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Crime and deviance is a complex topic as it raises questions concerning the nature of crime. While deviance is regarded as the breaking of social norms, crime is the breaking of laws. Giddens (2009, p.938-40) describes the 'concept of deviance to be much broader then that of crime'. We are less prone to deviant behaviour due to socialisation, yet most will be subject to non-con-formative behaviour at some point in their lives. This is due to the reactions of sanctions to certain actions. The response can be formal, for example through a court system, or informal through the judgeship of our peers. Early terminology may be considered simplistic and far more scientific then the theories concerning crime today.
During the 1870's, Cesare Lombroso, an Italian Criminologist believed 'criminals were born, not made' (2009, Giddens, p.937). Later discredited due to lack of evidence, Lombroso argued that certain anatomical features proved to be common among convicted criminals. The notion of physical characteristics associated with criminals has reappeared repeatedly since. However, Giddens (2009, p.938) argues that the association of muscular body types and delinquency is not in fact a direct link to crime instead these types may be attracted to the display of their physical attributes. The research performed also exposes the limitations of this concept, as it was mostly carried out in 'reform schools' which would probably avoid combining the more physically able with skinny weak types.
Psychological notions emphasised the criminals mentality, often associating 'feeble mindedness' and 'moral degeneracy' with acts of crime. Hans Eysenck (1964) insisted that these traits were hereditary, therefore all people who have these traits are prone to deviant and even criminal behaviour. Yet Giddens (2009, p.938), brings attention to the weakness of this research, by outlining the influence of psychiatric ideals in the facilities this research took place. Furthermore, traits associated with criminals are often presented negatively when in fact, a different context would prove these traits to be unremarkable and normal. Due to the different types of crime it is difficult to identify all criminals through a number of distinct personality traits.
Giddens (2009,p.938-9) describes both psychological and biological theories to be of a positivist nature. Positivism and criminology aim to provide society with simple solutions to crime, by adopting a scientific approach, the basic truth of an something can be discovered and corrected using the necessary means. Sociologists are critical of this concept as they insist that
the nature of crime must be sociological, because what crime actually depends on is the social institutions of a society
Giddens, 2009, p.939
Instead sociology looks at society for the causes of crime. A variety of theoretical perspectives attempt to determine the nature of crime. The most influential in the sociology of deviance are control theories, functionalist theories, interactionist theories and conflict theories. All interpret crime in different ways and vouch for different approaches to combat it. Functionalists believe that crime arises from structural tensions in society and lack of moral deregulation. These inequalities provoke crime, marking the strain theory as a vital concept.
Robert Merton (1957) adopts Durkheim's theory and provides us with an example of it in America. The concept of the American Dream describes the 'strain put on individuals' behaviour when widely accepted cultural values conflict with their lived in social reality' (Giddens, p.943-4) The emphasis on material success is interlinked with the idea that any hard working person can achieve their goals. However, this concept proves to be false as there is 'unequal distribution of legitimate opportunities within society'. Merton explains that there are five different reactions to the pressure of material success: Conformists accept the values of society and the means by which they can succeed. While Innovators also accept these values, they are unopposed to securing their wealth through illegal means. Ritualists follow the approved standard for accumulating wealth without any real enthusiasm for the values behind it. Retreatists would represent the part of the population who show no interest in mainstream society, for a example a people with addictions wouldn't play a role in a functioning society. Rebels are people who have rejected societies' values and means of gaining these instead they reconstruct a new social system that comply with new found values, not unlike members of radical political groups. (Giddens, 2009, p.943-4)
Merton's theory does contain some flaws, he has been criticised for no acknowledging the importance of subcultures in relation to deviance. Statistical date he used as part of his research has proved to be unreliable and faulty. Furthermore, Merton implies that everyone in a working class community must experience this strain towards crime yet not all are involved in crime. Yet his emphasis on relative deprivation among the working class being significant instigator to crime and deviance is radical. Merton's work also proved to be an excellent critique of previous biological and psychological explanations, as he describes the influence of social factors on someones acts whether deviant or not. (Giddens, 2009, p.943-4)
Emile Durkheim's notion of anomie is a vital part of functionalism as he believed 'traditional roles and standards become undermined without being replaced by new ones' causing confusion concerning standardised behaviour in social contexts. Giddens (2009, p.941-942) explores Durkheim's idea of crime and deviance being inevitable due to their role as social facts. He argues that individual choice is directly linked to non-conformity as society no longer follows traditional norms. Durkheim's insists that deviance is vital to society as it challenges social norms and discovers new ideas through its adaptive factor. Furthermore, deviance encourages unity in a society by promoting boundary factors. Durkheim's theories are recognised for bring attention to society's role in crime away from the individual's.
