justice

Pollak - men have protective attitude towards women, unwilling to arrest, charge, prosecute or convict. Crime less likely to appear on official stats, underrepresents female crime.

Graham & Bowling - young males 2 times more likely than females to admit to offence in previous year - official stats show males four times more likely to offend. Women more likely to be cautioned than prosecuted.

Hood - 1992 study of 3000 defendants, found women a third less likely to be jailed in similar cases.

Farrington & Morris - study of magistrates court - women not sentenced more leniently for comparable offences.  

Box - review of self-report studies - women who commit serious offences not treated more favourably.

Buckle & Farrington - shoplifting study - Women shoplifters more likely to be prosecuted than males.

Heidonsohn - double standards of courts punishing girls, not boys for promiscious sexual activity.

Carlen - Scottish courts more likely to jail women whose children were in care. 39 WC women study, 20 in prison/youth custody. Most convicted serious criminals WC.

Walklate - **** cases, victim who is on trial as has to prove respectability.

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Gender, Crime & Justice

Hirschi's control theory - humans act rationally + controlled by being offered deal rewards in return for conforming to norms. People commit crime if don't believe they'll get rewards or rewards of crime outweigh risks.

Adler's liberation thesis - as women become more liberated from patriarchy, offending becomes similar to males. F Liberation leading to new type of female criminal + rise in female crime rates. More women committing white collar crimes rather than shoplifting + prostitution as more women in senior positions at work.

Messer Schmidt - men commit crime to accomplish masculinity, something men have to work at constructing + present to other males.

Parson's sex role theory - girls given adult role model (mother), boys reject feminine models of behaviour that express tenderness, gentleness + emotion. Boys distance themselvs engaging in compulsory masculinity, risk taking, aggression, anti-social behaviour.

AK Cohen - absence of male role model influences males to turn to all male street gangs as source of masculine identity. Earn status from this.

Heidensohn - patriarchal control - patriarchy gives women fewer opportunities to offend, patriarchal control operates home, public, work. Home - no time, looking after kids, housework. Public - fear of sexual violence, media **** etc keep women at home, Work - women have subordinate roles, reduces white collar crime.

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Ethnicity, Crime & Justice

Graham & Bowling - found black & whites almost identical rates of offending. Asians had lower rates.

Philips & Bowling - many allegations of oppressive policing of minority communities e.g. mass stop & search operations, excessive surveillance, armed raids, police violence.

Hood - even when seriousness of offence + previous convictions taken into account, black men 5% more likely to be jailed + more likely to be in prison than whites.

Lea & Young (LRs) - ethnic  differences in statistics reflect differences in offending. relative deprivation, subculture + marginalisation. Racism led to marginalisation + economic exclusion of ethnic minorities. Racist policing unjustified criminalisation of members of minority groups.

Gilroy (Neo-Marx) - black criminality myth created by racist stereotypes of afro carb & asians. no more criminal than any other ethnic group. Most blacks & asians come from former british colonies, anti-colonial struggles taught them how to resist oppression, e.g. riots & demonstrations, adopted same in british society + criminalised.

Hall et al - moral panic of black muggers in 70s that served interests of capitalism in dealing with crisis. Myth of young black mugger served scapegoat to distract attention from true cause of societal problem e.g. unemployment - capital crisis in 70s. Capitalism marginalised black youth through unemployment, drove some into petty crime to survive.

Bourgois - El Barrio - Black & Hispanic community in NYC. Exclusion resulted in creating alternative economy - combines legal activities with criminal ones e.g. drug dealing. Street parrallel subculture developed, rejecting norms. Legitimates drug use, creates new addicts who turn to violent crime to support habit.

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Crime & the Media

Williams & Dickinson - British newspapers devote 30% of news space to crime.

Cohen & Young - news not discovered but manufactured, doesn't exist 'out there' waiting to be written up, instead outcome of social process whereby potential stories either selected or rejected.

Mandel - from 1945-84, 10 billion crime thrillers sold worldwide.

Surette - law of opposites, opposite of official stats + similar to news coverage. Property crime under-represented, drugs + violence + sex crimes over represented.

Schlesinger + Tumber - tabloid readers + heavy users of TV expressed greater fear of going out at night and becoming victim.

Lea & Young (LRs) - media increase relative deprivation among marginalised groups. Media shows 'good life', everyone worldwide in deprived countries have access, sense of relative deprivation + social exclusion.

S Cohen - mods and rockers - medias response to disturbances between two groups of teenagers, created moral panic. Media exaggerated numbers + seriousness, distorted through headlines, predicted further conflict, symbols of mods + rockers negatively labelled. SFP youths acted out roles media assigned to them. Result of people relying on media lack of experience + boundary crisis.

Thomas & Loader - cybercrime is computer-mediated activities that either illegal or considered illicit, conducted through global electronic networks.

Jewkes - internet creates opportunities to commimt both conventional crimes e.g. fraud + new crimes new tools.

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Globalisation & Crime

Held et al - increasing interconnectedness of crime across national borders, spread of transnational organised crime.

Castells - global criminal economy is worth £1 trillion per annum.

Taylor - globalisation led to inequality. TNCs manufacture via low wage countries to gain higher profits, producing job insecurity, unemployment and poverty.

Hobbs & Dunningham - way crime organised linked to globalisation, involves individuals acting as 'hub' around which loose-end knit network forms, linking legit + illegit activities.

Glenny - McMafia - organisations that emerged in Russia & Eastern EU after fall in communism. New Russian gov deregulated economy, huger rises in food prices + rents.

Beck - most threats to human well being and ecosystem now human-made rather than natural disasters. Technology creates new 'manufactured risks'.

Green & Ward - state crime = illegal or deviant activities perpetrated by/with complicity of state agencies. E.g. genocide, war crimes, torture, imprisonment without trial + assassination.

McLaughin - 4 categories of state crime: political, economic, social, cultural crimes by security police forces.

Schweindinger2 - we should define crime in terms of violation of basic human rights, rather than breaking of legal rules. States that practice imperialism, racism, sexism or exploit citizens, committing crimes.

Cohen - human rights + state crimes central to both political debate + criminology as growing international human rights movements + focus on victims. States conceal + legitimate human right crimes.

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Control, Punishment & Victims

Wilson & Kelling - broken glass theory - signs of disorder e.g. graffiti, vandalism that aren't dealt with signal that no one cares, prompting spiral of decline.

Durkheim - function of punishment to uphold social solidarity + reinforce shared values by experessing society's moral outrage at offence. Retributive justice = society strong colective conscience, severe punishment. Restitutive = modern society extensive interdependence between individuals, crime damages + function of justice to repair damage.

Foucault - birth of prison - soverign power - pre mod, physical power over peoples bodies, punishment visible spectacle e.g. public execution. post mod - disciplinary power seeks to govern not just body but mind through surveillance. Panopticon = prison design where cells visible to guards, guards not visible to prisoners. Prisoners constantly behave as if being watched. Other institutions use this and disciplinary power infiltrated every part of society, bringing effects to human soul itself.

Garland - USA and UK moving into era of mass imprisonment. USA 3% of adult population some form of judical restriction on liberty.

Wolfgang - study of 588 homocides, 26% involved victim triggering events that led to murder e.g. first to use violence.

Tombs & Whyte - employers violations of law leading to death/injury to workers often explained away as fault of 'accident prone' workers.

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Durkheim -

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