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UNDERSTANDING CRIME

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What are the best ways of sociologically thinking about and researching It? ... e.g. cross-dressing. 4. Not all crime is regarded as deviance. e.g. speeding ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: UNDERSTANDING CRIME


1
UNDERSTANDING CRIME
- What is crime? - Why does it occur? - What
are the best ways of sociologically thinking
about and researching It?
Prof. David Inglis
2
LECTURE CONTENTS
  • Crime in the headlines
  • Psychological criminology and sociological
    criminology
  • The politics of criminology
  • Functionalist approaches
  • Neo-functionalist approaches
  • Sub-culturalist approaches
  • Labelling theory
  • Marxist approaches
  • New Left Realism
  • 10. Evaluation

3
CRIME IN THE HEADLINES
  • Crime as a political football
  • Rising crime rates (?)
  • Regular scandals and outrages
  • Getting tough on crime
  • More policemen on the street

4
Psychological Criminology
  • Psychology of individual criminal
  • Psychology defective
  • Cause of crime individuals mentality

5
Psychological Criminology
  • HANS EYSENCK
  • - neurotic extrovert
  • JAMES Q. WILSON RICHARD HERRNSTEIN
  • - young males naturally aggressive
  • thus naturally oriented towards criminal acts
  • NORMAL / ABNORMAL

6
Sociological Criminology
  • Social reasons for criminal acts
  • Patterns of crime
  • Cause of crime
  • social conditions
  • (varies between approaches)

7
Sociological Criminology
  • Social relations shape individuals and their
    actions
  • Social contexts
  • not individuals alone
  • Society defines
  • what is ABNORMAL
  • NO abnormal individuals
  • Abnormal is a label

8
The Politics of Criminology
  • Highly controversial area
  • Tied up with government policies
  • Psychological views right-wing policies
  • Sociological views
  • left-wing policies

9
WHAT IS CRIME?
  • Deviance any social behaviour which departs
    from that regarded as normal or socially
    acceptable within a society or social context
  • Jary Jary,
  • Collins Dictionary of Sociology
  • Breaking of social norms
  • Breaking of informal social rules
  • Backed up by sanctions - collective morality and
    opinion

10
WHAT IS CRIME?
  • Crime an infraction of the criminal law
  • Jary Jary, Collins Dictionary of Sociology
  • Breaking of legal rules
  • Breaking of formal social rules
  • Formal written down,
  • regarded as official
  • Backed up by sanctions enforced by bureaucracies
  • Criminal justice system
  • Policing
  • Courts
  • Prisons

11
WHAT IS CRIME?
  • 1. What counts as deviance and crime varies
  • from society to society
  • over time (e.g. homosexuality)
  • 2. What counts as NORMAL and ABNORMAL is variable
  • 3. Not all deviance is regarded as crime
  • e.g. cross-dressing
  • 4. Not all crime is regarded as deviance
  • e.g. speeding

12
FUNCTIONALIST APPROACHES
  • Crime is a social institution like any other
    (economy, politics, religion, etc.)
  • Crime is primarily about MORALITY
  • Crime is
  • - socially necessary
  • - socially useful (functional)
  • 4. Approach - theorising

13
FUNCTIONALIST APPROACHES
  • Emile Durkheim
  • Each part of a society (a social institution)
    contributes to the smooth-running operation of
    the whole society
  • Each of the parts must work together effectively
    with all the other parts
  • Crime helps keep the whole society functioning

14
  • 1) Cannot have morality without deviance
  • Cannot have law without crime
  • (Black / white necessary contrast)
  • 2) MUST have crime
  • Clarifies what is good and bad
  • 3) MUST identify deviant minority
  • To remind majority what acceptable behaviour is
  • 4) TRIALS
  • - ceremonies of degradation
  • produce strong collective feelings
  • reproduce shared sense of morality

15
Kingsley Davis - Prostitution
  • Particular crimes are socially necessary
  • Nuclear family units breeding rearing
    children
  • Male anarchic sexuality
  • Prostitution safety-valve

16
  • ISSUES PROBLEMS
  • 1) Theorising about societys needs
  • Are there such things?
  • Macro-perspective / victims points of view
  • 2) Society requires crime deviance
  • - murder, paedophilia, rape, etc.
  • These are socially functional
  • Is this true?
  • Davis on prostitution male bias?
  • 3) HOW MUCH crime does a society require?
  • When is there too much crime?
  • When does crime become socially DYSfunctional?

17
NEO-FUNCTIONALIST APPROACHES
  • 1) Extension and refinement of original
    functionalist views
  • 2) Dont assume crime is always socially
    functional
  • Crime can be socially dysfunctional
  • 3) Crime happens when different parts of society
    are not properly coordinated with each other
  • 4) Approach - theorising

18
Robert Merton Anomie Theory (Strain Theory)
  • Writing in 1930s
  • 1) Goals
  • 2) Means of achieving goals
  • The American Dream
  • Goals wealth high social status

19
Mertons Anomie Theory
  • Legitimate means
  • Educational success
  • Hard work
  • Illegitimate means
  • Criminal activities
  • Gangsterism
  • Organised crime

20
  • WHY do people turn to illegitimate means
    (criminal activities)?
  • - When strong anomie is experienced
  • i) Anomie blocked aspirations
  • ii) High aspirations (American Dream)
  • VERSUS
  • Actual social situation (lowest social class,
    poverty, poor schooling, etc.)
  • Strain between aspirations (culture) and
    actuality (low social position)
  • iii) Legitimate means closed
  • Only illegitimate means open

