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Crime Theories and Sociology
Crime theories and sociological perspective
Crime is an overt omission or action through which a person breaks the law, hence the action is punishable and the person may be convicted in the court of law for the said action. It is the subject of great debate in sociology and criminology that what constitutes crime. Since deviation from law has to be considered as crime, the nature and context of deviation becomes important while investigating crime. The investigation regarding crime assumes much importance since defining crime leads to setting up policing arrangements and budgetary allocations for crime prevention and mitigation. Moral and legal boundaries of a society are established by the definitions of crime. Crime is different from sin; hence this paper investigates the sociological perspective of crime and further presents theories regarding crime with respect to modern day.
The sociological perspective
Crime and criminal behavior is linked with the societal factors and the social behavior. This is the sociological perspective of crime that fully takes into consideration, the behavior of criminal as well as the society around the criminal. Since there has been great influence of finding out the biological and psychological grounds of crime, contemporary perspectives on crime explain the origination of crime out of social contexts (Guarino-Ghezzi and Trevino, 23). Thus, the reliance in understanding upon sociological perspective of crime has led to the emergence of sociological criminology. In this regard, Emile Durkheim, the renowned French sociologist observed that scientific study of society and social behavior could lead us to determine the occurrence of crime as well.
The sociological perspective of crime also hold true that although crime may be an individual action, the motivation for crime is not strictly a result of individual psychology but has its base in social psychology. The sociologists believe that factors such as affiliation with specific social groups, with religion, politics of larger society, and relationship to specific type of occupation may result in a person committing specific type of crime. By and large, the individual is indirectly influenced by the social forces to act in a certain way that amounts to committing of crime. Since change and progress is also related to collective social endeavors, hence sociologists observe that a free society will have crime and criminals as a normal condition. To eliminate crime and criminal behavior, a society has to enforce strict codes of conduct and deviation to any minor or major code of conduct (law) is penalized.
Sociologists also hold criminal and crime as an agent of change. Thus, any society where crime is restricted by enforcing strict laws and curbing the independence of individuals, the chances of progressive change are also minimal. While investigating about crime, sociologists are mainly concerned with two questions, that why the criminals commit crime and why some societies are found committing crime more than others? Thus social factors that lead to individuals' and societies' criminal behavior are investigated. Social structure perspective outlines that behaviors are predictable based on expected structure of society. The sociological perspective holds true that a broken social structure, where societal forces are weak to influence the behavior of an individual, the rate of crime will be high. Thus, social disorganization leads to crime in societies. Societies having more disorganization face more crime. Anomie theory of crime is also part of the sociological perspective whereby Anomie refers to the strain that an individual feels in attaining the success earmarked by the society around him/her and lack of legitimate source of attaining that socially defined success (Guarino-Ghezzi and Trevino, 29).
Thus, scholars such as Robert K. Merton mentioned that societies with concentration of poor people have higher crime rates. Meaning by that in poorer sections of society, people are more constrained by the lack of legitimate opportunities to achieve the socially constructed benchmarks of success and this leads them to commit crimes to achieve success through illegitimate sources. It may be true that poorer sections of society are also more disorganized socially. With the sociological perspective, the social learning theory implies that people learn crime through close relations and social affiliations. The differential association theory of crime is also a prominent theory that explains sociological perspective of crime. This theory implies that to learn the criminal behavior, that is the base of crime, the individual has to learn three things. These are learning the methods of committing crime, learning appropriate motivations and aspirations for committing crime, and learning the favorable definitions of reasons to commit crime (Guarino-Ghezzi and Trevino, 30).
Theories of crime
During recent years, criminologists have developed a contemporary perspective on crime and understanding criminology. This is called the 'thematic convergence' whereby an analytical tool is used to assess the appropriateness of criminal theory with respect to the nature or place of crime. This implies that the thematically convergent perspective of crime makes use of different perspectives and theories of crime. This may include the sociological, psychological, physiological, economics related, and biological perspective of crime. This also means that researchers and criminologists are interested in taking advantage of the crime knowledge by integrating the theories, thus offsetting the limitation of theories in specific circumstances.
Socio-biological theory of crime
As discussed earlier, the contemporary theories of crime have tended to integrate theoretical ideas of more than one theory regarding crime. Socio-biological theory is also among such theories in which sociological and biological perspective of crime and criminology have been synthesized. James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein have presented this account of crime in which both sociology and biology have been involved for determining the behavior of criminals (Walklate, 45). Wilson and Herrnstein have argued that crime is disproportionately carried out by young men living in large cities. The degree of young men in urban settings committing crime is much higher than the elder people and women in general. This implies that not only the authors have involved the biological characteristics of criminals but also social construction, the reference to urban settings. The contemporary researchers have also held the point-of-view that there are very few individuals that have fully internalized the notion of abiding by the law. This implies that large number of people commit crime as soon as they obtain appropriate social and environmental conditions. This perspective also supports the theories presented by sociologists. Culture, age, and gender, all have been termed as the variables of committing crime and with variance in each of the aforementioned factor; the expected rate of crime varies.
Rational choice theory
Rational choice theory of crime was effectively presented by Clarke. The theory takes into account the situational determinants of crime. While criticizing the earlier researchers that propagated the sociological and biological perspective of crime, the proponents of rational choice theory of crime held that opinion that man is reasonably motivated by costs and benefits of their actions. Thus, when a criminal acts in a certain way, he/she makes a rational choice. The criminal seeks money, excitement, revenge, or any other purpose which is dear to him/her. Thus, when an individual make decisions to pursue such desires or motives, he/she transcends the legal boundaries and commits crime. The offender is motivated by an available target and that there is no authority or figure that can prevent that action of crime. This theory is aimed at managing the crime as it heavily relies on the situational factors that encourage, compel, or motivate a person to commit crime. This theory also implies that if an individual is negated with the opportunity and motivation to commit crime, there can be reduction in crime rate. The theory has given rise to situational emphasis by criminologists in restricting the crime events and making them more difficult to take place. This theory supports the notion that change in physical environment of potential crime scene may limit the…[continue]
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