[Crime and Deviance Revision]

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SCLY 4: Crime and Deviance with Methods in Context

[Crime and Deviance Revision]

Crime and Deviance Revision

SCLY 4: Crime and Deviance with Methods in Context

Sociology Department

Greenhead College

SCLY 4: Crime and Deviance with Methods in Context

You have to revise everything, because you have no choice on the exam paper.

The specification

1 Different theories of crime, deviance, social order and social control

  • Different definitions of crime, deviance, social order and social control

  • The distinction between sociological theories of crime and other theories (eg biological, psychological); crime and deviance as socially constructed

  • Functionalist theories of crime: Durkheim, anomie, collective conscience; Merton’s strain theory; manifest and latent functions; functionalist subcultural theories

  • Marxist and neo-Marxist theories of crime: classical Marxism, laws reflecting class interests; Neo-Marxism, hegemony, the CCCS studies, critical and new criminology

  • Interactionist theories of crime: labelling theory, the self-fulfilling prophecy

  • Feminist theories of crime: patriarchy, male control of women’s lives

  • Control theory and other contemporary approaches to crime: social bonds, communitarianism, situational prevention; postmodern theories; Foucault on individualisation and surveillance

  • Realist theories: New Left Realism and Right Realism

  • The relevance of the various theories to understanding different types of crime, and their implications for social policy.

2 The social distribution of crime and deviance by age, ethnicity, gender, locality and social class, including recent patterns and trends in crime

  • Study of statistics and other evidence on the social distribution of crime by age, ethnicity, gender, locality and social class, including recent patterns and trends

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance by age: juvenile delinquency and youth crime

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and ethnicity: explanations from different theories, racism in the criminal justice system

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and gender: explanations of the rates of male and female crime, the gendering of crime, chivalry thesis, the gender deal

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and locality: rural and urban crime

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and social class: explanations from different theories; white collar crime; occupational crime.

3 Globalisation and crime in contemporary society; the mass media and crime; green crime; human rights and state crimes

  • Globalisation and crime: examples and explanations of globalised crimes such as web-based crimes, global trades in drugs, weapons and people; global corporate crime

  • Mass media and crime: media’s role in social construction of crime including moral panics and amplification; crime and news values and agenda setting; representations of crime (both fact and fiction)

  • Green crime: definitions, criminalisation of environmental offences; extent, enforcement of green crimes: environmental laws, corporate and state environmental crimes, crimes against non-human species

  • Human rights and state crimes: international rules and norms and examples of violations of them; human rights violations; state crimes.

4 Crime control, prevention and punishment, victims, and the role of the criminal justice system and other agencies

  • Crime control, prevention and punishment: contemporary policies, linked to the theories studied under point 1; surveillance, zero tolerance, anti-social behaviour orders, expansion of imprisonment

  • Victims of crime: statistics and other evidence on victims of crime; ethnicity, age and gender; different theoretical accounts, eg positivist and radical victimology

  • Role of the criminal justice system and other agencies.

5 The sociological study of suicide and its theoretical and methodological implications

  • Durkheim’s classic study of suicide, including typologies

  • Interpretivist responses to Durkheim, eg Atkinson, Douglas

  • Realist approaches, eg Taylor’s ‘people under trains’

  • The theoretical and methodological implications of the different approaches of the study of suicide.

The exam format

Choose one Section and answer all the questions from that Section.
Section A: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
You are advised to spend approximately 45 minutes on Questions 0 1 and 0 2

You are advised to spend approximately 30 minutes on Questions 0 3 , 0 4 and 0 5

You are advised to spend approximately 45 minutes on Question 0 6
Total for this section: 90 marks
Crime and Deviance

0 1 Examine the effectiveness of situational crime prevention as a means of reducing the impact of crime on society (Item A). (12 marks)

Read Item A below and answer the question that follows.

Item A
Situational crime prevention (SCP) involves intervening in the immediate situations in which crime takes place to reduce its likelihood or seriousness. It often involves ‘designing crime out’ of products, services and environments, for example by use of anti-climb paint, CCTV and security guards in shops, better street lighting, metal detectors at airports, neighbourhood watch schemes andthe re-designing of housing estates.
SCP does not rely on intervening in children’s socialisation to prevent them mbecoming criminals later, or on the threat of punishments to deter current criminals. Instead, it makes specific changes aimed at influencing the decision or ability of offenders to commit particular crimes in particular situations. Like rational choice theory, SCP sees criminals as acting rationally. By making certain crimes less rewarding, more risky or needing greater effort, SCP makes criminals less likely to choose to commit them.