Subcultural communities are prone to delinquency in the sense that working class people aspire to become part of the middle class community, and when this proves to be unsuccessful deviance becomes the acceptable social norm as expressed by Cohen's Delinquent Boys (1955). This is due to the promotion of unattainable middle class values, and the idea that money is a necessity for happiness. Cloward and Ohlin (1960) express their findings to be subject to subcultural communities, where delinquent gangs find that the end justifies the means often resulting to illegal activities to achieve their goals. (Giddens, 2009, p.942)
Giddens (2009,p.942) explains Durkheim's view of societies need for deviance. As deviance sets the standards for a society, so in this case Durkheim's believes that deviance must be controlled rather then terminated. This notion was further promoted by Kai Erikson study of deviance in New England in the United States during the 17th century Wayward Puritans (1966). Erikson discovered that the regulating of deviance was an important part of society as many devoted themselves to combating deviance through a number of institutions which kept deviance 'within bounds'. However, an article published by Daniel Patrick Moynihan known as Defining Deviance Down (1993) explored the lengths society would go to in order to decrease the socially acceptable amount of deviance. This article addresses the rising levels of deviance and the notion of accepting previously abnormal behaviour as the new standard. For example, during the 1950's, in an effort to reduce the number of psychiatric patients in New York, the de-institutionalization of mental health patients was introduced, patients were treated with tranquillisers and then released. Statistically speaking the number of patients dropped from a massive 93,000 in 1955 to a dramatic 11,000 in 1992. Yet the similar amount of people with mental health issues remained, often becoming homeless, and redefined as people unable to afford housing.
Functionalism outlines concepts concerning inequality, conformity, lack of opportunity and crime in various social contexts. Yet Giddens emphasises that one must be cautious in regard to the idea that everyone aspires for the same thing. As people in working class communities may chance their aspirations to suit their lifestyles and only a minor section actually turn to deviance. Similar pressures must be acknowledged among other social classes too, these are evident through white collar crime, fraud and tax evasion.
Intereactionalists reject the notion that actions and behaviours can be identified as deviant. Instead they believe deviance is social in origin. Therefore communication and the response to an action by those around you defines whether an action is deviant or not. The vital approach in relation to this concept is that of the labelling theory. Interactionalists apply the labelling theory in order to
interpret deviance not as a set of characteristics of individuals or groups, but as a process of interaction between deviants and non-deviants
Giddens, 2009, p.945
Intereactionalists acknowledge the idea that similar acts are treated differently according to the social context. Giddens (2009, p.945) provides with an example, while children stealing fruits from someone's garden in a wealthy area may be observed as playful and innocent. The same act could be perceived as deviant in a poorer area. The labelling theory plays a vital role here, as children labelled as delinquent by the more powerful group are regarded with a certain amount of stigma. While the child may not have been deviant at first, the labelling theory causes society to treat him so, often the resulting in the manifestation of a deviant identity. Howard Becker, a sociologist, insists that 'deviant behaviour is behaviour that people label so' (Giddens, 2009, p.946). By appling this theory to his studies of cannabis smokers (Becker, 1963), Becker discovered that acceptance into a subculture was vital, association, and attitudes towards certain people. He was able to observe how 'labelling not only affects the individual, but also influences the individual's sense of self-identity'.
Edwin Lemon (1972) helps outline the effect of the labelling theory further. By addressing two concepts: Primary Deviance and Secondary Deviance. Primary Deviance is seen as random acts of deviance that are often overlooked and 'normalized' such stealing a pen from a working place, these hardly ever affect a persons self-identity. While the notion of Secondary Deviance, refers to a person's acceptance of the deviant label, often reflected in their self-identification, and an increase in this behaviour.
The study of William Chambliss (1973) brought attention to the role of class structure in relation to the labelling process. Chambliss studied two groups, the Saints were from wealthier backgrounds then the Roughnecks. Both groups were involved in similar acts of deviance however, the Roughnecks were labelled as deviant due to circumstances concerning money, while the Saints were able to remove themselves from incriminating scenes much quicker so they avoided the labels.
