Theories Compare and Contrast Theories Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

As mentioned earlier, Sellin placed emphasis on the cultural diversity that was found in a modern society, in which wile criminal law contains the crime norms of inappropriate and deviant behavior, the conduct norms of less powerful groups that reflect their own specific social situations would conflict with the crime norms mentioned earlier, leading to the inculcation of criminal and deviant behavior among the members of less dominant and influential groups. Therefore, as diverse cultures permeate society, deviant behaviors would grow as a result of increased conflict, felt Sellin. Conflict can be of two main types: primary, which may occur when the norms of two different societies happen to conflict with each other, and secondary, in which a single culture is involved, and in which conflict may occur over a period of time. ("Introduction to sociology," n. d.)

When one stops to analyze culture conflict theory and its relationship to criminal behavior, one would come to the realization that conflict theory and criminology are closely inter-related, and this would include the study of deviant and criminal behaviors. Take for example the study that was conducted by the GAO, to find out whether or not the race of either the victim or of the defendant would cast an influence over the capital sentencing process in any way. Fifty three criminal cases were studied as a part of this analysis, and to everyone's surprise, it was found that there was indeed a close inter-relationship between culture, social learning, conflict and crime. (Vito; Maahs; Holmes, 2007)

The GAO study revealed these facts: in almost 82% of the cases, it was found that the race of the victim had influenced the end sentencing, of whether the defendant would receive the death penalty or be charged with capital murder. This was found to be especially true in cases where the victim was white and the defendant, black. In short, evidence was able to prove that the victim's race and culture was a strong influence on the case at every juncture throughout the criminal justice system process, especially at the early stages where the prosecutorial decision to either seek the death penalty or to proceed further to trial would be taken. This evidence was able to prove that there could be a very strong 'race of victim' influence over the justice system, in which more often than not, blacks, the less dominant cultural group, would be dominated by the more dominant white group, and as far as criminals were concerned, the more dominant group would make the decisions concerning their indictment and prosecution. (Vito; Maahs; Holmes, 2007)

The conflict explanation of the criminal justice system suggests that those who enjoy the power to make laws would make them, with their own interests, or rather the interests of their own group in mind. Taken in terms of sociology, this theory is often taken as a starting point to explain criminal and deviant behaviors. According to the tenets of sociology, criminal conduct may well originate when a less dominant or powerful group tries to adhere to the various norms as dictated by their own group, while at the same time violating the norms as dictated by the other group of individuals who may be more dominating than this one, while believing that he was acting normally and within the norms of normal behaviors. Frederick Thrasher, an eminent sociology theorist, studied 1313 gangs in order to analyze criminal and deviant behaviors, when they are taken within the set of norms that are dictated by the more powerful society. He found that one dominant activity followed by this group was that of drinking, gambling and promiscuous sexual activities, and it was evident that these were the values of the gangs, and that these values would carry over to almost all their other activities. (Vito; Maahs; Holmes, 2007)

Perhaps deviant behavior had arisen because of the basic conflict between the norms that had been set by different groups of individuals, living and operating within the same society. Another example of culture leading to conflict is evidenced by the recent curbs imposed on the practice of female circumcision. While certain cultures believe that a female must be circumcised, for whatever reason, and practice this activity within their country, this is banned within the United States of America, where it is considered to be an illegal act. This is a perfect example of the norms of the dominant culture becoming the deciding factor in deciding what exactly is a criminal or a deviant act, and what is not. (Vito; Maahs; Holmes, 2007)

One must remember the fact that social learning theory can be used in the same way as culture and conflict theory in explanation of criminal and deviant behaviors, in which the social learning theory is taken as a means of explaining how the criminal acquired his criminal behavioral traits within the society. The basic proposition is that the learning process as such takes place within a context of social culture and interactions, while at the same time emphasizing on the proposal that such learning would take place within the basic social context in which learning in general would take place. The group may consist of family and friends, but it may also include both direct and indirect interactions that the individual would have within his normal sphere of activities, which may include mass media, the Internet, computer games, and so on. It must be noted that it is when an individual's patterns of differential association happen to be associated with a greater level of exposure to criminal and deviant behaviors that the greater the chances are that this individual would choose to engage in deviant or criminal behaviors. The social learning process is a complex one, and it is inclusive of reciprocal effects, in which deviant behavior as a social learning variable is taken into account. (Akers; Jensen, n. d.)

To conclude, it must be stated that social learning theory and culture conflict theory both have an impact on criminal activity, criminal behaviors, and on the manner in which society responds to criminal behavior as far as prevention and punishment are concerned. Perhaps lawmakers would consider these theories before awarding punishment for criminal behavior, although such behavior can by no means be condoned just because it may be explained with the help of theorization. Perhaps in future human society would be able to break down its groups so that there may be more peace and less criminal activity and behaviors within the society.


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