0 2

Assess the usefulness of conflict theories for an understanding of crime and deviance in contemporary society. (21 marks)

Methods in Context
0 3

Identify and briefly explain one problem of using victim surveys to study victims of crime.

(3 marks)
0 4

Identify and briefly explain two problems of studying crime by interviewing serving prisoners about their behaviour. (6 marks)

Read Item B below and answer the question that follows.

Item B
Some sociologists argue that much youthful criminal activity, such as vandalism, shoplifting, street crime and excessive drug use, can best be understood as motivated by thrill-seeking through risk-taking or ‘edge work’. For example, as Katz (1988) argues, shoplifting can be seen as a thrilling and gratifying adventure, whose ‘buzz’ can be more important than any need by the shoplifter for the item stolen. For some thieves, the stolen item has more of a symbolic than a material value, as a trophy of the ‘game’.
Members of educated and privileged groups may also indulge in thrill-seeking crimes, such as computer hacking or illicit stock market manipulation. However, the ‘thrills and spills’ of edge work as a motivation for crime tend to appeal particularly to young men from marginalised social groups as a way of expressing their masculinity.
0 5

Using material from Item B and elsewhere, assess the strengths and limitations of covert participant observation as a means of investigating ‘edge work as a motivation for crime’ (Item B, line 10). (15 marks)

This question requires you to apply your knowledge and understanding of sociological

research methods to the study of this particular issue in crime and deviance.

Theory and Methods
0 6

‘Sociology cannot and should not be a science.’

To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view? (33 marks)

Different theories of crime, deviance, social order and social control

1. Functionalist theories of crime and deviance

A. Emile Durkheim
1. Crime & deviance is functional
Durkheim believed that a certain amount of crime and deviance could be seen as positive for society.
Necessary to generate social change - innovation only comes about if old ideas are challenged.

Helps to clarify the boundaries of acceptable behaviour following social reactions to deviance.

Creates social integration as it bonds society together against criminals.
2. Crime & deviance is dysfunctional
Durkheim believed that crime and deviance also acts as a threat to society. This is because the norms and values that ‘unite’ society are being challenged, thus threatening consensus, social order and stability.
3. Cause of crime & deviance
Durkheim believed that crime & deviance occurred as a result of anomie (normlessness). Durkheim believed that this could occur during periods of rapid social change (e.g. revolutions) when people become unsure of what societies norms and values are.
4. Social order & social control
Durkheim believed that in modern societies there was agreement or consensus over society’s norms and values, which resulted in social order and stable societies. Durkheim believed this occurred because society’s institutions successfully implemented social control. For Durkheim social control is positive (unlike interactionist and Marxist views on social control) as it creates social cohesion. Durkheim believes social control is achieved by various agencies of social control socialising individuals into socially agreed norms and values (regulation) and by integrating individuals into social groups. For example, schools bond individuals together into school communities and classes. They instil core norms & values through citizenship programmes. Religion binds people together during times of happiness e.g. weddings and sadness e.g. funerals. Religion regulates behaviour by setting down certain moral standards.
eaHeaParsons argued that sickness can be seen as deviant and has the potential for de-stabilising society. Parsons therefore sees the medical profession as performing an important social control function by restricting access to the ‘sick role’. In this way illegitimate illness (deviant illness) is minimised and social order and stability is maintained.


  • Durkheim has served to generate a great deal of subsequent research and influence other sociological theories on crime and deviance. For example, control theories of crime and deviance. This suggests that Durkheim’s ideas have made a major contribution to the study of crime and deviance.


  • It is not clear at what point the “right” amount of crime (necessary and beneficial) becomes “too much” (creating disorder and instability).

  • The very idea that crime can be beneficial is questionable; it is hardly likely to seem that way to the victim!

  • Perhaps this reflects a more general problem in the functionalist approach, the tendency to assume that if something exists it must serve some purpose (have a function).

  • This approach also does not explain why some people commit crimes and others do not, or why they commit particular offences.

  • Finally, functionalism assumes that norms and laws reflect the wishes of the population; it does not consider the possibility that a powerful group is imposing its values on the rest of society.


B. Robert Merton and strain theory

Merton maintained that American/British society socialises individuals to:

  • meet certain shared goals - the ‘American Dream’

  • to follow approved means or ways to achieve the goals e.g. hard work and effort.

Merton argued that capitalist societies suffer from anomie - a strain/conflict between the goals set by society and the legitimate (law abiding) means of achieving them. Merton claimed that this strain was a product of an unequal social class structure that blocked many people’s attempts to reach the goals set by society through the legitimate opportunity structure.