Furthermore Leslie Wilkins (1964) describes prisons and other organizations who aim to discourage delinquency are actually guilty of deviant amplification. Those already deviant become accustomed this their identity and by bringing attention to this the defiance intensifies. (Giddens, 2009, p.947)
While the labelling theory evaluate new concepts concerning deviance, it is also important to recognise its flaws. Critics argue that there are universal crimes considered deviant no matter the context like rape or murder, yet Giddens reasons that murder is accepted in a war and rape was unrecognised within a marriage until quite recently in Britain. However, Labelling theorist concentrate on the secondary deviance but show little concern for the reasons primary deviance is committed. Furthermore, social backgrounds influence deviant behaviours, for example poorer children are more likely to steal from shops regardless of whether they are labelled deviant or not. The necessity appears to play a far greater role then labels on this context.
Another important theoretical perspective is that of The New Criminology (1973) by Taylor, Walton and Young. Influenced by Marxist ideology, this theory suggests that deviance is a political statement made to bring attention to a certain cause. Previous notions of deviance relating to biology, psychology, social factors and labelling are replaced by the consensus that deviance is 'response to the inequalities of the capitalist system'. (Giddens, 2009, p.949) Countercultural groups such as Black power would be an example of this.
Stuart Hall and a number of other sociologists at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (BCCCS) brought attention to the notion of moral panic fuelled by the media. During the 1970's numerous high profile cases of mugging incidents were publicised. A notion of immigrants contributing to crime was established by the shameless portrayal of black men as the muggers. The attention to the disruption of society was deliberate according to Hall's Policing the Crisis (1978). By inducing a sense of moral panic it shifted the public's attention away from flaws in the social system such as unemployment and declining wages. (Giddens, 2009, p.949-50)
Stan Cohen's folk devils and moral panics is an excellent example of the influence exaggeration and labelling can achieve. Cohen argues that the media portrayed the 'Mods and Rockers' to be out of control helping 'construct new forms of youth identities'. The attention to these 'folk devil' actually proved to create a far bigger problem as the association with beaches led to potentially destructive youths to attend such areas.(Giddens, 2009, p.948-50)
The notion of moral panics is complicated, as it is difficult to argue what situation is actually exaggerated and which is to be taken seriously. Furthermore, sociologists have stated that the notion of moral panic has become 'normalized' due to the media's reuse of it. Cohen's study is raved for successful combining theories of deviant labelling, social control and the creation of deviant identities.(Giddens, 2009, p.948-50)
Unfortunately crime statistics are highly unreliable, according to Giddens (2009, p.957-8), many crimes remain unreported. For example, domestic violence is often unreported due to the belief that the police could do little to combat it, however car thefts are mostly reported so that the owner can claim the insurance policy.
In the UK, only 43% of crimes are reported and 29% of crimes are recorded, often crimes are complicated like the victims refusal to make a informal complaint. Therefore Giddens (2009, p.959) insists that ' the official crime statistics all reflect a portion of overall crime offences'. Instead the British Crime Survey (BCS) would help create a far more accurate estimate of the number of crimes experienced per year. Roughly 40,000 adults are consulted throughout England and Wales. Giddens(2009, p.958-60) concludes that a definite trend of decreasing crime has persisted since the mid- 1990's.
Furthermore, arguments concerning the nature of laws also became an important topic. Criminologist argued that laws were not neutral, instead they are a source used by the powerful to control their privileges and maintain social order among the lower classes. Giddens (2009, p.949-50) insists that this can be observed in the workings of the criminal justice system. The notion of white collar crime was introduced 1949 by Edwin Sutherland, yet concrete statistics are difficult to come across. White collar crime refers to someone using their position of power for personal gain, such as tax evasion fraud and other illegal activities. Giddens brings attention to the perception of white collar crime in reference to Enron, a company which collapsed in 2001 after it was discovered that illegal accounts were hiding enormous debts. Yet some involved in this crime managed to avoid imprisonment. Despite the average amount of money involved in white collar crime being over 40 times greater then that of petty crime, not enough emphasis is put on this, showing the privileges of the powerful. (Giddens, 2009, p.967-8)
The concept of new criminology helps paint a more conclusive picture of the different levels of society. Including the numerous levels of harm, injustice and so on.
While there is a distinct amount of crime evident in subcultural communities and among the working class, it is important to remember that while poorer people may be more inclined to delinquency due to their circumstance, numerous theories back the notion of crime among the wealthier class also. Therefore crime is not directly linked to biological or psychological explanations, it is closer associated with society and the pressures that come with it.