Sociology Crime and Deviance

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  • Created on: 08-01-13 09:17


Crime = something that breaks the ‘law’, there are different laws in different countries, it is socially constructed.

Deviance = something that breaks societies ‘norms’ not necessarily laws e.g. truancy.

Social Order = Stability, social solidarity and social integration that derives from shared norms and values.

Social Control = Methods used to unsure that we conform to societies norms and values.

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Crime as Socially constructed

·         Refers to something not being fixed and is therefore constructed or created by members of society.

·         Crime changes over time, place and culture.

·         Culture may refer to crimes that exist in some countries and not others e.g. smoking marijuana.

·         All examples show that crime is constructed by its society. Becker refers to this as crime being ‘in the eye of the beholder’ 

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Biological/ Psychological explanations of Crime

·         Lombroso (1875) convicted criminals were atavistic – primitive – failed to evolve. 

·         Right Realists are controversial in the respect that they still suggest the one viable explanation for crime is a biological explanation with low IQ being their focus.

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Functionalist theories of Crime

·         Durkheim: too much crime destabilises society, however it is inevitable and universal

·         Boundary Maintenance and Adaptation and Change. 

·         Davis: ‘Prostitution acts as a safety valve for Mens sexual frustration without threatening the monogamous nuclear family’

·         Polsky: *********** safety channels a variety of sexual desires away from adultery which poses a greater threat to the family’

·         Cohen: ‘Truancy trends tells policy makers that the education system is not functioning properly so they need to make changed’

·         Criticisms; Naivety of functionalists with victims – Baby P shouldn’t have happened.  For good to happen, bad has to happen.

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Mertons Strain theory

·         People engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means.

·         Deviance is the result of strain between: the encouraged cultural goals  and what the institutional structure of society allows individuals to achieve legitimately.

·      The American Culture emphasises on achievement and successmeritocratic

·         Strain to Anomie’ – situation whereby anything goes in relation to achieving material successincluding C + D

·         BUT it does not explain why some people turn to crime and others do not, or that crime and deviance is not always motivated by a desire for material gain e.g. vandalism, heavily based on utilitarian crime.

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Subculture strain theory

·         See deviance as a product of delinquent subculture with different values to mainstream society.

·         Cohen: Status Frustration – deviance is a W/C phenomenon as the lower class struggle to achieve mainstream goals. 

·         Cloward and Ohlin: Believes that subcultures respond in different ways to the lack of legitimate opportunities.  The W/C are denied legitimate opportunities but they do not all respond in the same way as some.

·         Matza: ’JUVINILE DELINQUENCY AND DRIFT – techniques of neutralisation – due to weakened social bonds.

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Traditional Marxist

·         Marxists view capitalism is exploitive and unfair – Marxists want a COMMUNIST society, more equality.

·         Alienation and Frustration – leading to resentment, violence and vandalism – aggression in not being able to afford what others have.

·         Crime is not confined to the working class – capitalism = ‘dog eat dog’, it’s a system of ruthless competition, and their motivation = greed.

·         Capitalists commit white collar crime e.g. tax evasion.

·         Chambliss: Introduced taxations, made east Africans work and pay tax on plantations e.g. cocoa; this serves the interests of capitalism because it means that the bourgeoisie gain and the proletariat lose} this is exploitive and manipulative and a classic example of false class consciousness.

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Traditional Marxist 2

· SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT: They argue that all social classes commit crime when it comes to the criminal justice system, w/c and ethnic minorities are criminalisedand the police tend to ‘let go’ the crimes of the powerful.

 · Reiman: ‘The Rich get Richer and the Poor get Prison’

· Pearce: laws that benefit the working class e.g. working place health and safety laws also benefit the ruling class by keeping workers safe and fit for work and it also gives the ruling class a caring face.

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Traditional marxist S&W

· STRENGTHS: they are fighting for equality, continues, relativeand still applicable after nearly 200 years, believe in a communist society – e.g. recognising that there are inequalities.

· WEAKNESSES: may be outdated and too sincere in the area of blaming, it ignores subjects like gender and ethnicity – there is too much focus of social class, and therefore bias towards them.

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Neo Marxist -Taylor

·         Taylor agrees with Marxists. However, Taylor see’s traditional Marxism too deterministic and there is too much generalisation and focus on social class.

·         Takes a more voluntaristic view – FREE WILL – therefore crime is seen as a meaningful action and a conscious choice.

