Crime is a social construct Discuss. This composition will look at crime and its different criminological interpretations. Crime is an umbrella word which covers a diverse range of issues and is dependant upon the theoretical stand point of the writer. Although the wordings of the explanations differ, the implications are consistent (Newburn, 2007. Doherty, 2005). Mclaughlin et al (2006) seems the most relevant for the purpose. They separate crime into three key constituent parts. These are harm, social agreement and the official societal reaction.
There are different theoretical interpretations of crime. The product of culturally-bounded social interaction is crime; which is the violation of the social contract (Newburn, 2007. Young, 1995). Societal responses are different dependant upon the society. Theft in the UK may result in caution or non-custodial sentence for a first offence; whereas in Saudi Arabia the offender would lose a hand. Deviance can be perceived as being actions or behaviour which although may not be criminal in nature are at odds with the social norms of the society.
Promiscuity is legal, though is perceived as deviant (particularly in females due to patriarchal societal values). Homosexual behaviour, which was previously illegal, has undergone a shift in the moral attitudes of society. The moral’s of society regarding certain activities is not set in stone and it alters over time. This is the view rule-relativists have of crime, as what is appropriate to the society at any given moment in time and may change due to alterations in societal values. Social constructs are the institutions, agencies, judicial bodies and any other mechanisms that are produced to implement social order.
These social constructs are not natural phenomena; they are created by the hegemony. Behaviour or activities that offend the social codes & practices of a particular community. These codes and practices may be different due to cultural differences. Legal and social codes are not always identical. Laws are the mortar that binds societies and implement its norms. A Muslim man may marry more than one wife in certain countries. In the USA a Mormon may also marry more than one wife. He may bring both wives into this country with both having legal rights as his wife.
However even though his culture would allow him to marry another wife, in this country he wouldn’t be allowed to. A man in the UK would not be allowed more than one wife. If he did marry a second wife he would be charged with bigamy. This crime doesn’t harm anyone; however it is classed as being against the social norms of British society. A number of crimes are made due to the state acting as a moral guardian to its community. At the present in Indonesia it is illegal to chew chewing gum, conversely in the UK this would not be seen as a reasonable criminal offence.
Governments are not beyond contravening their own statutes, as in the case of prisoners that have been transferred to Guantanamo bay and the acknowledgement that water boarding (a form of torture) had been used upon a few of these prisoners. As well as the state justice there are systems which provide social control, such as private security etc. “They comprise the numerous forms of social control of crime and deviance that are part of group life” (Henry, 1994). There are informal modes of social control from local communities, such as being “sent to Coventry! The legal standpoint is simply what is enacted by society as criminal. On the issue of harm Lord Denning’s ruling in Donoghue v Stevenson holds “what would the man on the Clapham omnibus think”. Legally in addition to the criminal act there has to be a guilty mind, mens rea as well as the criminal act, actus reus. There has to be a legal capacity to commit crime, Doli incapax means that those less than eleven years of age and those suffering from mental illness are seen as not being capable of committing crimes.
There are also mitigating circumstances; reasons why a criminal act may be seen as reasonable. This can be observed as being the contextual component; evidence of this can be seen in the case of the mignonette (Morrison, 2005). The classicist classification of crime is activities which have a negative impact upon the individuals and upon their property of the state’s electorate. Classicists do not take into account that there might be other factions with conflicting aims or moral codes. This can be perceived prior to the break up of the former Yugoslavia, where each faction had separate societal views.
The conservative view of crime is that anything that threatens the social order should be criminal. This follows the classicist view insofar as that but they also include crimes which damage the integrity and morals of society. Those dealing with new deviance theory assert that there needs to be two separate parties. One party behaves or commits certain actions that another party who has differing morality categorizes that party as deviant. The factions in society with greater power impose their moral codes (Young, 1995).
With new deviance theory the faction with the most power controls the morals; this doesn’t necessarily translate to being the majority of society. The Marxist viewpoint on crime is from of class and the intensification of social control of society. This viewpoint perceives capitalist societies as being breeding grounds for criminal activities. Theorists believe that only socialist societies can have any expectation of being without crime. Sheptycki (2006) states that “the roots of crime lie in the social structural inequalities of wealth and power. Capitalist societies promote individual interests over social welfare. The radical left criminological theory is that the nature of an advanced industrial society with its class system and its natural patriarchy is the cause of the prevalence of crime. They furthermore view crime as being more of a predicament for the poor. The way laws have been created can be shown in the disparity in sentencing for property theft when compared to white-collar crime. Positivist criminology views crime and criminal activity as explainable through the natural sciences.
Positivist criminologists look for specific causes for crime through scientific methodology. Whether this is because of biological, psychological and sociological disciplines to be able to quantify criminal behaviour. Positivists deem that there is a “consensus of value in society that can be scientifically ascertained” (Young, 1995). To bring to a close crime is a social construct. Crime is in addition a component of the larger issue of deviance. It is a consequence of social norms which the government has enacted into laws. The state has the infrastructure to enforce the society’s behavioural codes.
By means of these criminological schools all of any given states laws can be identified. Having observed these, the new deviance theory was the most rational, building as it does on previous schools of thought. This holds that the faction with the greater societal power holding the reins to society’s moral codes. At the present time this looks to be direction in which western societies are on the face of it is heading. The Iraq war was implemented by the powerful elite of society.
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