Crime is a Social Construct. Discuss in relation to two criminological theories.

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Crime is a social construct.’ Analyse and discuss this statement with reference to any TWO criminological theories.

In order to examine the above we must ask ourselves the question ‘what is crime?  The Cambridge dictionary definition of crime states that is an ‘illegal act’ or ‘something against the law’. This essays aims to delve beyond the illegal act itself and consider the laws and subsequent crime that is controlled and constructed by society.  The paper will consider both the Internationalist theory alongside that of the rational choice theory in considering the above.

As mentioned above in order for society to recognise and record a crime an illegal act will have taken place. This act will have contravened a law created by the law makers of that society.  The British legal system is ever evolving and it seems that new laws are brought about every week, with the introduction of new laws so there is an introduction of new crimes and vice versa.  Laws are equally abolished over time leading to the decrimilisation of certain acts. Take for example marital rape, up until recently it was perfectly legal to rape your wife, this all changed in 1991when the law was abolished and husbands could be prosecuted for raping their wives (Rapecrisis). Another example is that of homosexual relationships, the law changed in 1967 making homosexual relationships lawful and thus non criminal. It is through these changes in law that crime changes and thus could be argued to be socially constructed.

Commack and Brickey (1991,  p.15) argue that  ‘law can be said to have a distinctly social basis; it both shapes – and is shaped by – the society in which it operates”.  Societies perceptions and values are ever changing and with them so is the law and thus the crime rate. This is clearly evident through the differences between countries. What is illegal in certain societies is legal in others; take the above example the chewing gum ban in Singapore. In 1991 Singapore made buying chewing gum a criminal act (Jeffery, S. 2004). Indeed  Henry and Lanier (2001, p. 7) suggest that “what counts as crime at one place and time, culture, or location may not be considered criminal at another time, in another culture, or even across the street”. We may therefore argue that crime is socially constructed as a result of societies view on what is condemnable and wasn’t at any given time.

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This idea was developed further by Stanley Cohen with his work on moral panics. Cohen study of the mod's and the rockers led to him to speculate that society often had an exaggerated perception of what was a current ‘threat to societies interests and values’, Cohen argued that society’s perception of crime was influenced strongly by moral panics (Maguire et al, 2002, p.75).  After the events of  9/11 we can see that society developed a heightened interest in terrorism, has this in turn lead to the persecution and labelling of individuals from Islamic backgrounds? We can see how such ...

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