Just Sociology

Exploring Sociological Perspectives on Crime and Deviance: Theories and Solutions

Throughout history, societies have struggled to understand why individuals engage in criminal and deviant behavior. Sociological perspectives on crime and deviance seek to explain this phenomenon by examining the various social, cultural, and economic factors that influence human behavior.

This article will explore the key theories in the field of criminology, including functionalism, social control theory, Merton’s strain theory, subcultural theory, traditional Marxism, interactionism, neo-Marxism and left realism. The article will also examine left realism solutions to these issues, including working with the system and multiple fronts solutions.

Functionalism

Functionalism is a sociological perspective that focuses on the regulation and integration of individuals in a society. This theory posits that societies are composed of interconnected parts, and each part plays a necessary role in maintaining the stability of the whole.

When these roles are fulfilled, society is in a state of equilibrium. However, when individuals engage in crime and deviance, they disrupt this equilibrium, and the society experiences change.

As Emile Durkheim argued in his seminal work “Suicide,” “society of saints” is impossible to achieve as some degree of deviance is always present in society.

Social Control Theory

Social Control Theory explains that informal agencies of social control, such as family, friends, and community, are essential in regulating behavior in contemporary society. These entities provide a sense of attachment to individuals, which can significantly impact whether or not someone engages in deviant behavior.

Social Control theorists, such as Travis Hirschi, emphasize that the strength of these attachments is crucial, and those with weaker bonds are more susceptible to engaging in criminal activity. Merton’s Strain Theory

Merton’s Strain Theory argues that deviance occurs when individuals feel pressure to achieve socially approved goals but lack the means to achieve them.

The success goals and socially approved means can differ across social classes, with some individuals experiencing a strain, anomie, when their experiences don’t align with socially approved means or goals. This strain can lead people to deviant behavior as a means of achieving their goals or expressing their discontent with society.

Subcultural Theory

Subcultural theories explain deviance as a result of subcultural norms and values that differ from mainstream culture. These subcultures often arise when individuals experience status frustration and feel marginalized in society, as is the case with the working-class.

This marginalization can lead to the emergence of subcultures that reject mainstream norms and values and adopt deviant behaviors in their place.

Traditional Marxism

Traditional Marxism views Capitalisms class structure as the origin of deviance and crime. The bourgeoisie controls the legal system and laws in a capitalist society to protect their private property interests.

This legal structure serves as an ideological tool to discourage working-class individuals from participating in revolutionary acts. Capitalist societies also create economic and social conditions that lead to hardship and poverty, which triggers criminal behavior.

Therefore, the solution to this problem is for a full economic transformation and workers’ control of the system.

Interactionism

Interactionism emphasizes that what is perceived as criminal or deviant is socially constructed. Labelling theory posits that once someone is labeled as a criminal or deviant, they are treated as such, and many are not given another chance in society.

Moral panic theory emphasizes how the media sensationalizes social problems and often portrays marginalized groups as deviant, which informs the criminal justice system’s response.

Neo-Marxism

Neo-Marxism views capitalism as the source of marginalization and the origin of moral panics that define certain behaviors as deviant. Capitalism creates marginalities that lead to an acceptance of deviant behavior among some individuals or groups.

Because capitalist societies create inequality and deprivation, these societies also cultivate a culture that creates one group of people identified by their social status to be criminal, which is part of the social order.

Left Realism

Left Realism’s main objective is to prioritize the working class’s concerns when examining the problems of crime and deviance. Left Realists recognize that working-class crime frequently results from marginalization, relative deprivation, and subcultures that emerge in response to these problems.

The proposed solutions include Community policing, improving the lives of victims, and fighting against poverty.

Working with the System

Left Realists suggest that working with the system can help tackle crime. This approach involves the implementation of crime prevention strategies that aim to improve victim’s lives by providing them with support and resources to reduce the likelihood of future victimization.

Another aspect of this approach is to improve the working-class population’s life quality and, in turn, decrease the prevalence of deviant behavior.

Multiple Fronts Solutions

Using multiple interventions that address marginalization, relative deprivation, and poverty can help curb deviant behavior. Community policing is an example of one such intervention.

This strategy emphasizes community involvement in deciding how local law enforcement operates, which helps increase accountability and improve police-community relations. Community policing advocates the importance of police becoming intrinsically involved with communities to foster trust and increase their effectiveness in preventing crime.

Dealing with poverty, underemployment and improving education opportunities can increase individuals’ chances of improving their economic prospects and reducing their susceptibility to criminal activity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is no single theory that can fully address the complexities of crime and deviance. Sociological perspectives on crime and deviance have attempted to explain the phenomenon by examining the various social, cultural, and economic factors that influence human behavior.

These theories offer valuable insights into the underlying causes of criminal and deviant behavior and offer solutions that take into consideration the root causes of the problem. By using a multi-level approach of addressing economic inequalities, providing social and economic safety nets, implementing policies that strengthen community policing and addressing individual factors like attachment and social bonds, we can work towards a more just and safe society.

In conclusion, this article explored various sociological perspectives on crime and deviance, including functionalism, social control theory, Merton’s strain theory, subcultural theory, traditional Marxism, interactionism, neo-Marxism, and left realism. It discussed the significance of the theories in explaining underlying causes and providing solutions that consider economic, social, and individual factors.

Understanding these perspectives can help us develop strategies that prioritize working-class concerns and address the root causes of deviant behavior, ultimately leading to a safer and just society. FAQs:

Q: What is the main difference between subculture theory and strain theory?

A: Subcultural theory emphasizes deviance as a result of subcultural norms and values that differ from mainstream culture, while strain theory emphasizes deviance as a result of pressure to achieve socially approved goals and a lack of the means to achieve them. Q: What is the main problem with the traditional Marxist perspective on crime and deviance?

A: The traditional Marxist view argues that capitalism’s class structure is the origin of deviance and crime but does not take into account the individual and cultural factors that also play a role. Q: How does left realism suggest we address crime and deviance?

A: Left realism suggests we prioritize the working-class concerns and address the root causes of deviant behavior by using a multi-level approach of addressing economic inequalities, providing social and economic safety nets, and implementing policies that strengthen community policing. Q: What is the difference between interactionism theories and other sociological perspectives on crime and deviance?

A:

Interactionism theories, such as labelling theory and moral panic theory, emphasize that what is perceived as criminal or deviant is socially constructed, while other theories focus on underlying social, cultural, and economic factors. Q: How does social control theory explain deviant behavior?

A: Social control theory posits that informal agencies of social control, such as family, friends, and community, are essential in regulating behavior in contemporary society by providing a sense of attachment to individuals.

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