21
1930s gangsters Abnormal or typical? High
aspirations versus Low social position (poor,
immigrants) ? Turn to illegitimate means
Al Capone
22
  • Conformists law-abiding majority
  • Accept societys goals
  • Use legitimate means
  • Innovators law-breakers
  • Accept societys goals
  • Use illegitimate means
  • Rational response to the situation
  • Crime is societys fault
  • Everybody given high aspirations
  • - Some people not given opportunities to pursue
    them legally

23
Merton Issues Problems
  • Theory rather than empirically proven
  • 2. EVERYTHING explained in terms of anomie
    (blocked aspirations)
  • - Other reasons?
  • 3. Only explains certain kinds of crime
  • - Murder as business / not murder for other
    reasons

24
SUB-CULTURALIST APPROACHES
  • Crime as a product of sub-culture membership
  • Deviant and criminal sub-cultures
  • Sub-cultures exist separately from, and in
    opposition to, mainstream society and culture
  • Must explore fine-grained details of life in a
    sub-culture
  • Approach - ethnography

25
  • Albert Cohen (1950s)
  • - Working class boys
  • - Frustrated with social position
  • - Rejection of middle class culture
  • - Sub-cultural norms of defiance
  • Cloward Ohlin (1960s)
  • - Working class boys
  • - Strongly accept middle class values
  • - Have been encouraged to have high aspirations
  • - But are frustrated by social position ? crime

26
  • Middle class culture
  • VERSUS
  • (Lower) working class culture
  • - Law-abiding / Trouble
  • - Refinement / Toughness Masculinity
  • - Self-control / Autonomy freedom
  • Young males over-conform

W. B. Miller (1950s)
27
Issues Problems
  • Most crime is not committed by gangs
  • Assumes strong sense of membership
  • - But drifting in and out of a subculture
  • 3) Over-emphasises the gulf between sub-cultures
    and mainstream society and culture
  • - Constructs a big divide between normal and
    abnormal behaviour
  • - What is mainstream anyway?
  • - Everyone is deviant in some way depends on
    whether they are labelled that way or not

28
LABELLING THEORY
  • No action is naturally deviant or criminal
  • No person is naturally deviant or criminal
  • 2. It depends on whether they have been labelled
    that way by
  • - Society as a whole
  • - Powerful groups within it - police, courts
  • 3. Approach symbolic interactionism /
    ethnography / life-histories
  • 4. Sympathy for underdogs

29
  • Howard Becker
  • Outsiders (1963)
  • Edwin Lemert
  • Primary deviance
  • Breaking norms
  • Secondary deviance
  • - Labelled as a criminal

30
  • Secondary deviance
  • 1) Stigmatisation
  • 2) Deviance amplification
  • See oneself as a criminal
  • Engage in further criminal acts
  • 3) Retrospective labelling
  • 4) Deviant career
  • - Vicious circle

31
Issues Problems
  • 1. Does not explain WHY crimes occur
  • - Does not look at individuals motivations
  • - Only looks at societys responses to crime
  • 2. Assumes individual gets locked into deviant
    career (may be the opposite?)

32
MARXIST APPROACHES
  • Karl Marx
  • 1. Law serves ruling class interests
  • protects middle classes ruling groups
  • 2. Law particularly penalises punishes working
    classes
  • 3. Bias in law goes unrecognised
  • 4. Approach theory / some ethnography

33
  • Taylor, Walton, Young (1973)
  • The New Criminology
  • 1. Middle class crimes go relatively
  • - undetected (e.g. tax evasion)
  • - unpunished (e.g. corporate crime)
  • 2. Middle class deviants often undetected or let
    off lightly
  • - likely not to be labelled as criminals

34
  • 3. Working class criminals
  • Likely to be negatively labelled
  • Rebels against capitalist system
  • Crime a disguised form of protest against social
    inequalities
  • Robin Hood figures

35
Issues Problems
  • Explains all crimes in terms of social class
    capitalist society
  • paedophilia? sex crimes?
  • 2. Overly romantic notion of criminals as
    working class heroes
  • Most crime (violence, theft, etc.) occurs WITHIN
    the working classes

36
NEW LEFT REALISM
  • 1980s onwards
  • Developed as a response to Marxist approaches
  • Increases in crime HAVE occurred
  • Legitimate public concerns about crime

37
  • 1) Need more emphasis on victims of crime
  • 2) Approach
  • cant trust official statistics
  • many crimes go unreported
  • Use victim surveys
  • 3) Particularly high crime rates in deprived
    inner cities
  • - deprived groups suffer most crime

38
  • 4) Causes
  • Not poverty alone
  • Poverty PLUS other forms of
  • social exclusion
  • Race and ethnicity
  • 5) Pragmatic approach
  • Formulate better crime policies
  • From military policing to community policing
  • Locally-elected police authorities

39
Issues Problems
  • 1. Uncritical and naïve?
  • Accept views of rising crime rates put about
    by government, police and media
  • 2. Sold out to the system?
  • 3. Over-emphasis on street crime and thefts
  • - Ignore white collar crime, corporate crime

40
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT .
  • 1) Consider both the theoretical and
    methodological aspects of each approach
  • Theory connecting crime to wider society
  • Methodology research methods used
  • How good (or not) are these?
  • 2) Which sorts of crimes are best explained by
    which approaches?
  • 3) Which seem the strongest and weakest
    approaches overall?
  • 4) Can different approaches be successfully
    combined?
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