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Sociological Approaches

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Presentation on theme: "Sociological Approaches"— Presentation transcript:

1 Sociological Approaches
“Criminals” are not different ( bio, psych) ---their circumstances are different Focus on underlying social problems and crime rates (not individuals) Major focus on preventing crime by changing the underlying conditions/causes “social stress”

2 Sociological Approaches
The Pluralist Model “Liberal” Govt/Law as “Referee” vs. The Conflict Model "Critical/Radical" Govt/Law shaped/controlled by elites in their own interests A “Ruling Class” ??

3 Sociological Approaches
The Key Criminology Question:  What social and cultural factors generate patterns of crime high crime rates low crime rates changing crime rates also patterns within the larger patterns age, gender, race/ethnicity, etc.

4 Sociological Approaches
Note: Both also look critically at the processes of criminalization - how do some people (and not others) come to be treated as “criminals” (male/female, rich/poor, street/corp, etc.)

5 Sociological Approaches
Several broad approaches: Social Disorganization Theories Social Control Theories Labeling Theory - Integrative Theories

6 Sociological Approaches
Social Disorganization Theories Urbanization and “Anomie” (European) The Chicago School (American) “Ecology” and material instability

7 Sociological Approaches
Robert Merton and Strain theories Goals/Means “disorganization” Subculture theories (structuralist) Culture conflict Lower class subculture Subculture of violence

8 Sociological Approaches
Social Control Theories Walter Reckless - Containment theory Inner and outer "pushes and pulls" Travis Hirschi - Social Bond theory Attachment

9 Sociological Approaches
Labeling theory Primary and Secondary deviance The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

10 Sociological Approaches
Problems with Soc approaches Pluralist and Conflict issues Sample selection bias (still!) “Criminology as science” dilemma Influencing social policy

11 Sociological Approaches
Comment - Criminology is too complicated and confusing for much of the public - “sound-bite culture” Individual approaches are simple, reinforce common biases and stereotypes, are reinforced by politicians and the media, and generally fit with our fascination with exceptional cases and the maze-like legal process.

12 Sociological Approaches
Integrative Theories are a response to problems with sociological approaches. They seek to combine the best elements of other theories, and work them into a single larger framework -- Robert Merton (early attempt) - Crime and the American Dream

13 Sociological Approaches
Robert Merton - Key Concepts: Culture of individualism and competition Blocked opportunity Strain and Anomie Deviant adaptations Merton’s “Logic Table” of adaptations

14 Sociological Approaches
GOALS     MEANS  Conformist        "poor but honest" Innovator inventor, entrepreneur, criminal Ritualist "bureaucratic mentality"

15 Sociological Approaches
GOALS     MEANS  Retreatist            - drop out, beatnik, hippie, cultist, etc. Rebel                  -/+      -/+ revolutionary

16 Sociological Approaches
Blocked Opportunity = “Want but can’t have” But what shapes particular responses to strain and anomie? (what influences people to innovate, retreat, etc.?) Note: These are specific crim theories

17 Sociological Approaches
Differential Association One factor is important associations – friends, family, neighbors, etc. What "reference groups" do is a powerful influence on what people do. Note: Peer Groups and Role Models

18 Sociological Approaches
Differential Reinforcement Another factor is reinforcement (rewards and punishments) If something "works" (rewards, status, etc.) people are more likely to continue doing it. Note: Based on behaviorist psychology

19 Sociological Approaches
Differential Opportunity Most “deviant adaptations” require alternative set of learned skills/attitudes/values and the opportunity to use them.  Illegitimate opportunity structures and “Illegal economies”

20 Sociological Approaches
Note: Merton's theory focused on explaining modern urban "street crime."  But the theoretical framework can also be used to explain a variety of other social situations similar to those producing street crime.

21 Sociological Approaches
Why is corporate crime so widespread in America? Businesses are locked into a highly competitive quest for “market shares” (goal) and it is hard to “win” using legitimate means -

22 Sociological Approaches
this leads to a corporate culture of “cheating” (deviant adaptation – corporate crime). Note: Greed = never enough Goal is always out of reach - never "enough" wealth/power/etc.

23 Sociological Approaches
Why do some police depts (like LAPD) have chronically high levels of corruption? Police culture emphasizes punishing “bad guys” (goal) but the legal evidence is often lacking (legitimate means) and this leads some police depts (local police culture) to plant evidence, engage in police brutality, etc.

24 Sociological Approaches
How do idealistic young lawyers become “convict by any means" prosecutors? Prosecutors compete for high conviction rates (goal) which is hard to accomplish by following legal “due process” - this leads prosecutors to abandon goals of fairness and justice, and “cheat” to win convictions.

25 Sociological Approaches
Crime and the American Dream (and lectures) will discuss all of the sociological theories and foundations in more detail.

26 Sociological Approaches
Summary: Circumstances produce crime - they shape the context within which individual decisions are made. Psych/Indiv - frustration leads to aggression Soc - social stress leads to “deviance”

27 Sociological Approaches
Unrealistic goals + limited means for reaching these goals leads to “deviant adaptations” - “Shortcuts” to goals

28 Sociological Approaches
Over time shortcuts become institutionalized - part of our culture and practices - so part of lower class culture, corporate culture, police culture, court culture, etc. Note: we respond to problems as if they were indiv probs, while culture reproduces them! this is a huge dilemma!!

29 Next Week Crime and the American Dream + Supplemental Homicide Reports

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