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Crime Is A Social Construct Essay

1936 words - 8 pages

CRIME IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTCrime is the product of the social structure; it is embedded in the very fibres of society. In this essay, I aim to explore different theories as to why crime exists within society and how we as a society therefore construct it. Crime is a social construct; it is always in society and is on the increase. It is inevitable. Where does it come from? It comes from legislation, from the making of laws.Functionalists see crime deviance in society as a function, in that it serves to remind us, through public condemnation of those who have broken the rules, of our shared values and norms. Furthermore, they suggest that crime is a result of structural tensions and a lack of ...view middle of the document...

The followers of the Interactionist theory, on the other hand, reject this positivist approach and say that it is due to the internal factors of the individual.The Marxism theory however, is structured towards the accumulation of wealth rather than social need. Edwin H Sutherland was the first sociologist to study this area known as 'White Collar Crime' in 1949. Let us now look at crimes of the powerful and the less powerful. There are two main points; deviance is a product of unequal power relations and equality in general. Despite the fact that the law is in favour of the dominant class, some of its members do break the rules for their own gain. Power and equality affect the quality of deviant acts. Thus, people that are more powerful are more likely to engage in profitable deviant acts such as corporate crime i.e. bribery and corruption in business and politics, misconduct by professionals such as lawyers etc. On the other hand, the powerless are more likely to commit less profitable deviant deeds such as burglary, theft and armed robbery. (Ermann and Lundman 1996) Power, or rather social class, is therefore the key element which determines the type of deviance people are likely to carry out. The powerful are more likely to commit deviant acts because of something that is called 'Relative Deprivation'. This is the feeling of being unable to achieve the high standards they set for themselves, compared with the powerless, whose standards are typically low. Their aspirations are so high that they become less achievable. The more that people experience this Relative Deprivation, the more likely they are to commit deviant acts. (Cookson and Persill 1985)Furthermore, the elite have more legitimate opportunities than the poor worker to commit crime i.e. A banker will have better opportunities to defraud customers for instance, and because of his status, the crime is less likely to be detected, whereas the poor worker would probably have to resort to robbing the bank, a much more visible crime. Furthermore, the powerful are subjected to weaker social control. They have more influence in the making and enforcement of control. The laws against higher status crime, the White Collar crime, are therefore relatively lenient and rarely enforced, but the laws against crime which is committed by those with a lower status, are harsher and more often enforced because they are so visible and detected much more easily. The activities of White Collar crime occur on a daily basis, but there is no public outcry or moral panics about it and therefore no legislation made, whereas, 'street' crime attracts massive law enforcement. As Jeffrey Reiman (2001) so aptly stated, "The rich get richer and the poor get prison".Interactionism was quite popular from 1960s to 1970s. Max Weber and George Herbert Mead favour the Interactionist approach and suggest that crime is a social process, that crime is an interaction between the victim, the police/officials and the offender....

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