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Crime and Deviance. Why?. First impressions: Why do people commit crimes? Why do people do drugs?. Stan Eitzen: mythbuster. US: religious and violently criminal no crime wave now problem mainly among youth (males esp.) home more dangerous than street no crime gene

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First impressions:

Why do people commit crimes?

Why do people do drugs?

stan eitzen mythbuster
Stan Eitzen: mythbuster
  • US: religious and violently criminal
  • no crime wave now
  • problem mainly among youth (males esp.)
  • home more dangerous than street
  • no crime gene
  • social variables related to crime:
    • poverty
    • unemployment
    • racial segregation
    • family instability
    • inequality
merton structural strain theory
Merton: structural strain theory

Socially approved goals (values)

Socially approved means (norms)

Unequal access creates “structural strain”

Individuals experiencing structural strain must choose a “mode of adaptation” to the resulting anomie.

crime rates scares vs realities heiner
Crime rates: scares vs. realities (Heiner)
  • Missing children
  • Serial killers
  • Crack “epidemic”
crime scares what is the evidence
Crime Scares: what is the evidence?
  • Missing children: 50,000 or 500-1,000?
  • Serial murder: 4,000 or 50-70?
  • Drug scare: what happened to the crack epidemic?
crime rates measures
Crime rates: measures
  • Index crimes (UCR from FBI)
  • Victimization studies (DoJ)
crime rates index crime trend
Crime rates: index crime trend


crime in context
Crime in Context
  • Rosenfeld (Contexts: Spring 2002):
  • What caused the 1980s rise in the first place?
    • Drugs—esp. crack
    • Guns
rosenfeld crime in context
Rosenfeld: Crime in Context
  • What factors account for the decline?
    • Crack market decline (youth)
    • Domestic violence trends (adults)
      • Decrease in marriage
      • Domestic violence prevention programs
    • Policing (evidence weak)
    • Prison boom (what about releases?)
    • Economy (always strongest correlation)
rosenfeld the big picture
Rosenfeld: “the big picture”
  • Multiple, interacting factors
  • LaFree: rise and fall of institutional legitimacy
    • Institutions regulate behavior to meet human needs
      • High legitimacy, people “play by the rules; low crime rate
      • Low legitimacy, institutions unable to control behavior; crime goes up
how bad is white collar crime
How bad is white-collar crime?
  • We don’t know—no index, no statistics overall, no easy way to discern trends
  • More harmful than street crime?
    • Greater monetary cost
    • Greater cost in lives, if consider tobacco alone
  • Mokhiber: activist frame says corporations are the problem; essentially anti-democratic
  • Higher immorality effects
c wright mills the higher immorality
C. Wright Mills: the higher immorality
  • “Of course, there may be corrupt men in sound institutions, but when institutions are corrupting, many of the men who live and work in them are necessarily corrupted. In the corporate era, economic relations become impersonal-and the executive feels less personal responsibility. Within the corporate worlds of business, war-making and politics, the private conscience is attenuated-and the higher immorality is institutionalized. It is not merely a question of a corrupt administration in corporation, army, or state; it is a feature of the corporate rich, as a capitalist stratum, deeply intertwined with the politics of the military state.”


heiner 3 main american values
Heiner: 3 main American values
  • Freedom
  • Individualism
  • Competition
c wright mills the higher immorality1
C. Wright Mills: the higher immorality
  • “There is still one old American value that has not markedly declined: the value of money and of the things money can buy-these, even in inflated times, seem as solid and enduring as stainless steel.”


enron multinational corporation
Enron: multinational corporation
  • 1997: exempt from Investment Company Act of 1940
  • This allowed them to create 3,000 limited partnerships; many “offshore,” used to hide debts
  • Received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies for overseas investments
  • Paid $0.00 in federal taxes four of last five years
  • Stood to get $250 tax rebate from Bush’s proposed economic stimulus package
enron s transgressions
Enron’s transgressions
  • Hid debts
  • Accounting firm (Arthur Anderson) was also consultant, colluded in hiding the debts
  • Top 12 executives sold stock worth a billion dollars before price tanked
  • Employees, investors left holding the bag
c wright mills the higher immorality2
C. Wright Mills: the higher immorality
  • “A society that is in its higher circles and on its middle levels widely believed to be a network of smart rackets does not produce men with an inner moral sense; a society that is merely expedient does not produce men of conscience. A society that narrows the meaning of 'success' to the big money and in its terms condemns failure as the chief vice, raising money to the plane of absolute value, will produce the sharp operator and the shady deal. Blessed are the cynical, for only they have what it takes to succeed.”


  • Eitzen on street crime: conservative and progressive options
    • Conservative: get tough
    • Progressive: get roots (poverty, racism, etc.)
  • Mokhiber on white collar crime: democratic control of corporations
sutherland differential association

Sutherland: differential association

Criminal (deviant) behavior is learned in primary groups where norms differ from those of wider society

differential association
Differential association

Dominant culture social norms

Deviant subculture social norms


becker labeling theory
Becker: labeling theory
  • Social structure gives some people the power to define others as deviant
  • The label is a stigma; a mark of social disgrace that changes social interaction and self image
lemert labeling theory
Lemert: labeling theory
  • Primary deviation: an initial act that violates social norms
  • Secondary deviation: the individual comes to accept the label, and acts accordingly
labeling theory
Labeling theory

Powerful interests


Primary deviation

Label accepted

Secondary deviation