·         There is usually a political motive to give from the rich to poor – however, traditional Marxists ideas about unequal distribution of wealth and who has the power to make and enforce the law – they get the ideas from Interactionism and the labelling theory – its societal reactions to an act which makes it inherently deviant.

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Neo Marxist criticism

·         Feminists criticize it for being ‘gender blind’ – focusing on male criminality and at the expense of female criminality.

·         Left Realists argue that Taylor does not take crime seriously and they ignore its effect on the W/C victims – they also argue that they romanticise the w/c as ‘Robin Hoods’

·         Gilroy: Ethnic minority crime can be seen as a form of political resistance against a racist society – this resistance has its roots in British imperialism.

·         Hall argues that the 1970’s saw the emergence of the media driven by moral panic on the growth of ‘new crime’ muggings, this came about during an economic recession and so the media presented the black youth as a scapegoat.

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Post Modernism

·         Believe that the Media is a replacing religion and therefore encourage secularisation

·         The media creates a multitude of masculinity and femininity (anything goes) e.g. meterosexuals, ‘camp people’ ‘ladettes’ etc.

·         Beck: introduced the ‘risk society’; there are now new types of crime e.g. cyber crime, the mass media has opened doors economically and the ‘global village’ is apparent.

·         We have all been intertwined by technology; e.g. global crime, cyber crime and identity theft.

·         Marxists might argue that Post Modernism are in a state of ‘False Class Consciousness’

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Interpretivist (methods)/Interactionalist (theory)

·         This is an action theory – it focuses on the interactions (micro or bottom up theories).

·         Voluntaristic – individuals have free will and choice, our ideas and actions are not determined by society.

·         Putting ourselves in the role of another person – Verstehen.

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Symbolic interactionism

· Mead: noticed that humans are not like animals – they do not think about their actions.

· Blumer: Our actions are based on the meanings we give to our situations, events, people etc, unlike animals our actions are not based on automatic responses.

· Cooley: THE LOOKING GLASS SELF’ uses the idea that our self-concept arises out of seeing ourselves as others see us – others act as a looking glass to ourselves;

· Goffman: according to Goffman we all have a front and back stage - Impression management – we seek a particular image of ourselves to our audiences, social interaction is analysed as if it were part of a theatrical performance.

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Gender and Crime

·         Heidenson: ‘BIAS AND PTRIARCHAL CONTROL’ women’s behaviour is conformist . There is Control at Home, Control in Public &Control at Work    

Females are treated more harshly than males when they deviant from gender norms e.g. double standards

·         Pollak: ‘THE CHIVALRY THESIS’ Men have a protective attitude towards women and so the criminal justice system is more lenient with women.

·         Parsons: ‘FUNCTIONALIST SEX ROLE THEORY’ women are at home; whereas male freedom allows for aggression and crime when supposedly out to work.

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Gender and Crime 2

· Carlen: ‘CLASS AND GENDER DEAL’ when women are hailed it is less for ‘the seriousness of their crimes and more according to the court’s assessment of them as wives, mothers and daughters’

Women are led to conformity: Class Deal – women who work will be offered material rewards with a decent standard of living and leisure opp. Gender Deal – patriarchal ideology promises women material gain and emotional rewardswith family life by conforming to a domestic gender role.

· Adler:‘LIBERATION THESIS’ as women become liberated from patriarchy their crimes will become as frequent and serious as that of men’s.

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Right realists

·         Crime is a real and growing problem

·         WilsonZero Tolerance Policy on street crime... Broken Windows

·         Solutions not Causes: focus on practical control measures;

·         Wilson and Hernsteinbiological difference; e.g. increased risk due to personality traits + risk taking.

·         Murrayinadequate socialisation and the underclass; growing underclass dependent on the states over-generous benefits.

·         Clarke- rational choice to offend; right realists argue that the perceived costs of crime are low; this is therefore another factor why crime rates have increased.

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Right Realist 2

· Tackling crime – crime has to be seen as less attractive; it has to be dealt with effectively and efficientlye.g. Broken Glass, the streets have to be made safe for law abiding citizensand free from anti-social activities e.g. drunkenness.

· Favoured Policies: Making parents more responsible for their super visionof their children and socialising them more effectively, neighbourhood watch schemes, adopting zero tolerance policies.

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Right Realists S&W

·         STRENGTHS: acknowledges that crime is a real threat with real victims, they look for real solutions to reduce crime rates rather than identifying crime and reasons, they see criminals as active individuals making chores rather than victims.

·         WEAKNESSES: Don’t address wider social causes, they don’t allow for stereotypical targeting, and they were pre-occupied with petty street crimes instead of corporate crimes.


