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SOC205 Lecture 1

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Paula Maurutto

Theories in Criminology – SOC205 Overview of the Book (Table 1.1: Criminological Theory in Context) Social Context Criminological Theory Enlightenment—mid 1700s to late Classical school 1700s Rise of social Darwinism, science, Early positivist school— biological positivism and medicine—mid 1800s into 1900s Mass immigration, the Great Chicago school, anomie/strain, social control and social bonding, Depression, and post-World War II differential association stability—1900 to the early 1960s Social turmoil—1965 to the late Labeling, social conflict, Marxist, feminist 1970s 1980 to the early 1990s and beyond Postmodern, new penology, culture of control – rejecting conservative theories Conservative era—1980 to the early Deterrence, rational choice, broken windows, routine activity— 1990s and beyond rejecting mainstream criminology The new century—2000 to today Biosocial, life-course/developmental—becoming a criminal Crime prevention, risk, surveillance studies The midterm test will focus on the first 3 to four sets of criminological theories. The first half focuses on individual level factors – why do people commit crimes? The second half looks at structural and social factors: how does the legal system produce offenders? How does it produce social inequities? Near the ending, we’ll look at new developments in the field. The Context and Consequences of Theory Why is studying crime and creating theories important? Theories create an approach to analyzing a problem. Where do these theories come from? Why do they rise at certain points in time (historically)? They are typically drawn from some form of sustained research. Introduction Crime is a complex phenomenon and a difficult topic to systematically study. Crime commentary often exaggerates and sensationalizes the problem. Why does it occur (causes)? Many reasons Early theories assume a general theory can give a complete explanation Criminological Theories Theories reflect the social, economic, political and historical contexts in which they emerge. Things which were illegal may change now. Examples? Being homosexual was illegal in the Criminal Code up until the 1960s – radical shift in a short period of time, now advocating their rights Adultery Abortion: laws struck down so not necessarily legal, but no longer illegal & many clinics have opened services to those seeking one Prostitution: few weeks ago Supreme Court struck down the laws – communication (exchange of money) was illegal, not being a sex trade worker. Higher class workers: formal exchange, lots of time to assess risks and negotiate cost, hired bodyguards for security. Street workers: most vulnerable because no time to assess risks and make quick decisions  so became most marginalized. Can have new laws enacted by the government, but just as with abortion, government probably won’t. Alcohol: prohibition legislation, now highly regulated, word that some new changes will occur soon (making locally made wine available) Marijuana: still illegal but laws around it are changing rapidly, laws are enforced differentially (Toronto police don’t really care, have more serious crimes to deal with), huge amounts of Canadians use it so doesn’t make sense in continuing to criminalize it, less harmful than alcohol, allowed for medical usage  becoming seen as more of a health issue (addiction) than a criminal problem, massive change in how we see drug users (need intervention not punishment) Different behaviors become criminal at different points in time Bullying: used to be tolerated, but now is being heavily penalized  reversal in understanding interactions in normal school setting Historical Explanations of Crime Spiritual Explanations (demonology) Classical School of Criminology (Cessara Beccaria 1738-1794; Jeremy Bentham) Early Theories Early theories of crime tended to locate the cause of crime within individuals – in their souls, their wills, or their body constitutions Spiritual Explanations Prior to theories, much causes of crime were religiously informed • Stressed the conflict between absolute good and absolute evil; people who committed crimes were thought to be possessed by evil spirits (referred to as sinful demons) Notion of conflict between good and evil Some people are good and some people are bad • “Devil made me do it” explanations Some evil spirit controls them causing them to engage in criminal acts (no willpower) This was around for many centuries People looked for explanations in religion for many things, such as natural disasters = God is angry • When penitentiaries were constructed, they were thought of places for penitents who were sorry for their sins Places where people go to repent for their sins  lots of torture and punitive procedures Groups of people were identified as bad, such as witches • The major problem with spiritualistic explanations is that they cannot be tested scientifically or validated empirically Can’t test these ideas because they are not based on scientific evidence Naturalistic Explanations  • Due to the inability to test spiritualistic theories scientifically, modern theory often rely on explanations based in the physical world, which are called, naturalistic explanations • Naturalistic theories and spiritualistic explanations have in common their origins in the ancient world • naturalistic theories seek explanations that are more rooted in physical facts The Classical School: Criminal as Calculator Began emerging mid-1700s Reaction to the many punishments given to individuals by different groups; punishments tended to be cruel (barbaric forms of torture); no consistency Influenced by enlightenment during the 18 century Natural rights of humans began to emerge • The most important feature of the classical school of thought is its emphasis on the individual criminal as a person who is capable of calculating what he or she wants to do (free will to do what they please) • Individuals were guided by a pain and pleasure princi
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