The crime rate of societies differs with each other. If the crime rates of European countries and American countries were compared, the results would be different. The same is true if countries from the East and West were compared in regards to their crime rates. This can be attributed perhaps to different norms and concepts on crime of different societies, as well as the overall way of life of the people in any given area. If this were analyzed further, it will be noted that culture plays a role in the way that crime is viewed in a given society.
This essay deals with the concept of culture, especially in the way that it relates to crime. Culture, Society and Criminality Before juxtaposing crime and culture, however, it would be necessary to define the overly used and abused concept of culture. Generally, culture is the overall pattern of the way of life of a given community of people together with the structures of symbols and meanings that they attach to various aspects of their society. This also includes the morality of the society as well as the collection of acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors (Krober & Kluckhohn, 1952).
Since the moral system is included here, it impinges upon the conception of what is right, as well as the way that people in a given society view law, together with the commission of crimes. Given that culture affects the overall lifestyle of peoples in a society, it is inevitable that crimes are also affected by culture. For example, in a study conducted by Karstedt (2001), she mentioned that culture has been recognized by criminology as one of the factors influencing crime. The study took note of various social control means in Asian countries with low crime rate such as Japan.
Karstedt called for the introduction of methods and ways through which cultures may be effectively compared to study the differences in culture and its impact on crime. By conducting an extensive survey in one of the Southern States in the US, Warner (2003) found out that cultural disorganization affect crimes. Her findings show that a prevailing culture conditioned by disadvantage in the society and the disconnection of social ties have significant impact on the level of social relationships and ties of the community. This in turn impacts informal modes of social control in the society.
Without these informal social control, it would the tendency for crimes to be committed becomes stronger. On the other hand, Leonardsen (2002) investigated the apparent anomaly of Japan—an urban country with very low crime rate. In his study, Leonardsen pointed out to apparent loss of too much individualism in Japan while focusing on the overall community. He argued that although the loss of individuality can be seen in Japan, it has much to teach to Western countries, especially regarding identity, obligations and social connections.
Conclusion Based on the studies mentioned above, it can be seen that indeed culture has a significant impact on crime. Crime cannot only be prevented through formal means such as law, police force, and the prison system. Rather, there are informal institutions and norms that help prevent or perhaps encourage the occurrence of crime. When social ties are severed and a “negative” culture of the disadvantaged spawns, social controls are weakened, thus increasing the likelihood of the occurrence of crime.
A focus on the community’s norms, however, can result to a more orderly society with low incidence of crime. These studies are congruent with Black’s theory that if the culture and the means of informal social control in a society are weak, then the tendency for that society is to have laws that are more powerful as compared with other societies with stronger social control means (Black, 1976). A combination of effective laws and informal social controls, are however necessary so that order can be kept within the society. Reference Black, D. (1976). The Behavior of Law.
San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Karstedt, S. (2001). Comparing Cultures, Comparing Crime: Challenges, Prospects and Problems for a Global Criminology. Crime, Law and Social Change, 36 (3), 285-308. Kroeber, A. L. & Kluckhohn, C. (1952). Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum. Leonardsen, D. (2002). The Impossible Case of Japan. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 35 (2), 203-229. Warner, B. D. (2003). The Role of Attenuated Culture in Social Disorganization Theory. Criminology, 41 (1), 73-98.
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