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Left Realists

·         Young: societies as an unequal capitalist one but unlike Marxists they are conformists and believe its gradual – they see crime as a real and growing problem

·         They want to understand a meaning behind everything; depth and realism

·         Rationalisation – there must have been a reason behind it, not irrational.

·         Marginalisation – segregated from society and pushed to the edges.

·         Cultural and Relative Deprivation – people are deprived so they have to do it to meet the means of society.

·         Causes of Crime: Relative Deprivation – leads to resentment and they then turn to crime.


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Left Realist 2

 Runciman – relative deprivation – so depending on how deprived one feels depends on whether they are going to commit a crime.

· Young – highlights the lethal combination of deprivation and individualism (disintegrates families and undermines values of support)

· Causes of Crime – Left Realists agree with the strain theories that criminal subcultures form due to blocked opportunities; some turn to crime due to deprivation whilst others turn to religion.

· Favoured Policies: building strong communities to work out local solutions to local problems and community control of policing – therefore giving communities a voice.

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Left Realists S&W

 STRENGTHS: Combines different theories on crime, suggests solutions for societal inadequacies.

WEAKNESSES: Too much emphasis on ‘street crime’ and the poor, many people in deprived communities do not turn to crime

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Ethnicity and Crime

·         2.8% of the population are black yet 11% are in prison.

·         Philips: found that within victim surveys, people may ‘over identify’ blacks even if they are not sure of their race.

·         Sharp + Budd: found that white and ‘mixed’ ethnic origins were most likely to admit that they had committed offence.

·         Philips and Bowling: oppressive policing, negative stereotypes about ethnic minorities – The Criminal Justice System are stereotypical it leads to the self fulfilling prophecy.

·         Ethnic Minorities are also most likely to be stopped and searched by the police; only a small proportion are actually arrested

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Ethnicity and Crime 2

·         Gilroy believes that crime by black people is a form of rebelling because they were being faced by police racism and harassment

·         Hall argues that the growing conflict between police and blacks; the media created a moral panic which produced a folk devil

·         Left Realists  like Lea and Young identify marginality, relative deprivation and subcultures

·         Evans and Patells black and white CV’s within the employment process.

- Right Realists – zero tolerance policing because black people are more likely to commit crime.

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Age and Crime

·         Young people are mostly to be a victim of personal crime.

·         Miller – focal concerns; W/C male subculture has distinct focal concerns that may lead to crime e.g. toughness and masculinity ‘Banter’, looking cool and fatalism,

·         Katz: Believes that crime is seductive; crime is thrilling for the young and not motivated by material gain.

·         Lyng: ‘Edgework’ involves thrills with the symbolic value of status; it is a way of expressing masculinity e.g. ‘joy riding’ is not about stealing but about focal concerns and excitement.

·         Youth is a ‘transitional period’ from youth to adulthood, youth crime is simply a part of growing up

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Age and Crime 2

Marxists argue that youth subcultures + crimes are rebellion of capitalism.

· Status Frustration – can weaken bonds –school gets replaced by peers, deviance is a means of getting status.

 · Matza: Delinquency and drift Techniques of Neutralisation, status frustration weakens identity and social bonds weakening = state drift

· Young people do not see themselves as delinquent or criminals. They condemn and dismiss crime and when caught they use techniques of neutralisation– denial of responsibility.

· Police stereotype young people, increase surveillance, increasing arrests and convictions and labelling then occurs along with moral panic in the media.

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Globalisation and Crime

·         Globalisation refers to the increasing interconnectedness of societies

·         Held ‘Globalisation of crime means increasing ‘interconnectedness’ or crime across national borders’

·         Castells: Argues that there is now a Global Criminal Economy worth over 1 trillion pounds per annum

·         Forms of Global crime including trafficking nuclear materials, sex tourism, trafficking women and children, smuggling illegal immigrants, trafficking in body parts, Green Crime and International Terrorism.

·         The global criminal economy has a supply and demand side; demands are from the rich and are supplied by other countries (sex workers, drugs etc.)

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Globalisation and Crime 2

· Poverty: Third world countries that produce drugs such as Columbia use this as a form of income– it requires little investment and a higher return.

· Globalisation creates insecurities; ‘risk consciousness’ there is a need to protect our borders – many of these fears are fuelled by the media – moral panics.

· This has then intensified social control at a national level and resulted in increased attempts at international cooperation. E.g. drugs and crime.

· Taylor: Globalisation has led to changes in crime; its created greater inequality and rising crime

· Hobbs and Dunningham: identified that although crime is locally based it has global connections.

