PART C: SOCIAL STRUCTURE THEORIES: SOCIOLOGICAL CRIMINOLOGY
Some criminologists maintain that there should be other causes of crime studied. Study
socioeconomic environment should be examined. There are discernable patterns in crime. We
have noted that crime does vary by such factors as age sex, social class, and for this reason the
criminologists ho focus on theories in next section, maintained that t is impossible to focus on
entrenched patters if we used theories that teat crime as an individual level phenomenon.
Changes in cultural norms impact group behaviour. If we want to understand crime as a cultural
phenomenon, we have to tend to the dynamics and interactions of individuals and important
institutions such as family, schools, workplace etc. They also direct attention to the relationships
of social groups to one another. They start off that giving the deprivations experienced by lower
classes and disadvantage of lower status can be primary source of crime. Three major branches
of criminology that focus on impact of social structure: Strain Theory, Cultural deviance theory,
All strain theories can be traced to Durkheim’s concept of Anomie.
(Greek - a nomos - “without norms”)
Durkheim: term “anomie” used in 2 different ways:
he used the terms in two distinct, non-identical ways.
1. Division of Labour in Society- book
anomic society - one in which norms have broken down or become inoperative during times of
rapid social change
Mechanical to organic solidarity - society assumes an anomic form
forwards theory of crime in social evolution. It examines what occurs in societies during
process of modernization or more specifically the changes that occur in a society in the process
of transition from one of mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity. These were ideal types, and
Durkheim did not believe we can find examples of societies of pure exemplars f one or the other.
All societies were at different stages of progression between the two.
Mechanical solidarity: characteristic of preindustrial society
held together by traditions, shared values, unquestioned beliefs
first and most simple type, this form of solidarity and division of labour is minimal.
Mechanical is use in a paradoxical way and implies to refer to the uniformity of consciousness of
these societies.- in these societies a single normative system holds. So held together by tradition,
shared believes, and unquestioned beliefs. Uniformity of lives, work etc of all members.
Law: enforces uniformity of members
-orientated towards repressing deviation
-uniformity in mechanical society: “collective conscience” second term used and refers to all
types of uniformity. No mysteries and everyone knows and accepts the rules. No matter how
homogenous a society is in beliefs and successful socialization of people to accept these, there
will always be many possible differences that exist among members. Societies can not be formed
or continue to exist if individuals had to continuously make sacrifices of their identity. So like Baccaria, Durkheim accepts that humans are an abyss of desires, and we will always want to
have more than what we possess. “Malady of infinite aspiration”- Despotic personality
punishment of criminals - plays role in maintenance of social solidarity
collective conscience would help quell this infinite aspiration, however, more rigorous
measures would be needed at times and the strongest form of pressure that society can exert in
attempt to ensure conformity is when people are labelled as criminals and sanctioned. Criminals
are extremely important to society, and that crime should be thought of as functional- according
to Durkheim, when we identify a person as criminal and punish them, the rest of society who has
obeyed collective conscience are explicitly encouraged to think of themselves as superior to
criminal and to revel in it. This sense of superiority to criminals, and feelings of us being more
good, admirable is the social source of solidarity in mechanical societies and therefore that is
why crime is functional.
when criminal is punished with repressive sanctions, the primary goal is not retribution, nor
deterrence, but the reason why society responds with repressive sanctions, is that if they did not,
the rest of the law-abiding society would feel totally demoralized.
eg. Student that did not write exam on exam date and asked around about questions receives
a 98% while the person writing on the date got 62%. The good person would feel resentment etc,
but if the bad person was asked for paperwork and could not do so and received a punishment,
the good person may feel good and hope in society and law again.
