Crime and Deviance
Crime and Deviance
Criminology is a fascinating area of study, covering a wide range of topics from the tax evasion of huge corporations to rioting and street gangs. Before we move on to study the key ideas, we need to explain the two most important concepts here: crime and deviance.
Crime is the breaking of society’s formal rules – its laws. These laws are backed up by agents of social control such as the police and judicial system. Breaking laws often leads to some form of punishment, from a police warning to imprisonment, even capital punishment in some societies. But crime does not always lead to punishment. Many crimes go undetected or unrecorded while some, such as drug taking, are ‘victimless’ and will usually be unreported.
Deviance is any act that goes against the prevailing norms of a particular culture. Acts of deviance cover a wide range of behaviours, from outrageous haircuts to jumping a queue. Deviant acts often lead to informal sanctions such as ‘dirty looks’ or negative comments.
Definitions of crime and deviance change across time and between cultures. The decriminalisation of cannabis in some US states illustrates how the same act (smoking cannabis) can be viewed very differently in different cultures. Similarly, the UK laws surrounding homosexuality have changed hugely over the last 50 years – yesterday’s deviance can become today’s normality.
These shifting definitions lead sociologists to describe both crime and deviance as social constructions.
Learn more about crime and deviance...
- KEY CONCEPTS - Understand some of the key concepts of crime and deviance and browse example essays to help you out.
- IMPORTANT WRITERS - Emile Durkheim, Robert Merton? Find out about some of the key writers on crime and deviance.
- DEBATES - Read our guide to key debates to get an understanding of some of the more important issues, such as crime statistics and ethnicity.
Essays on crime and deviance
Learn more about the key concepts of criminology with our study guide dedicated to the main principles - crime and deviance.
The Government publishes official statistics on crime in Britain annually. The main source of these statistics are gathered from recorded crimes by the police...
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Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the value of 'chivalry thesis 'in understanding differences in crime.
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