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Mass Media and Crime

·         The media thrives on negativity – it distorts crime and over represents violence and sexual crime

·         Ditton and Duffy: found that 46% of media reports were about violence and sexual crimes yet only 3% of these were recorded by the police.

·         Official recorded profile of offenders is likely to be biased and misleading towards lower status groups.

·         Exaggeration: Police have a voice in the media and want to represent themselves in a good light,

·         They show negativity, dramatisation and personification to show people outrage that they thrive upon e.g. images of what Baby P supposedly looked like

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Mass Media and Crime 2

In Media Property crime is under-represented, violence and sexual crimes are over-rated.

· Desensitisation - we are so exposed to crime and it is no longer seen as shocking.

· The Media possibly transmits criminal knowledge; e.g. the real hustle shows secrets of crime etc.

· MORAL PANICS; COHEN. The creation of moral panics, the media over-exaggerate the problem possible creating even more deviance – e.g. the modds and rockers and Stephen Lawrence.

· Functionalists believe that the media is simply an agency, boundary maintenance etc...

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Green Crime

·         Defined as ‘crime against the environment’; e.g. pollution Chernobyl disaster; there was an explosion of nuclear reactor

·         Situ and Emmons defined environmental crime as ‘an unauthorised act or omission that violates the law’

·         Zemiology – who do some crimes come to be defined as crimes whilst others do not; even when they cause more damage’ e.g. pollution is illegal.

·         Green criminology takes a zemiological approach; this approach is similar to the Marxists views of crime and ‘crimes of the powerful’.

·         White, identified between anthropocentric – humans have the right to dominate nature for their own ends and ecocentric – humans and the environment are interdependent.

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Green Crime 2

There are 2 types of Green Crime:

· Primary: crimes that result directly from the destruction and degradation of the earth’s resources e.g. deforestation

· Secondary: Crime that grows out of the flouting of rules aimed at preventing or regulating environmental disasters. E.g. Hazardous Waste and Organised Crime.



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The Sociological study of suicide- Positivism

·         Positivists studied suicide to demonstrate the validity of sociology as a subject; suicide had social causes which would prove that sociology was a distinct and genuinely scientific subject.

·         Positivist Durkheim argues that the suicide rate is a social fact; the rates have remained more or less constant over time, when they did change the coincided with social change e.g. War.                             

·         Durkheim’s methodology there is a cause and effect.  He used the supposedly objective official statistics

·         Identified 2 social facts that determine the rate of suicide: Social Integration & moral regulation 

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The Sociological study of suicide- Positivism Crit

· Criticisms of Durkheim: how can we measurelevels of social integration or moral regulation?

He doesn’t operationalisethe concept of suicide and there is an uncritical use of official statistics e.g. it doesn’t look into the individuals morals, values etc. –questioning validity.


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The Sociological study of suicide- Interpretivist

·         Interpretivist Douglas criticises Durkheim because of his use on statistics; a suicide decision is taken by a coroner and could be influenced by other ‘social factors’ he also criticises Durkheim for ignoring the meaning of the act for those who kill themselves and for assuming that suicide has a fixed + constant meaning.  Douglas does not think it is fair that Durkheim compared suicide rates across different cultures because suicide means different things in different cultures.

·         However, Douglas gets criticised due to the fact that there is no reason to assume that sociologists are any better than coroners in interpreting a dead persons meanings and that Douglas is inconsistent, he suggests that statistics are inaccurate but also suggest that we can discover meaning behind the suicide based on the suicide verdict

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The Sociological study of suicide- Ethnomethodolog

·         Atkinson focused on a range of qualitative methods such as conversations with coroners, observations of inquests and examinations of court records and concludes that coroners have a common sense theory about the typical suicide based on a person.  Evidence considered would be suicide notes, mode of death, location and circumstances as well as life history.

·         This poses a serious threat to Durkheim’s theory if suicide stats are based on coroner’s typical assumptions and Ethnomethodologists counter this by accepting that their accounts are infact interpretations rather than claiming to produce objectivity like positivists. Positivists want factual and objective points.

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The Sociological study of suicide- Realism

·         The aim is to discover real patterns of causes of suicide by looking at successful and unsuccessful attempts.

·         Believe that if you can operationalise suicide and adapt a broader definition we can then start to get a real understanding from real victims.

·         However, Taylors study is not necessarily representative, it’s a small sample due to rice qualitative data and they also question the accuracy due to heavily relying on accounts.

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