Yet -society without a crime is impossible
(constraints of the collective conscience too rigid)
even if we had a city of angels we would still have activities set out as criminal and some as
not. In order to ensure that those that obey rules would feel the social piety.
in addition, he was adamant about a society with crime and no crime was impossible due to
the existence of diverse people. If we had a society with no crime then it would be a society that
was dysfunctional- because the restraints of the collective conscious would be so rigid and
oppressive that we would have a pathological situation. We would also be eradicating the
possibility of progressive social change. Social change is brought in by those who challenge the
status quo. Those who oppose the constraints of the collective conscience. During time of
Socrates, Jesus, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther etc were labelled as criminals. Crime is the
price a society pays for the possibility of progress.
mother in law and grandson in grocery store example- if child never misbehaved then the
child would be pathological and so controlled with no independence and end up with a clone of
yourself. There should be opportunity for rebel behaviour.
To eliminate possibility of crime, would eliminate possibility for social change.
Different pattern of interaction going on. The different segments of society depend on one
another in highly organized division of labour. People rely on each other not on beliefs etc, but
instead on interdependent needs. The products and services those in society produce. According
to Durkheim if society is characterised by this and there is moral diversity, there would be
mediating institutions to ensure social cohesion.
The primary source of this control would be occupational groups which would ensure moral
regulation. And push to conformity.
e.g., postindustrial society - division of labour; connected by interdependent needs for each
others’ services/production Law: regulates society/functional law
Anomie =pathological state of the economy
-constant property of industrial society
-theory of crime set in the context of an overall theory of modernization
according to him in the book Anomie is a disease that affects men and women that arises in
process of modernization and primarily occurs because of sources of social control in mechanical
solidarity are less potent and effective in societies of Organic solidarity, in consequence Anomie
becomes a constant.
We saw religion losing some influence over behaviour of individuals, and a shift in
government policies and saw lez effair in non interference of government in business matters,
guilt no longer an influence. The lack of unifying set of rules, what was formerly kept at bay
(Anomie) became common feature of industrial life.
As societies made the transition to Organic Societies, are the prediction that the society would
see greater toleration of behaviours and variety of behaviours from earlier times. Also, predicted
there would be expansion of functional law- administrative codes for day to day interactions and
trade ( highway traffic act- wouldn’t be called immoral if broke law)). There would be change in
purpose of punishment from that of oppressing deviance to restitution. Finally, crime rates would
increase, due to the less clear cut rules, rules more fluid, norms became less a part of entrenched
believes or collective conscience.
If the ideal amount of social regulation to curb these malady of aspirations then social
maladies would occur and one of those would be crime. – Anomie- state of inadequate
Anomie occurs through changes of modernization and finally that Anomie is constant feature of
2. Suicide- Book
anomie: pathological mental state of individual who is insufficiently regulated by society
“malady of infinite aspirations”
e.g., weariness, disillusionment, agitation, anger, “infinite disgust with life”
Anomie is not a product of industrialized society but of individual mental state. In times of
popular war there is a rise in collective sentiments and patriotism and a decrease in suicide. The
reason is because during the period of such crisis, the rules are enunciated differently then in
normal times. A pulling together and defining us vs them and throwing around labels. Allows for
conformity and regulation.
“Strain Theories” Variants
Robert Merton: modified version of concept of anomie to fit social/economic/cultural conditions
found in modern U.S. society
Durkheim: anomie - breakdown in the ability of society to regulate appetites
Merton: appetites culturally induced
some people revered and seen as more deserving of rewards. Inequality is normalized.
Hereditary privledge system was major in Europe and America was seen as an open society
which implied that all enjoyed opportunity to succeed. Therefore, immigrants came to America.
“American dream” Durkheim: culture - functioned to limit the aspirations of individuals
Merton: culture: American Dream- money and success was available equally to all.
Merton did not believe that humans were not naturally of wanting more, but he believed our
American dream rather than suppressing appetites, but worked to feed and grow appetite by
suggesting we can flourish in America limitlessly.
Merton: anomie: lack of symmetry between the culture (the American Dream) and social
Structure- Anomie was built in society because it could not lead to limitless opportunities to all
and only minority would ever enj