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describe four studies relating to crime and deviance - each from a different perspective. The Functionalist, Marxist, Symbolic Interactionist and New left realism perspective on crime and deviance

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The purpose of this essay is to describe four studies relating to crime and deviance - each from a different perspective. The Functionalist, Marxist, Symbolic Interactionist and New left realism perspective on crime and deviance will be described. Functionalist, Albert K. Cohen's study of the delinquent subculture and Symbolic interactionist, Howard Becker's labelling theory will be evaluated with the intent to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective. Crime and deviance are contentious subjects and consequently there are various competing theories, which attempt to extract the essence of both crime and deviance. When evaluating these theories - a coalition of all perspectives produces an in depth understanding of this topic. A definition of crime and deviance can be explained in relative terms, which are dependant on any particular society's interpretation of crime or deviance. Cultures differ from one society to another and the general consensus of right and wrong within society can also evolve throughout time. For example, in the 1950's it would have been considered deviant to have sex before marriage. Gradually throughout time this has become acceptable. Crime can also be considered in the same respect. For instance, parents, up until recently had the right to discipline their children by 'smacking', this is now an infraction of the law. (Haralambos, 2000, page 349) However, the foundations in which all societies are moulded upon are the generally agreed values and norms or culture of that society. Once these have been established it is possible to determine a criminal offence or deviant act within that society. Crime is therefore an infraction of the law. Laws are determined by the political system, which, dependant on the sociological perspective, are viewed as a reflection of societal beliefs or ideological beliefs of the ruling elite. Deviance is an act that departs from the norms of society - this is known as societal deviance. Situational deviance is the departure from the norms of a particular group. ...read more.


(Moore 1991, 68) "Policing the Crisis", a study carried out by Stuart Hall et al (1979), from a Marxist perspective, suggests that within the capitalist system, the dominant ideological hold the ruling class have over society must be maintained for capitalism to survive. In the early 1970's Britain was suffering from rising economic problems and an increase in public disorder. This included a significant increase in worker strikes - which could indicate a crisis for capitalism. (Moore, 1996, 75) According to Hall et al, this 'crisis' could have produced the phenomenon now known as 'mugging' - this is simply the American term used to describe any form of street crime involving threatening behaviour or violence. Hall explains that until the 1970's mugging was unheard of in the UK. However, by 1972 the media had reported a vast amount of 'muggings' particularly with regards to attacks on the older generation - emphasising that this was cause for concern. The media also implied that muggings were a more likely to be carried out by young black males. (Moore, 1996, 75) In 1972, the Home Secretary confirmed this was a significant problem by showing that there had been a 129% increase in 'muggings' over the past four years. Both the media and Parliament were advocating a strict policing method in the inner cities, where this problem was said to be the worst. In addition, the police were to "crackdown" on the groups of people most likely to be involved. Society at this point was led to believe that the morality of Britain in general was disintegrating. (Moore, 1996, 75) This 'moral panic' induced by the newspapers in their response to information from governmental statistics was in fact a distortion of the truth. The Home Secretary's figure of 129% increase in 'muggings' was collated from all forms of street crime - from violent to minor. In reality there had been no significant increase in crime. ...read more.


Relative deprivation is not absolute deprivation. For example, the individual may have food and clothes, but in comparison to the quality of others' possessions may not be viewed as good enough. According to Lea and Young anybody can feel deprived therefore relative deprivation can occur throughout all classes - which may account for 'white-collar' crime. For white-collar crime to be committed the individual must be in employment and is therefore by no means deprived. However, in comparison to others the individual may feel deprived. Lea and Young highlighted that it is the feeling of deprivation, which is important. (Haralambos, 2000, page 393) Crime has become more evident in western societies which could be as a result of advertising, which emphasises the importance of wealth and consumer purchases. For example, fashion trends change constantly and importance is placed on dressing accordingly. Lea and Young also view marginalisation as a possible explanation for crime. Marginal groups can be categorised as those who lack political representation and clearly defined goals, this constitutes the young unskilled working class, who are more susceptible to marginalisation. Lea and Young argue that the marginal groups are more likely to be involved in violence and riots as a substitute for organised politics. Statistics indicate that working class crime is usually carried out on individuals in the same social strata - this is known as intraclass crime. (Haralambos, 2000, page 393) This is a realistic alternative to the extreme views of other perspectives, which can ignore other aspects to deliver their points. New left realism incorporates the Marxist perspective and adapts it to modern society - detailing attainable possibilities for future society. Sociologists from various perspectives, consensus - conflict or social action - contribute to the understanding and explanation of crime and deviance within society. Depending on the perspective sociologists view any particular society from, will usually predict their explanation of an individuals compliance with these common conventions or deviation from the accepted path within society. A collaboration of all perspectives extends a greater understanding of crime and deviance rather than using one perspective alone. ...read more.

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