Merton identified five different responses to anomie. Perhaps the most significant though was innovation. He used this concept to explain material crimes amongst the working class. Merton argued that some members of the working class reject the approved means (e.g. working hard in a job) and innovate and turn to illegal means to obtain the cultural goals they still desire e.g. a nice car.

  • Merton then begins to offer a functionalist account of both the nature and extent of deviance.

  • However, as with Durkheim, anomie (though defined differently) is a difficult term to operationalise how can it be measured?

  • If it is measured by the amount of crime, a circular argument is created. Merton does not explain where the goals and means have come from or whose purpose they serve. To use Laurie Taylor’s analogy, it as if everyone is putting money in a giant fruit machine, but no one asks who puts it there or who pockets the profits.

  • Why do some people choose the response they do?

  • Is deviance just an individual choice?

  • Not all crime is for economic gain - how can this form of crime be explained using Merton’s framework?


The Marxist critique

  • For Marxists, the appearance of consensus is an illusion; it conceals the reality of one class imposing its will on the rest of society.

  • Values are manipulated by the ruling class; it is the ruling class which decides which acts should be criminalised and how the laws should be enforced.

  • Laws reflect not a shared value system, but the imposition by one class of its ideology. Through socialisation, the majority adopt values which are really against their interests. If, in spite of this, the power of the ruling class is challenged, by, say strikes and protests, the ruling class can use the law to criminalise those posing the threat, and media reporting will be manipulated to give the impression that the ruling class’s interests are those of the whole nation.

Other criticisms

  • Subcultural approaches have highlighted the group nature of some criminal and deviant behaviour. Functionalist analysis tends to see crime/deviance as an individual-society relationship.

  • Interactionists have argued that this approach ignores the processes of negotiation that take place in the creation of deviance and crime.


  • Functionalism represents a sociological approach to crime distinct from the biological and psychological approaches which preceded it.

  • It is correct to assume that to some extent, for societies to survive there must be some agreement on values, but functionalists tend to focus on this and fail to consider the power of different groups and the existence of contrasting value systems.

2. Sub-cultural theories of crime and deviance

A. Functionalist sub-cultural theories
1. Albert Cohen
1. The structural origins of crime & deviance
Cohen accepts much of what Merton had to say on the structural origins of crime and deviance.

  • Working class youths internalise mainstream norms and values through socialisation.

  • Working class youths face blocked opportunities (e.g. at school) because of their position in the social class structure.

  • Working class youths as a whole (groups not just individuals) suffer from status frustration (realise that they can not achieve in middle class terms).

2. The cultural causes of crime & deviance
Cohen extends Merton’s theory by incorporating a strong cultural element in his explanation.

  • Some working class youths make a decision to completely reject mainstream norms and values. This is because of the status frustration they feel.

  • Mainstream norms and values are replaced with alternative delinquent subcultural norms and values. For Cohen a high value is placed on non-financial negativistic delinquent acts. For example, joy riding, arson and vandalism.

  • The delinquent subculture provides an alternative means of gaining status and striking back at an unequal social system that has branded them as ‘failures’.

2. Cloward and Ohlin

1. The structural origins of crime & deviance
Cloward and Ohlin accept Cohen’s views on the structural origins of crime and deviance.

2. The cultural causes of crime & deviance
However, Cloward and Ohlin criticise Cohen’s cultural explanation of crime. In particular, his failure to explain the variety of subcultural forms that emerge out of the social structure.

  • Cloward and Ohlin maintain that the form working class delinquent subcultures take depends on access to ileegitimate opportunity structures, i.e. access to existing adult criminal networks who will take on younger ‘apprentice’ criminals.

  • Criminal subcultures emerge when working class youths have access to adult riminal networks. The focus of their deviance is on material crimes such as burglary.

  • Conflict subcultures emerge when working class youths lack access to adult criminal networks but live in an environment which values defence of territory and violence. The focus of their deviance is gang related ‘warfare’.

  • Retreatist subcultures emerge when working class youths are denied access to criminal or conflict subcultures. The focus of their deviance is on alcohol and drug abuse.

3. Walter Miller and ‘focal concerns’

1. The structural origins of crime & deviance

  • Miller rejects Cohen and Cloward and Ohlin’s views on the structural origins of crime and deviance. He criticises the idea that delinquent subcultures emerge as a reaction to anomie. This is because he believes that lower class youths never accept mainstream norms and values in the first place. He therefore offers an alternative cultural view on crime and deviance.

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