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Chapter 7 Notes

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Malcolm Mac Kinnon

CHAPTER 7InequalityCanadian Attitudes Toward Crime y For the last three decades when asked to identify the top 10 social issues that concern them Canadians have consistently placed crime among their top three violent crime in particular is on the risey In 2001 about 7 in 10 expressed support for making the Young Offenders Act tougher while the same number supported the occasional use of the death penaltyy Since we commonly think of criminals as the bad guys we might be excused for thinking that Canada contains a disproportionately large number of bad people who have broken the law for sociologists however this is an oversimplification for two reasons First the term crime simply indicates a technical violation of the criminal law knowing that someone has broken the law tells us little about his or her moral character and whether he or she is good or badSecond it would be useful to bear in mind that a list of famous people who have been labelled as criminals would include Socrates Jesus Martin Luther Louis Riel Mahatma Gandhi Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela for most people today these historical figures are heroes Most of you would consider the actions taken by the Nazis in Germany rather than the actions of Jesus or Martin Luther to be deviant or criminal that is because norms and laws have changed dramatically section 319 of the Criminal Code prohibits the wilful promotion of hatred against any identifiable group or any section of the public distinguished by colour race sexual orientation religion or ethnic groupIt is evident then that definitions of deviance and crime change over time for example homosexuality used to be considered a crime and then a mental illness but an increasing proportion of Canadians now recognize homosexuality as a legitimate sexual orientationThe Social Definition of Deviance and Crime Types of Deviance and Crime y Deviance involves breaking a norm deviance is not merely a departure from the statistical average but rather a violation of an accepted rule of behavioury People who are observed committing more serious acts of deviance are typically punished either informally or formally informal punishment is mild may involve raised eyebrows gossip ostracism shaming or stigmatization when people are stigmatized they are negatively evaluated because of a marker that distinguishes them from othersJohn Lie was stigmatized as a young child and often bullied by elementaryschool classmates because he had a Korean name in a Japanese school y Formal punishment results from people breaking laws which are norms stipulated and enforced by government bodies eg serve time in prison y Sociologist John Hagan usefully classifies various types of deviance and crime along three dimensionsThe first dimension is the severity of the social responseThe second dimension of deviance and crime is the perceived harmfulness of the deviant or criminal act note that actual harmfulness is not the only issue here perceived harmfulness isThe third characteristic of deviance is the degree of public agreement about whether an act should be considered devianty Hagans analysis allows us to classify four types of deviance and crime 1 Social diversions are minor acts of deviance such as participating in fads and fashions like dyeing ones hair purple people usually perceive such acts as harmless 2 Social deviations are more serious acts large numbers of people agree these acts are deviant and somewhat harmful and they are usually subject to institutional sanction for example John Lies high school in Hawaii had a rule making long hair on boys a fairly serious deviation punishable by a humiliating public haircut3 Conflict crimes are deviant acts that the state defines as illegal but whose definition is controversial in the wider society for instance Tsar Peter the Great of Russia imposed a fine on beards in the form of a tax many Russians disagreed with his policy but others agreed that growing long beards harmed Russia because it symbolized Russias past rather than future because of this disagreement in the wider thsociety about the harmfulness of the practice wearing a long beard in the late 17 century Russia can be classified as a conflict crime 4 Consensus crimes are widely recognized to be bad in themselves there is little controversy over their seriousness the great majority of people agree that such crimes should be met with severe punishmenty Peoples conceptions of deviance and crime vary substantially over time and between societies Violence and Hockey Deviant Criminal or Normative y Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks was suspended indefinitely by the NHL for an onice assault whose repercussions echoed across the world of hockey his victim was Steve Moore of the Colorado AvalanchePower and the Social Construction of Crime and Deviance y The school of sociological thought known as social constructionism emphasizes that various social problems including crime are not inherent in certain actions themselves instead some people are in a position to create norms and pass laws that stigmatize other
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