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Chapter 9

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Carleton University
SOCI 2450
Darryl Davies

Chapter 9- The Meaning of Crime: Social Process Perspective Social Process Theories (also known as interactionist perspective): assert that criminal behaviour is learned in interaction with others, and the socialization processes that occur as a result of group membership are primary route through which learning occurs ex. Family, peers, work groups instill values and norms what they communicate as acceptable views and patterns of behaviour  individuals who have weak ties to conformity are more likely to be influenced by the social process and experiences that lead to crime Social Process Theory Assumptions  The nature of social reality is in flex – human beings are seen as co-producers of their social worlds  The meaning of events (situations) and experiences are defined by the participants (social actors)  Meaning is derived from previous learned experiences  Behaviour is criminal insofar as others define it as such and agree to its meaning  Deviant individuals and criminal offenders achieve their status by virtue of social definition, rather than because of inborn traits  Continued criminal activity may be consequences of limited opportunities for acceptable behaviour  Career offenders grants legitimacy to non-conformist activity rather than the world view of conformist Types of Social Process Theories Social Learning Theory (1930s-1960’s – Edwin Sutherland): a perspective that places primary emphasis upon the role of communication and socialization in the acquisition of learned patterns of criminal behaviour and the values that support that behaviour – crime is learned just like other forms of behaviour – (factors that contribute is the frequency, duration, priority and intensity of association – ones environment)  Differential Association: the sociological thesis that criminality, like any other form of behaviour, is learned through a process of association with others who communicate criminal values  Sutherland proposes 9 principles in his book; Criminology: 1. Criminal behaviour is learned 2. Criminal behaviour is learned in interaction with other persons in a process of communication 3. The principal part of the learning of criminal behaviour occurs within intimate personal groups (individuals influenced by those closest to them) 4. When criminal behaviour is learned, the learning includes a) techniques of committing the crime, b) the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations and attitudes 5. The specific direction of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favourable or unfavourable (categorizes by those closest to them) 6. A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favourable to violation of law over definitions unfavourable to violation of law (ex. Frequency of being with someone stealing CD’s vs. frequency with parents emphasizing respect for others property) 7. Differential associations may vary in frequency, durations, priority, and intensity 8. The process of learning criminal behaviour by association with criminal and anti- criminal patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are involved in any other learning 9. While criminal behaviour is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values, since non-criminal behaviour is an expression of the same needs and values (the motive for criminal behaviour is not the same as non-criminal behaviour)  Critiques of Differential Association – does not provide for free choice of individual; untestable; not a sufficient explanation of crime because then correctional officers would become criminals…  Techniques of Neutralization (Gresham Sykes and David Matza 1957): learned justifications that can provide criminal offenders with the means of disavow responsibility for their behaviour. Five types of justifications: 1. Denial of responsibility - “they made me do it” 2. Denial of injury – “they’re so rich, they’ll never miss it” 3. Denial of the victim – victim deserved it, “she had it coming” – “I only beat up drunks” 4. Condemning the condemners – authorities are corrupt, “if I don’t do it to them, he’ll do it to me” 5. An appeal to higher loyalties – honour (family, gang), “we have to protect ourselves” Labelling Theory (1960’s -1990’s – Frank Tannenbaum): points to the social significance of society’s response to the offender, and sees continued crime as a consequence of limited opportunities for acceptable behaviour that follow from the negative responses of society to those defined as offenders (Tagging, laballing, reintegrative Shaming) Tagging: the process whereby an individual is negatively defined by agencies of justice – once tagged, few legitimate opportunities remain open Primary Deviance (Edwin M. Lemert): initial deviance often undertaken with transient problems in living Secondary Deviance (Edwin M. Lemert): that which results from official labelling and from as
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