Crime Is A Symptom Of Wider Malaise Criminology Essay

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The social climate in England and Wales has undergone extreme changes over the last years. The society is becoming more of an individual terrain and coherency does no longer exist as it did fifty years ago. This essay will focus on the present and argues that the more comprehensive and the larger the scale of the malaise is in a community or social group, the lower the rise in recorded crime in the area. The smaller the scale of malaise in a community or social group, the larger the increase of recorded crime rates in that area. Malaise is in this case defined as a failure on key area's in life, for instance income, religion, social engagement or health. This essay will set forth that the failure to meet expectations and the choice of engagement in crime are influenced by key factors such as social exclusion, stigmatization, risk-taking, social, historic and economic developments on micro or macro level and social environment. Some examples of recent developments in this field will be given and crime-rates will be met in order to illustrate this hypothesis. In order to amplify the hypothesis in an accurate manor, elaboration and definition is necessary.

Crime is a phenomenon that spreads it's web to several disciplines. It has been reviewed as a disease through the disease model, lent from social work and medicine (Wallace, 1990). Although, lawyers tend to label the criminal act as an accident, as they are not able to prove intent in certain cases. Furthermore researchers have been conducting several experiments aiming to find significant results for certain classes of crime, in the occurrence of an offense to an accident or random event (Carr-Hill & Payne, 1971). For instance by staging an experiment researching offenders awaiting trial in order to determine feelings of remorse when the crime is classified as accidental (Robinson, Smith-Lovin & Tsoudis, 1994). Crime is not to be labelled as an illness, in which offenders suffer from a problem of will power, character or morality (Wallace, 1990), nor is it to be labelled as accidental behaviour for as different processes of crime and social control are not supported by infallible conclusions. Carr-Hill and Payne (1971) recommend further study in both data-collection and theory development. This results to the assumption that crime can be categorized as planned instead of accidental. The British legal system provides several examples of unplanned crime, for instance involuntary manslaughter. Crime is not a disease in its self, it is nothing but a symptom. It is a lingering sign of an upcoming illness, a feeling of general discomfort, a craving for health and a pursuit to fulfil ones needs.

The term malaise is most used in economics. It states that a nation or an economy is in recession, certain estimates can no longer be met. It can also apply to a neighbourhood, a household or an individual. The aspect of social control on previously mentioned levels, as named in relation to crime (Carr-Hill & Payne, 1971), is the main focus in this essay. Early on in history of sociology Merton (1938) bases the connection between social control and crime in his theory 'crime occurs when there is cultural inclusion and social exclusion' (cited in Young, 1999, p.81). Later on Lemert (1967) has established social control as a cause of deviant behaviour (cited in Young, 1999, p. 39; cited in Lee & Craft, 2002; cited in Muncie & Wilson, 2004, p.14; cited in Newburn, 2007, p. 212). It was Becker (1963, p. 9, cited in Newburn, 2007, p. 215) who points out that deviance is created by social groups, for they are making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance. They apply those rules to particular people and label them as outsiders. He states that therefore deviance is to be qualified as a consequence of the application of rules and sanctions by others. He claims that behaviour is only classified as deviant, when labelled so by others. (Becker, 1963, cited in Newburn, 2007, p. 215). However crime cannot exclusively be yoked with social exclusion. Social political, spatial and cultural factors should be taken into account (Yar & Penna, 2004). Not all social exclusion can be linked to crime and vice versa. However the majority of crime can be categorized as being a product of social exclusion over and above individual delinquency (Jones, 1998, p. 154). Generally speaking, if individual deviant behaviour occurs in groups or communities, there are needs to be met, regardless of any circumstances or factors. Crime is used as a mean to maintain the standard and fulfil expectations on any level of discomfort.

