Sociological Theory and Methodology - Crime and Deviance.

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Sociology Assignment 2:

Task 1

Sociological Theory and Methodology.

Crime and Deviance.

It is generally agreed on by sociologists that crime equals breaking the written laws of society whereas deviance involves breaking the unwritten rules in a way that involves diversifying from the norm with an act that involves anti social or morally unacceptable behaviour i.e. it is socially constructed and can change over time. However, crime and deviance can overlap with some behaviour being both deviant and criminal. The three sociological perspectives have different views on the causes and cures for crime and deviance, which will be discussed in the following essay.

The functionalist believes that society needs strong laws as without them society would fall into anarchy. It also states that crime and deviance is inevitable. Durkheim argued that crime is functional and by punishing criminals, society reconfirms it own standards and deviant behaviour is necessary for progress in society.

This perspective blames crime as the outcome of inadequate socialisation, with poorly functioning families and minority communities that condone deviant and criminal behaviour. They believe that the blame for criminal and deviant behaviour lies firmly at the feet of the individual.

This theory however is heavily criticised by the conflict theorist for not taking into account other reasons why the lawbreaker, offends. The functionalist ignores causes of crime such as poverty and unemployment. The functionalist counter critique this view by arguing that blaming criminal activity on society takes away the responsibility from the individual.

The conflict theorist also points out that the ideologies of what is criminal and deviant is set by the ruling class and these ideologies are maintained by the ruling class. The conflict theorists views crime and deviance as the outcome of a capitalist society, with a consumer society being encouraged at every corner and the structure of society, denying the opportunity of participation to many. This therefore leads to some of the working class having to resort to criminal behaviour to reduce the inequality in society.

Marxist also raises the issue of white-collar crime that is ignored or seen as clever and the working class criminal being dealt with heavily by the hard edge of social control. However, the Marxist view does not address the issue of criminal and deviant behaviour that does not have an economic cause such as sexual and some violent crimes.

The social action theorist looks more closely at the individual than the other two perspectives. This perspective looks at how individuals become criminal and believe that some members of society are more susceptible to becoming criminal than others. For example they may live up to labels that, they are given. A child that is constantly told they are a problem will continue to be a problem living up to the stereotype as this is what is expected of him this is what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. These stereotypes that are abound in society today effect the way individuals view others, these individuals can include teachers law enforcers and judges and those that fit the stereotype of criminal and deviant such as a working class afro Caribbean male are often dealt with more harshly than those who do not resemble these negative stereotypes.
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Marxist criticises the social action approach for not looking sufficiently at the causes of crime such as the class system that creates inequalities in society.

The social action theory can be criticised for assuming people have no control over their own behaviour once they have been labelled. Marxist's say that labelling does not cause a person to become a criminal. Ronald Ackers stated in Gibbon and Jones 1975 p.131

" One sometimes gets the impression from reading the literature that people go about minding their own business and then - 'wham' - bad society comes ...

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