Crime and Deviance
“Evaluate sociological explanations for the high proportion of young, working class males shown in official statistics on crime. ” This essay will start by making a distinction between the concepts of crime and deviance, followed by an examination how such concepts have been acquired and accepted by society. Further reference will be made to the current crime statistics, and analyse some of the possible explanations for the high proportion of crime that is being committed by young males.
Finally, consideration will be given to what the main sociological perspectives functionalism, Marxism and internationalism, would have to say about this whole subject. At first glimpse, crime and deviance are two concepts that for some people mean very much the same, when in reality both concepts mean different things. Crime is assigned to behaviours and actions that either go against or break the law (Kirby et al, 2000). On the other hand the concept of deviance is a lot more complex, because it is a much broader and ambiguous concept than crime, therefore far more difficult to specify.
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The deviance concept depends very much on what is that society defines as normal at the time, for that reason deviance can be “any type of behaviour that is not considered as normal, and moves away from customs and expectations of society” (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). Therefore, the concept of deviance is socially constructed. However, crime and deviance are concepts that can easily overlap each other, because all criminal acts are often seen as deviant, but not all deviant acts are considered crimes (Langley et al, 2008).
For instance, murdering someone is seen as a crime and is punished by law, while taking part in a protest can be considered a deviant act, but unless a violent act is committed, just protesting is not perceived as a crime. To be able to make a distinction between crime and deviant behaviour, society had to find a way to condense and dominate undesired behaviours by implementing social order, through either formal or informal control.
Formal control is enforced and relies on police and the justice system to punish anyone that breaks the law, while informal control can be a sanction applied by family or friends, to encourage good behaviour in the future (Langley et al, 2008). The official statistics for the crime in England and Wales for (2010/2011 cited Home Office Statistical Bulletin, 2012, Online) suggests there is a particular link between crime, gender, social class, age and ethnicity.
These official statistics clearly indicates that young males are the major crime offenders. It also provides valuable information, such as revealing the predominant age of criminals, which is between sixteen and twenty four with poor education and unemployed, and that could be influenced by working class males are more likely to be in low-paid, with low working skills, for these reasons criminal behaviour may be used as a source of obtaining money.
It also stipulate information related with the ethnic background and indicates that are the people from mix races that commit more crimes, which could be related with immigrants from others countries that when faced with poor living and economic conditions do not find other options apart from turning to crime. This numerical data from the official statistics are collected from the number of crimes recorded by the police, victim surveys and self-report studies (Langley et al, 2008).
The validity and reliability value of official crime statistics has always been questioned to a certain extent, but there are several reasons why official statistics can be useful: they are inexpensive, can be quickly obtained, and provide detailed quantitative data which is reliable (Langley et al, 2008). For a number of reasons, and because crime can easily go unreported, the reliability of these statistics are subject to error through disparities in defining and reporting cases.
There are several motives for disparities, not always people report all crimes to the police or the police may not record or take action against all offences they know about (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). For that reason, there are quite a few sociological explanations which explain the reasons behind such high proportion of young male committing crimes. Those explanations are mainly centred on social factors that affect them directly, rather than anything else (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008).
The new right approach (cited in Taylor et al, 1998) believe that deviant and criminal behaviour can be explained by the influence of the negative behaviours and lack of good influences that some youngsters have at home. The continuous lack of attention and bad examples from their parents will be reflected in the way youngsters behave, and children will not either understand or accept the norms and values of their society (Taylor et al, 1998). The lack of a good support unit at home will influence young males join delinquent groups in the street, therefore to join and gain status within that group, young males ill be persuaded and pressured by other members of the peer group to participate, learn and enforce criminal and deviant behaviour. Another sociological explanation, related with the Marxism theory, is related with the type of capitalist and materialist society we have now, the access to wealth and status is not available to everyone, resulting in some families being relatively deprived of some luxuries that others might have (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008).
For instance, if a young male belongs sees all of his school friends with the latest mobile phone, and knows that theirs parents are not able to afford to give him one, to not look bad and feel excluded from that group of friends, he might turn to crime to obtain one. The labelling theory also contributes to these explanations, and investigates why some people are labelled as deviant or criminal (Langley et al, 2008). Working class young males can easily be labelled as criminals or deviants by others even without being one, because people do tend to criticise and judge others, for example, just based on looks.