Merton (1957) (cited in Harary, 1966) posits the existence of five modes of individual adaptation with malaise: conformity, ritualism, innovation, retreatism, and rebellion (Newburn, 2007, p.176) . The most relevant in this essay is innovation, where people decide to achieve their goals through unacceptable means. They are notable to embrace crime in order to meet their expectations. For as in the other modes of acceptation people tend to be satisfied with their goals and means or decide to abandon either of them. Apart from this, scientists have developed several theories of the cause of deviant behaviour. For instance the misuse of substances in the tripartite typology. Deviant behaviour is a result of malaise on economic-compulsive, psycho-pharmalogical or systemic grounds (Goldstein, 1985). Additionally 'lifestyles' should be added as a category, for the tripartite typology is limited to explain all decision-making in engaging in deviant behaviour. (Bennet & Holloway, 2009). In this theory Goldstein (1985) does not differentiate the relation crime versus drugs, but only drugs versus crime. (Bennet & Holloway, 2009). This can be seen as the decision whether or not to descend into crime. The recent work of Bennet & Holloway (2009) also shows that the cultural context is not taken into account. For instance western individualism in relation to eastern collectivism, where people tend to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the group (Larsen & Buss, 2002, pp.515-517). Failure in any of the four named grounds (Goldstein, 1985; Bennet & Holloway, 2009) can result in exclusion from the social group. Such individual is more likely to be stigmatized and become the object of gossip or torment. This, however, appears to increase the chances of several forms of misbehaviour, but not all (Tittle, Bratton & Gertz, 2003). In the descriptive part of their study of stigmas Lee and Craft (2002) refer to subsequent researchers (Schwartz and Skolnick, 1962; Benson, 1985; Link, 1987; Link et al., 1989; Bowditch, 1993) who find that labelling in social groups damages several aspects of people's lives such as jobs, future economic opportunities, relationships, and the ability to live a normal life. In order to cope with their applied status of exclusion and therefore malaise, people rely on the methods of adaptation as described by Merton (1957). They can be tempted into criminal activities in order to meet their needs, shed their label and abolish their feeling of discomfort.

"Crime is understood as rational action performed by ordinary people but also by people acting under particular pressure and exposed to specific opportunities and situational inducements" (Muncie & Wilson, 2004, p.13). Although committing a criminal act used to be defined as rational, self-interested and freely chosen behaviour, extenuating circumstances have been added. Contemporary theorising on crime embraces this thought, but it is also heavily informed by notions of moral culture, moral decline and parental permissiveness in case of adolescents (Muncie & Wilson, 2004, pp. 6-10). As pointed out earlier in the essay, unfulfilled needs on key area's in life can be found as situational inducements or can put particular pressure to an individual. In order to cope with that, the majority of individuals will calculate the risk of their actions and conform to society and its values on right and wrong (Maguire, Morgan, & Reiner, 2007, p.17; Newburn, 2007, p.176). Those who do not wish to conform, either because they choose to or they feel they ought to, will opt for innovation (Merton, 1957, cited in Newburn, 2007, p.176). Certain individuals are particularly vulnerable to the "promises of power and high income from organized vice, rackets and crime" Merton (1968) argues (Newburn, 2007, p. 177). Although for choice of innovation, and therefore crime to occur, both opportunity and choice must concur. There must be an opportunity for present committing a criminal act in order for an individual to decide that taking the opportunity outweighs the chances of being caught and penalized (Clark, 1980; Felson, 1997, cited in Muncie & Wilson, 2004, p. 13). An individual's decision-making-mechanism is based on cultural values, social influences and coming into contact with social norms, as is criminal behaviour according to Sutherland (Newburn, 2007, p.151-153). As argued in this paragraph, when choice and opportunity coincide crime occurs. The choice can be influenced by several factors, for instance social norms and influences and risk management. The embracement of crime is subject to individuals and their achievement on key areas in life, needs, social engagement, willingness to take risks and most of all choice and coping skills.

