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Defining and Describing Crime and Deviance • Deviance: Any behavior that departs from what the majority of a community or the whole society considers to be “normal.” Not all deviance is forbidden by law, nor is all of it criminal. Deviance can be as minor as not addressing an authority figure by his or her proper title of as significant as killing another human being. • Crime: Any act forbidden by law. What is considered a crime or a deviant act shifts across time and with respect to different groups.
Defining and Describing Crime and Deviance • Hate crime: A particular type of crime involving discrimination against or hateful acts toward particular groups in society. Hate crimes are difficult to define owing to lack of agreement regarding the designation of prejudice as a motivation.
Crime and Deviance Some states do not recognize certain categories of prejudice, such as sexual orientation. This discrepancy can have a serious impact on hate crime statistics, inasmuch as some individuals are afraid to go to the police or may be discredited by the police when reporting these crimes.
Crime and Punishment Statistics If the imprisonment rates remain the same, one of every 15 persons in the U.S. will serve time in prison during their lifetime. Americans want tough policing and sentencing. However, statistics reveal that some sections of the population suffer both more crime and more imprisonment than others. Poor blacks and Hispanics are the ones most at risk.
Representations of Crime • Volitional criminology: A particular way of framing crime as a social problem. From this perspective, the public understands crimes to be the result of individuals’ moral failings and their decisions to act illegally, rather than the effect of social forces such as poverty or racial discrimination. This perspective justifies the belief that the problem would be solved if police cracked down on offenders and the courts “got tough.”
White-Collar and Corporate Crime White-collar crimes: Crimes that take place within the business and corporate sector, such as false advertising, unfair labor practices, and embezzlement. Although street crime is often assumed to be a more serious social problem, white-collar crimes actually cost more and affect a wider public.
White-Collar Crimes White-collar offenses tend not to be regarded as “real” crimes; perhaps it is because of their “impersonal” nature that people do not fear them as a threat to themselves
Theories of Crime and Deviance • Sociological theories of crime and deviance differ from other theories: • Sociological theories characterize deviance and crime as a response to the society in which they occur. • Psychological theories locate deviance and crime within the psyche or mind of the individual, as the product of inborn “abnormality” or of “faulty cognition processes.”
Theories of Crime and Deviance • Biological theories locate deviance and crime within the biological makeup of the individual. • Theological theories locate deviance and crime within the spiritual or moral makeup of the individual.
Functionalist Theory Durkheim noticed that whereas traditional society has been bound together by shared group values and norms, people in modern society were becoming less attached to norms—a condition he called anomie—and thought they could simply pursue their own individual interests.
Functionalist Theory (cont’d) He recognized that a certain amount of deviation from norms is normal and healthy for any society, as it allows for innovation and adaption to change. However, excessive individualism in modern society leads to too much crime and deviance when too many people believe they can behave how they want, ignoring the groups and its rules.
Functionalist Theory (continued) Robert Merton took up the functionalist-based idea of anomie and explained crime and deviance as the result of strain. • Strain: A condition experienced when the members of a society lack a sufficient amount of legitimate means to achieve socially approved goals, prompting some individuals to pursue their aims through alternative means, such as deviant or criminal action. For example, people who are impoverished and need to feed their families experience strain. While their goal is socially acceptable, they are unable to meet it through legitimate resources.
Labeling Theory and the Symbolic Internationalist Perspective • Thomas Theorem: A Theorem stating that if people define a situation as real, it is real in its consequences. The Thomas Theorem parallels the symbolic interactionist perspective, which emphasizes how social actions are the result of shared definitions of a situation.
Labeling Theory (continued) Howard Becker made the point that no actions are by nature criminal or deviant, nor are people naturally criminal or deviant. Deviance depends on the norms of the society, and on the reactions of members of society in different situations.
Labeling Theory (continued) The effect of this perspective on the sociology of crime and deviance was to shift the focus from why people are criminal or deviant onto the question of why and how people come to be labeled as criminal or deviant. • Deviant career: A process of internalizing and accepting the label of “deviant.”
Conflict Theory Conflict Theory points out that inequalities of wealth and power are what lead some people to be branded as deviant of criminal. • First, the capitalist system punishes any infractions or threats to the functioning of the capitalist economic system itself.
Conflict Theory (continued) • Second, capitalism is alleged to generate greed and selfishness because it has to create new and bigger markets for its commodities, which entails spending vast sums on advertising and marketing.
Capitalist Theory (continued) • Third, it stimulates competition for scarce resources, which means that the rich and powerful get and use more than their fair share, to the disadvantage of others.
Cultural Approaches to Crime and Deviance Ethnographic field research involves undertaking firsthand observation of those involved and their cultures. ethno= “people” graphic=“description” in the field-”the situation”
Cultural Approaches to Crime and Deviance (continued) • Moral panic: A period or episode of heightened anxiety about what are seen as symptoms of moral decline in society. Moral panics typically include a campaign aimed at mobilizing agents of social control against particular groups that are alleged to be responsible for moral decline. The pervasive presence of the media in postmodern society can be tremendously influential in terms of amplifying and sustaining these moral panics.
The Future of Crime and Deviance in Postmodern Society • Social Regulation: The ways in which society regulates our actions and behaviors.
The Future of Crime and Deviance Michel Foucault argued that whereas social regulation in traditional society was based on physical punishment, such as torture and execution, the modern correctional regime was dependent upon disciplining the mind and body of the offender. Here, social regulation was located not just in correctional facilities, but throughout all social institutions, including medicine and education.
Study Questions • Briefly define crime and deviance. Explain why neither of these terms is as straightforward as it seems, especially in postmodern society. • What trend in the rate of violent crime has been dominant in the U.S. over the last ten years? Has the American public’s fear of crime mirrored this trend? • What trend in imprisonment rate has been dominant in the U.S. since 1990? Which demographic groups have the highest change of going to prison?
Study Questions (continued) • What is volitional criminology? In what ways does this orientation reflect American values? • Which is more costly to society: street crime or white-collar crime? Why does the public perceive street crime as the more serious social problem? • What is the difference between sociological and individualistic approaches to crime and deviance? Describe where each of the individualist approaches locates the causes of crime and deviance.
Study Questions (continued) • According to Émile Durkheim, how could deviance have a positive function in society? When did it become a problem? What did he mean by the term anomie, and what was the cause of this condition? • According to labeling theory, how is deviance created? What is meant by the term deviant career? • According to conflict theory, how does capitalism create criminals?
Study Questions (continued) • What is ethnographic field research? What are the risks and limitations of this methodology in researching crime? What are the benefits? • What is a moral panic? What role do the media play in it? • Describe the forms of social regulation that were dominant in traditional, early-modern, and modern epochs. According to Foucault, what important development in discipline and control emerged during the modern era? In this new regime, which institutions exercised social regulation, and over whom?