Therefore by stamping someone as criminal and deviant they might be doing more harm than good, since they are pushing them even more towards crime. Having considered some of the sociological explanations for crime and deviance, it is also reasonable to look at some of the most influential sociological theories, functionalism, Marxism and interactionism, would have to say about such high numbers of young males belonging to the working class committing crimes. Although all sociological perspectives have different views, all describe crime and deviance through social justifications (Taylor et al, 1996).
Functionalists’ such as Durkheim (cited in Haralambos & Holborn, 2008), defended that crime and deviance are both unavoidable and necessary for society. By defending that crime is unavoidable and necessary, functionalists support the idea that crime can be a good thing because it demonstrates to all the members of society what is right and wrong behaviour. Crime can also help and boost the economy in a society, by creating jobs, such as police officers, judges or solicitors among others.
On the other hand, functionalists also believed that high levels of crime can cause damage in society, and therefore lose agreement and even lead to the societies’ collapse (Kirby et al, 2000). When looking at this statistics, functionalists will take into consideration the type of socialization that boys receive, while girls tend to be more supervised and are more strictly controlled, boys are not only encouraged to take risks, but also are encouraged to be tough and aggressive.
Young males can turn to crime to show their masculinity as a result of poor educational success or secure employment, they are more likely to turn to robbery and serious street crimes. Although Durkheim (cited in Haralambos & Holborn, 2008) theories, provided good grounds for further studies in this matter, it has several weaknesses. This approach lacks to explain why some people commit crimes and others do not, by partially ignoring the economical inequalities present in society.
It also reflects excessively one of the main characteristics of the functionalism perspective that everything has a purpose in society, the idea that crime is beneficial for society can be debateable, from a victim of crime perspective. Accordingly to Marxists, society is not only controlled, but also is ruled by the capitalist class (Taylor et al, 1998). Marxists are big advocates that the ruling class is able to influence the law to help their interests and requirements.
Therefore, for Marxists, capitalism is the only responsible for all crime and deviancy in society, due to poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity from the lower classes. In spite of this, Marxists, also define the the ruling class as deviant, because the crimes they commit are always to protect their own power and wealth (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). Based on these facts, Marxists would explain the present statistics of crimes, by defending that these boys are being victims of their disadvantage situation.
Meaning the crime rate is so high, not only because of a lack of opportunities but also the lack of education and skills, but mainly they are the result of the lack of support available to make these individuals productive and valued members of society. Marxism also has weaknesses present in their approach, mainly because it states that all criminal behaviour are caused by economic factors, when in reality it can be affected by others such as the environment where these young males grew up or drugs and alcohol.
Similarly, Interactionists look at crime and deviance from other point of view compared to the structuralist way, that both functionalism and Marxism do (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). Instead of looking at crime and deviance as a result of the inequalities between the different social classes and the way society is structured, interactionists believe that crime and deviance is the result of misunderstood perceptions that individuals got from interactions with other individuals (Taylor et al, 1998).
For that reason individuals learn crime and deviance from others and the closer the relationship, the more likely someone is to be influenced. One of the main aspects of the interactionist perspective is that crime and deviance both are originated from the labelling theory (Kirby et al, 2000). And one the young males are labelled as deviants not only will be rejected by family and friends, but will also lose his job and are very likely will get a new one.
Therefore these youngsters will have no other choice than live up to his label and even join criminal the circle. Although interactionism has some acceptable views regarding labelling on crime and deviance, it over simplifies it because not everyone will become criminals just because they have been called criminal. Besides it cannot explain why people commit crimes, but also if crime originates from labelling people and so on, why not all working class do young males are labelled as criminals.
In conclusion, crime is defined and legitimized by punishment, while deviance is defined as socially constructed, because there is not a set definition for what deviance really is. Although crime statistics can provide a real picture of the crime levels, does not come fault free, and does have several irregularities. Finally, though all perspectives have important views why young males are the ones that commit more crimes, it appears the one that stands out and has most substance is Marxism, because it provides a more accurate picture of reality.