The Causes of Crime - Right realists reject the idea put forward by Marxists and others that structural or economic factors such as poverty and inequality are the cause for crime. For example, they point out that the old tend to be poor, yet they have a very low crime rate. - Right realists argue that crime is the product of three factors; individual biological differences, inadequate socialisation and the underclass, and rational choice to offend. Individual Biological Differences - James Wilson and Richard Herrnstein (1985) put forward a biosocial theory of criminal behaviour. In their view, crime is caused by a combination of biological and social factors.
In this essay we will assess the usefulness of these functionalist theories, and look at how it helps us explain crime. One functionalist who tried to explain crime is Merton and his strain theory, the strain theory argues that people engage in the deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means. Merton explanation combines 2 elements; structural factors- society’s unequal opportunity structure, cultural factors- strong emphasis to achieve goals and weak emphasis on using legit means. Merton uses the strain theory to explain some patterns of crime in society, he argues a person’s positioning in society affects the way they adapt or respond to the strain to anomie. Merton gives 5 different types of adaption; Conformity- the individual accepts socially acceptable goal and achieves it through legitimate means, Innovation- Individual accepts the role of success and wealth but uses illegitimate means to achieve them, Ritualism- Individual give up on legitimate goals but still follow strictly to the rules, Retreatism- Individuals reject legitimate goals and means of achieving them e.g drug addicts, the final type is Rebellion- Individuals reject existing goals and means but replace them with new one in desire to bring about revolutionary change.
Crime is defined as an infraction of criminal law. Jary and Jary (2000). In Sociology: A New Approach, Haralambos et al. (1986) crime is further defined as an act which breaks the law and is subject to punishment. Crime and deviance are culturally defined and therefore relative, as a culture evolves so do definitions of both deviance and crime.
There must be a punishment for the crime committed to deter it. According to the differential association theory “punishment, if certain, should be swift and proportionate to the crime to deter it.” (O’Grady 2010:70) That the punishment should fit the crime committed. Though, this could be seen as a great way to deter crime, it does not work as well. According to Fagan and Meares “…recent experiments have shown that among persons of color, especially those who are poor or reside in poor neighborhoods, punishment has produced iatrogenic or counterdeterrent effects.” (Fagan and Meares 2008:8)The punishment seems to be the more upset people in the community become and it results in the same crime happening in the communities and that once offenders come out of jail it has been proven that they are likely to commit crime again if, they were in jail for a short period of
It does however explain why some people or actions are described as deviant, and can help in understanding crime and deviance. According to item A labelling has changed the theoretical base for the study of criminals. Becker emphasises the significance of crime being a social construct; an action only becomes criminal or deviant once society has labelled it so, and that crime can be argued to be a social construction. He introduced the concept of a master label, referring to the label which a person is given which overrides all other labels. When a person is labelled as negatively, society tends to tend them as such, and this master label often becomes internalised, and then a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs.
One of these theories is the Choice Theory. According to the text book, Criminal Justice in Action, Choice Theory is when criminals weigh the benefits of the crime they want to commit to the tragic costs. If in the end the if the criminals benefits over weigh the costs he or she is more likely to commit the crime (pg.31). Most crimes are committed because of the rewards that come along with it. The rewards can involve money or even a sense of gratification according to sociologist Jack Katz in the text book Criminal Justice in action when said “’rewards’ of crime may be sensual as well as financial.
That usually means reverting to street crimes. These crimes include burglary, vandalism, and selling drugs. Those individuals feel that street crime is the only way they will obtain material success. Merton's theory may stand true when comparing social status with street crime; however, his theory becomes weak when the crimes include white-collar and business crimes. Therefore, Merton's theory has become an “anomie theory”.
All crime is deviant but not all deviance is crime. Becker stated; “Social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction constitutes deviance and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders. From this point of view deviance is not a quality of the act a person commits, but rather a consequence of
But why do we commit crime and why are the crime rates in certain places like Compton, East St. Louis or Detroit so high? The answer is the “Social Structure Theory”, which states that poverty, unemployment and bad social conditions cause criminal activities. The Social Structure Theory contains three schools of thought: social disorganization, strain, and cultural deviance theories.The school of social disorganization states that
When someone is labelled an offender they are forced by society to live according to this label which could minimise their chances of being law abiding citizens and limit their chances of finding decent jobs. When deviants realise that society is defining them as thieves or offenders, they feel the need to act out on these labels. Deviants then try to adapt to their new profile by participating in various deviant (criminal)