Does the current crime rate experienced in Britain suggest that our society is ‘broken’?

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Does the current crime rate experienced in Britain suggest that our society is ‘broken’?

Many crimes in the past few years have been covered very closely by the media making such misdemeanors cast into the public view, such offences include the London riots in 2011 “Police are on the streets of Tottenham, north London, where overnight riots saw petrol bombs thrown at officers and patrol cars and buildings set alight.” [1] , the abuse of the welfare system “Welfare system - Four more people have been charged over allegations of fraud at welfare-to-work company Action 4 Employment” [2] and also the banking scandals “Barclays banking scandal – Barclays was fined £290m in June 2012 after some of its derivatives traders were found to have attempted to rig this key rate” [3] . These are just a couple of the crime or issues which have sparked a debate within British society today and among the newspaper and media outlets, many British citizens also have an opinion, normally differentiating based on class and political point of view. These scandals or crimes have caused many to feel betrayed and to make people feel like today's society is broken, specially such things as the banking scandals and the abuse of the welfare system.

Almost all of these crimes or scandals mostly are involved with money, and even though the scandals are shown to the public by newspapers and other media outlets the bankers still receive there bonuses of undignified amounts even though they are illegally earning millions, and also the welfare system in the country is still being used by many who are abusing the system, by claiming benefits when they are unjustly deserved. Many people who did claim benefits fraudulently did so because they looked at what other people around them had and felt that they are entitled to what a 'normal' person deserves. They see that everyone around them has smart phones and forty inch flat screen televisions, although by working in a low salary job or minimum wage job they couldn't afford such items legally, and so choose to obtain them illegally, by cheating the government benefit system, by committing fraud and sometimes claiming multiple benefits so they can afford extravagant items they feel they deserve. Although, it is not only those who claim benefits fraudulently that have this sense that they don't have everything that they deserve or want. In contrast the British society in the early 20th century, it would have been a very rare occurrence to see such disregard for the government and to see such crimes and scandals to be carried out, this can be seen as the crime rates were so low in the early 20th century compared with modern day Britain. This had led me to question whether that as times have changed so has the British society into maybe a broken society.

Strain theory might be able to explain why these crimes are being committed. A politician, for example may participate in fraud even though they already are make a vast salary, this can be explained by strain theory because maybe the people that they are surrounded by make more money than they do. This may lead them to feel as though they are being deprived of something which they believe they deserve. “Strain theories state that certain strains or stressors increase the likelihood of crime. These strains lead to negative emotions, such as frustration and anger. These emotions create pressure for corrective action, and crime is one possible response.” [4] People believe they deserve more than they get and therefore go to extreme lengths to attain what they consider they deserve, maybe because in today’s society it is considered a human right to have such things like a smart phone or forty inch flat screen television. This maybe be used to explain why British society is broken in modern times. If we again contrast this to early 20th century British society when the crime rates were significantly lower than today, this may have been due to the first and the second world war and fact that British society during this time as a whole was more appreciative of what they had instead of what others may have possess.

How people learn what is and isn’t acceptable during everyday social iterations is through Informal social control, it is a method of conformance which today’s society especially relies upon, as it teaches people of all ages though usually younger people what is considered acceptable behaviour specially as society changes. The behaviour taught by informal social control inclines to be things that are viewed as, and considered social norms, things that might be taught might be what is considered acceptable to wear during certain times and what social activity or even acceptable things to say during social iterations. The way people learn what is the social norm tends to occur when an individual doesn’t comply with these norms and so when they are ostracised they remember what social iterations and norms are acceptable and internalise these and make it part of their belief system. informal controls exist to reward or punish people for acceptable or unacceptable behaviour. Informal controls apply to informal norms of behaviour and they include things like ridicule, sarcasm and disapproving looks.” [5] This internal social control tends to occur inside a community that people believe that they belong in, and so they do not want to be removed from this group so therefore adapt their behaviour to coincide with that of the group. Although, in today society some people may not have any stable communities which they that they belong to or the communities they do belong to are enforcing bad social control, for and example people may join a gang and this could be there only stable community they belong too. This may mean that the social norms they learn are very different from the average persons social norms. If people are having difficulties in finding communities that they feel they belong in, this as I have suggest before may show that society may have changed as it was moving forward, although all of this doesn't necessarily mean society is broken yet but this might suggest it is breaking; but for it to remain structural the individuals that don’t have any stable communities will need to find other ways to acquire socially acceptable behaviour so they can learn what is the social norm and what is socially acceptable.

Durkheim felt that in society there maybe a accelerative sense of self importance and a decrease with ones bonds to society, he called the break within society's bonds anomie, and the sense of excessive self-importance egoism. Excessive egoism is thinking about only yourself, you act for your own interest and don't mind if those actions case harm people or others, egoism is only acting in this way. “Egoism - This is the claim that humans by nature are motivated only by self-interest. Any act, no matter how altruistic it might seem, is actually motivated by some selfish desire of the agent.” [6] With this accelerative sense of egoism within society, Durkheim believed people where acting more and more only out of self-interest, and also had a disregard for whether there actions harm others or not. With a accelerative sense of egoism within today's society it could suggest that British Society maybe broken and also less cohesive society.

Anomie is where individuals behaviour would break what society would view to be an 'acceptable' behaviour, it is where the norms of society are confused, ill-defined or are not present. “When a social system is in a state of anomie, common values and common meanings are no longer understood or accepted, and new values and meanings have not developed.[7] Durkheim also observed that with this increase in anomie people may end up not being able to anticipate someone’s behaviour, in today's society it is view as unacceptable to be walking down a busy street and start injecting heroin. People today do not anticipate this sort of behaviour in there society, although with anomie increasing it is likely that the socially accepted behaviours which stop people walking down a busy street and start injecting heroin may discontinue, and from this people will not be able to anticipate what someone might do in terms of there behaviour in society. If anomie and egoism become wide spread society would indeed start to deteriorate, with egoism people only acting in self-interest and not for any other purpose would have big effects on society as a whole, same can be said with anomie, as more people may end up breaking society’s accepted behaviours.

It seems that to fully understand to what degree to which Britain maybe broken we need to be looking at how people in today's society are interacting. I feel that the crime rates in Britain might show that British society is breaking, but to fully understand what level the British society is broken we should be looking at more than crime rates and crime statistics. The behaviour of many in British society is good, the vast majority of the people in Britain are peaceful citizens that don't commit crimes or take from the government, they follow what the majority deem to be social norms by having regular jobs and paying there taxes. I feel that if this continues it won't be long until those peaceful citizens that followed the rules see those that haven't and think that it may be an easier life or a more well off life if they didn't either which strain theory proves. As more people start to believe this, it start to be considered a social norm, it will be normal to break society’s bond and commit crimes and to only think about yourself and to not care if your decisions cause harm to others. This I feel would be the break down in society, even though society has been changing I think that British society is not broken yet. If British society does carry on the way it seems to be going then we maybe looking at a broken Britain.

References

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14434318
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25201284
  3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18671255
  4. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195396607/obo-9780195396607-0005.xml
  5. http://www.sociology.org.uk/p2s5an4.htm
  6. sites.wofford.edu/kaycd/egoism/
  7. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/26587/anomie

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