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Crime as a Social Construction
- Images of Violent Crime Dominate
- Distorted images of crime
- Consensus or Conflict
- What should be criminalized
- Two crimes: spot the difference
Our Modern Obsession with Crime
- Relationship between crime and social life
- Crime reflects public culture
- Crime and Media
- Myths about Crime
- Crime is rampant and violent
- Lower-class Crime
- Youth crime out of control
- Stranger Danger
- Our neighbours to the South
- Crime variations across Canada
- (crime increases from east to west)
Conceptualizing Crime
- The range of criminality
- Ever-expanding Criminal law
- Most of us violate the law
- Diffucult to distinguish between criminals and non-criminals
- Crime varies across time and space (it is socially constructed)
- No clear consensus about crime
- Legal, moral, and political dilemmas
The world of Criminology- Definitional Issues
-Crime as wrongful behaviour?
oWhat is crime? What is deviance?
-Role of the State in Determining Crime
-Selective Nature of criminal definitions
oDark figure of crime (unknown, unreported)
-“Mala in Se” vs. “Mala Prohibita”
o Mala in Se : assault, murder
oMala Prohibita : involved in violation of crimes that involved social values (ie. firearms)
Can be controversial
-Victimless Crimes (ie. prostitution)
-Heroic Crimes
-Some criminals vs. victims
Decline in prostitution in 1985: Communicating law introduced
Consensus VS Conflict
Consensus (Functionalist) Conflict
Acts defined as crime because they offend morals Interests of ruling class define crimes
Guilty offenders punished according to customs/rules Ruling class violate with impunity; lower class punished
Lower class more likely to commit crime Lower class more likely to be labelled criminal
Crime is real problem that needs to be addressed Crime/law is created by powerful ruling class
Criminal behaviour is learned/socialized Crime is a reaction to a person’s social conditions
All societies have crime/need crime (right VS wrong) Crime varies depending on political and economic
7 ways to understand crime
-Legal violations (Paul Tappan)
-Social injury (Edwin Sutherland)
-Conduct norms (Thorsten Sellin)
-Anomalous Behaviour( Leslie Wilkins)
-Labelled Stigma (Howard Becker)
-HR Violations (Schwendingers)
oSocial Harm (Hillyard et. Al)
-Protest VS Oppression (Taylor, Walton, Young)
1. Crime as Legal Violations
-Paul Tappan (1947): “Crime is an intentional violation of the criminal law, committed without defence or
excuse, and penalized by the state”
-Four elements of Crime
oActus Reus (the guilty act)
oMens Rea (the guilty mind)
-Harmful conduct outside the law?
-Assumes Consensus – not always the case
2. Crime as Social Injury
-Edwin Sutherland’s Principles of Criminology (1945)
-Legal criteria should include “Anti-Social Behaviour”
-2 elements to crime:
o“Legal Description as Socially Injurious”
o“Legal Provision of Penalty”
-Must add unethical and injurious business practices
-Expands scope of criminology
-But still bounded by law (Criminal and Civil)
3. Crime Violates Conduct Norms
-Thorsten Sellin (1938)
-Must go beyond law to understand crime
-“Conduct Norms” are prescriptions for behaviour in every social group
-Even those with no law have norms
-Some conduct norms are universal

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