Relative deprivation, the loss of something while others posses it, persists, but the nature has been changed by Late-modernity. The comparison individuals make, is no longer between those in a specific system and those excluded, but rather between those in similar systems (Young, 1999, p.48) Furthermore Young (1999) states that relative deprivation breeds discontent within social groups. This discontent correlates with the needs and expectations of members within the group. Recent examples of such events can be found in media-sources every day. As long as there is consistency within a group, they will develop a system-blaming morale (Mooney, 1998, cited in Young, 1999, p.48). For instance the recent Royal Mail strikes in the United Kingdom. Postal workers use alternative resources, such as a strike, to point out a failing system (Hope, 2009). Lord Mandelson, the current Business Secretary, has classified the strike as "an act of suicide" (Pagnamenta, 2009). Just as Young (1999, p. 48) points out the lethal combination of relative deprivation and individualism, recent and literal evidence appears in the media. Individuals, not supported by any social system develop a self-blaming mood (Mooney, 1998, cited in Young, 1999, p48). Since February 2008, 23 suicides and 13 attempted suicides have occurred amongst France Telecom staff (Sage, 2009a). Workers at France Telecom often complain of a loss of support from colleagues (Sage, 2009b). However the collective does not count in all territories, as a certainty to prevent engagement in criminal activities. Taylor (1999, pp.126-128) makes clear that on the terrain of urban planning and development, crime and relative deprivation is a major issue. He speaks about hyper-ghetto's as social systems with a tendency to implode at the collapse of employment. They, unlike communal-ghetto's, are not described as being 'compact' and 'sharply-bounded'. People in social groups such as hyper-ghetto's are rarely of a similar class and are not bound together by a unified collective consciousness and local pride. People in communal-ghetto's possess a sense of identity which endows them with self respect. (Taylor, 1999, pp.126-128). These examples prove that the consistency of the social group is a significant factor in the process of coping with malaise, one's loss and unfulfilled needs or expectations.

If individuals feel they have lost already or feel that they do not have much to lose in the first place, they will be prepared to take greater risks. Therefore the moral barrier to engage in crime will be lower (Reith, 2005). Intentional risk taking immediately creates a contrast between an ordered sense of identity, environment and the self to a disordered sense of identity, environment and the self. (Lyng, 1990, p. 857-876, cited in Simon, 2005; cited in Collison, 1996) Individuals appear to develop an internal dilemma. Consequences are weighed and actions are proportioned in order to minimize the chance of getting caught, to achieve the perceived expectations and maximize the adrenaline rush retrieved from earlier experiences in risk-taking (Simon, 2005). Collison (1996) defines two common attitudes to risk in his research amongst young adolescent males; either the expertly known risk does not apply in the individuals case, or, the adolescent defines risk as in the future and no thinking ahead occurs (Collison, 1996). In the last case the adolescent is not able to make an estimate of the consequences of his actions and therefore decides this risk is acceptable. However Collison (1996) claims the adolescent will more or less try to push the risk. He states that in this case judgement is not based on adult morals and values, so that the consequences should not be fully attributed to the adolescent. Ethics are taken into account, but are more of a priority in adult decision-making. (Reith, 2005). The common factor in both perspectives is the acknowledgement of consequences when making a certain choice (Collison, 1996; Reith, 2005), either on social grounds or individual grounds. Choices are limited by individual life-chances, such as religion, class, culture, mental state, age or ethnicity, and can come across as poor. Thus, an individual will feel there is no other option but to take the risk and engage in criminal activities in order dissolve their state of malaise.

In the period of the Modernity, members of social groups, mostly characterized by inheritance and based around class, religion, gender and ethnicity, were occupied with a sense of solidarity. (Spalek, 2008, p.13) From the 1960's onwards, in the Late-modernity, Young (1999, p.1) describes the world as one who "separates and excludes" rather than characterized as "assimilation and incorporation". Social and economic transformations can bring about both the unification and fragmentation of identity (Spalek, 2008, p.15) and therefore alternate the coherence in a group. Influences on micro or macro level can act upon identities, for they are socially constructed. Factors in relation to for instance historical, geographical, cultural, economical, biological and psychological processes can be named on any level (Castells, 2004, cited in Spalek, 2008, p.15). The first years of the 21st century will be remembered as the years of the world wide credit crunch. The United Kingdom is seriously affected by this economical development on a macro level. This has great influence on the current society, many Brits have lost their jobs and savings; their prime source of income; their way to maintain their standard of living and mode of achieving goals. Returning to micro level and the theories described in the previous paragraphs, these individuals are likely to be labelled by their social group and will obligate themselves to fulfil needs and meet expectations, possibly by innovation as Merton (1957) (Harary, 1966; Newburn, 2007, p.176 ) describes it.

