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University of Toronto Mississauga
David Brownfield

Chapter 13 Interactionist Theories Strain and conflict theories deal with causes of crime at the level of social structure, however interactionist theories, pay attention to smaller details of social life. Interactionaist theories  Crime is a consequence of interpersonal relationships  Looks at the meanings of interpersonal relationships  Central concept is the deviant career o Deviant career: passage of an individual through the stages of one or more related deviant identities  Centers on the interchanges people have with one another and on the meanings of the interchanges in the past, present and future  Symbolic interactions: a sociological perspective that focuses on the dynamics of how people interpret social situations and negotiate the meaning of these situations with others. It differs from structurally focuses perspectives in seeing individuals as actively creating the social world than just acting within the constraints of culture and social structure  Interactionalist theories of crime are derived from symbolic interactions and is based on three premises: o 1. People act toward the human and non-human objects in their lives according to the meanings those objects have for them o 2. These meanings emerge from interactions among people o 3. The meanings of objectives learned in this manner are applied and modified as individuals interpret how objects and their meaning or particular social situations, the people in them and their reasons for being there  Helps explain the establishment of moral rues, their application through labeling and the long term consequences of these two processes for deviants and for society Deviant Career  Some groups or individuals have enough power to force the label of deviant on less powerful groups or individuals  The labeling process, is not always accurate  Labeling: according to labeling theory, deviance is not a quality of the act but of the label that others attach to it. The application of a label and the response of others to the label may result in person becoming committed to a deviant identity  Career: the sequence of stages through which people in a particular occupational sector move during the course of their employment. It can always be applied to the various states of personal involvement with criminal activity  Careers in youth crime are likely to be prolonged after reaching certain turning points i.e. early interest in delinquent activities or an interest in drugs Primary Deviation  Occurs when an individual commits deviant acts, but fails to adopt a primary self-identity as a deviant  Induces little change in everyday routine or lifestyles  The individual engages in delinquency infrequently  An example: occasionally smoking marijuana supplied by someone else  Occurs in the early stages of the deviant career (between the first deviant act and some indefinite point at which deviance becomes a way of life)  Precondition to deviance is a willingness to engage in it o The individual must have an affinity (innate or acquired) towards a deviant act  Behind a willingness to engage in deviance is a weak commitment to conventional norms and identities  Teenagers drift between the world of respectability and that of deviance  Drift: a psychological state of weak normative attachment to either deviant or conventional ways Secondary Deviation  Occurs when an individual accepts the label of deviant. The result is an adoption of a deviant self-identity that confirms and stabilizes the deviant lifestyle  Occurs at a more advanced stage in the deviant career  Peers are an aspect of youth delinquency  The young offender subculture values peer acceptance o Moral rhetoric’s is an important element of this subculture o Moral rhetoric: the set of claims and assertions deviants make to justify their deviant behavior. The moral rhetoric of a group is an important component of socialization into a deviant identity o The rhetoric of egoism, is most often used by those who still feel guilty about their deviant acts and are usually early offenders who have learned various ways to neutralize the stigma that comes with deviant behavior (i.e. stealing in response to the greed and immorality of shopkeepers whose prices are unfair) o Stigma: a personal characteristic that is negatively evaluated by others and thus distorts and discredits the public identity of the individual. (I.e. a criminal record) o Later on young offenders are more likely to use the instrumental rhetoric, here they stress the cunning and power they bring to bear against people who are otherwise more powerful and uncontrollable (i.e. fraud, deceit and violence are used to pursue deviant aims whenever they appear to pay off, whenever they can benefit from a weak moment in the lives of such people) Agents of Social Control  Those members of society who help check deviant behavior are known as agents of social control  Police, judges, lawmakers, prison personnel, etc.  Groups of ordinal citizens and lawmakers sometimes act as moral entrepreneurs  Moral entrepreneurs: someone who defines new rules and laws or who advocates stricter enforcements of existing laws.  Moral entrepreneurs must construct and argument capable of convincing the c
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