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SOC1500 Final: Awesome 133 Page Final Exam Guide - Got me an A

Course Code
SOC 1500
Michelle Dumas
Study Guide

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Criminal Justice
Chapter 1:
scholars have suggested that at least four definitional perspectives can be found in
contemporary criminology. These diverse perspectives see crime from (1) legalistic, (2)
political, (3) sociological, and (4) psychological viewpoints.
Seen from a legalistic perspective, crime is human conduct in violation of the criminal laws of
a state, the federal government, or a provincial or local jurisdiction that has the power to make
such laws
A serious shortcoming of the legalistic approach to crime is that it yields the moral high ground
to powerful individuals who are able to influence the making of laws and the imposition of
criminal definitions on lawbreakers.
Another problem with the legalistic perspective is its insistence that the nature of crime cannot
be separated from the nature of law, as the one explicitly defines the other.
Although Canada has enacted a comprehensive legal code, it still adheres to a common-law
Dating back to the law of the Romans, the modern civil-law system is based on the
Napoleonic Code of the early 19th century.) In such “common-law states,” individuals may be
prosecuted for violating traditional notions of right and wrong, even though no violation of
written law took place.
A second perspective on crime is the political one, where crime is the result of criteria that
have been built into the law by powerful groups and are then used to label selected
undesirable forms of behaviour as illegal.
Those who adhere to this point of view say that crime is a definition of human conduct created
by authorized agents in a politically organized society.
political perspective defines crime in terms of the power structures that exist in society and
asserts that criminal laws do not necessarily bear any inherent relationship to popular notions
of right and wrong.
psychological perspective states that “crime is a form of social maladjustment which can be
designated as a more or less pronounced difficulty that the individual has in reacting to the
stimuli of his environment in such a way as to remain in harmony with that environment.
Sociologically speaking, most crimes can be regarded as deviant forms of behaviour
deviant behaviour is human activity that violates social norms.

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laws are subject to interpretation and may be modified as social norms change over time.
the social and intellectual processes by which an answer is reached can be found in three
contrasting points of view: (1) the consensus perspective, (2) the pluralist perspective, and (3)
the conflict perspective.
The consensus perspective is built around the notion that most members of society agree on
what is right and wrong, and that the various elements of society—including institutions such
as churches, schools, government agencies, and businesses—work together toward a
common vision of the greater good.
consensus viewpoint holds that laws should be enacted to criminalize given forms of
behaviour when members of society generally agree that such laws are necessary.
consensus perspective is characterized by four principles:
1. Most members of a society believe in the existence of core values. The consensus
perspective holds that shared notions of right and wrong characterize the majority of society’s
2. Laws reflect the collective will of the people. Law is seen as the result of a consensus
achieved through legislative action and represents a kind of social conscience.
3. Law serves all people equally. From the consensus point of view, the law not only
embodies a shared view of justice but also is perceived to be just in its application.
4. Law violators represent a unique subgroup with distinguishing features. The consensus
approach holds that law violators must somehow be improperly socialized, be psychologically
defective, or suffer from some other lapse that leaves them unable to participate in what is
otherwise widespread agreement on values and behaviour.
The consensus perspective is most applicable to homogeneous societies or those
characterized by shared values, norms, and belief systems.
the pluralist perspective , mirrors the thought that a multiplicity of values and beliefs exists in
any complex society and that different social groups will have their own respective sets of
beliefs, interests, and values.
A crucial element of this perspective is the assumption that although different viewpoints exist,
most individuals agree on the usefulness of law as a formal means of dispute resolution.
From pluralist perspective, the law exists as a peacekeeping tool that allows officials and
agencies within the government to settle disputes effectively between individuals and among
groups; whatever settlement is reached will be acceptable to all parties because of their
agreement on the fundamental role of law in dispute settlement.
The basic principles of the pluralistic perspective include the following:

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Society consists of many diverse social groups. Differences in age, gender, sexual
preference, ethnicity, and the like often provide the basis for much naturally occurring
Each group has its own characteristic set of values, beliefs, and interests. Variety in
gender, sexual orientation, economic status, ethnicity, and other forms of diversity produces
interests that may unite like-minded individuals but that may also place them in natural
opposition to other social groups.
A general agreement exists on the usefulness of formalized laws as a mechanism for
dispute resolution. People and groups accept the role of law in the settlement of disputes and
accord decisions reached within the legal framework at least a modicum of respect.
The legal system is value-neutral, that is, free of petty disputes or above the level of
general contentiousness that may characterize relationships between groups.
The legal system is concerned with the best interests of society. Legislators, judges,
prosecutors, attorneys, police officers, and correctional officials are assumed to perform
idealized functions that are beyond the reach of self-serving groups, so official functionaries
can be trusted to act in accordance with the greater good, to remain unbiased, and to maintain
a value-free system for the enforcement of laws.
the conflict perspective, maintains that conflict is a fundamental aspect of social life itself that
can never be fully resolved.
The conflict perspective can be described in terms of the following key elements:
Society is made up of diverse social groups, and diversity is based on distinctions that
people hold to be significant, such as gender, sexual orientation, and social class.
Each group holds to differing definitions of right and wrong, so moralistic conceptions and
behavioural standards vary from group to group.
Conflict between groups is both socially significant and unavoidable because groups
defined by such characteristics as ethnicity, gender, and social class compete for power,
wealth, and other forms of power.
The fundamental nature of group conflict centres on the exercise of political power, which is
the key to the accumulation of wealth and to other forms of power.
Law is a tool of power and furthers the interests of those powerful enough to make it. Laws
allow those in control to gain what they define as legitimate access to scarce resources and to
deny such access to the politically disenfranchised.
Those in power are inevitably interested in maintaining their power against those who
would usurp it
a CRIMINOLOGIST is “one who studies crime, criminals, and criminal behaviour.
A criminalist is “a specialist in the collection and examination of the physical evidence of
Social policy is a government initiative, program, or plan intended to address problems in
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