In order to survey the developments, England and Wales are divided in ten regions. The Home Office surveys and publishes results of these developments yearly. The North East region of England is viewed as an area with a low income and lesser facilities and possibilities, whereas the South East is one of the wealthiest regions of England (HM Revenue & Customs, 2006; HMRC 2009). The income in the South East of England increases with 31,39% since 2003, which is a relative 13,28% more than in the North East region of this country in the same period of time (HMRC, 2006; HMRC, 2009). Commonly the cohesion in less privileged areas is stronger than in areas with a higher average income (Taylor, 1999). Therefore in this case the North East of England can be characterized as more collectivistic than the individualistic South East region. Due to the recent credit crunch, unemployment has gone up in both regions. The North East region suffers from a relative increase of 42,03% in employment and the South East region of England endures a relative increase of unemployment of 47,50%. This is measured from 2002 until August 2009 (Office for National Statistics, 2002; ONS 2009). Relative deprivation occurs; people have lost jobs and hence their source of income. In order to maintain their status in social life, their needs and standard of life they were used to when employed; they are likely to embrace crime. Crime-rates in these regions are surveyed every year. It is important to note the difficulties in surveying crime-rates. The crime-rates in the Home Office survey only those police reported, so they will not be able to provide an exclusive view of crime in England and Wales. As they are used to compare crime trends, they will give a clear and reliable picture of trends in criminal behaviour, although a reporting bias should be taken into account. The Home Office reports a relative increase of all crime in the South East of England by 19,28% from 2002/2003 until 2008/2009. In the same period of time, the crime-rates in the North East of England, the area characterized by inferior opportunity and collectivism, have relatively decreased by 0,11% (Simmons & Dodd, 2003; Walker, Flatley, Kershaw, & Moon, 2009). This number is statistically negligible, thus this finding will be classified as stable. These findings illustrate that, although an area appears to be misfortunate and more setbacks befall, the crime-rates do not necessarily adopt this pattern.

The collective acts as an absorbent to crime. The consistency of a social group, its values and one's position in the social environment are key factors to the buffer the collective provides. Someone, who abandons the collective or is forced to do so, becomes more solitary and will therefore be more likely to engage in criminal behaviour. Social exclusion is after all heavily linked to crime. This movement can occur on any level, from micro to macro, from individual to regional level. When criminal behaviour manifests, there are always needs to fulfilled and goals to be met. Functioning in key areas of life is not proceeding as expected, so the individual feels forced to make a choice in order to cope with apparent failure. A combination of factors influence the decision-making of individuals. The willingness to take risk, the ability to estimate the social and individual consequences, the life-chances and coping skills are to be considered in this case. Besides this, opportunity has to present itself. It is important to note that these opportunities are not always a guaranty for an individual to drift into crime, for the social engagement with its morals and ethics can prevent that.

To retrieve the hypothesis, the more comprehensive and the larger the scale of the malaise is in a community or social group, the lower the rise in recorded crime in the area. The smaller the scale of malaise in a community or social group, the larger the increase of recorded crime rates in that area. The collective counts as a form of crime prevention. Recent examples on several levels have proved that collectivistic behaviour encourages an individual to turn to other means in case of malaise. Therefore concluding that crime is a symbol of wider malaise is safe, but it is safer to say that crime is a symptom of wider individual malaise. Now that the social group is established as a positive factor in crime reduction, further research should be conducted on the mechanism, efficiency and improvement of the collective as a crime stopper.