SOC 2700 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Decommodification, Reaction Formation, Ritualism In The Church Of England

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9 Aug 2016
February 25th, 2016
Chapter 7: Social Structure Theories – page #199-237:
Natural areas zones or neighbourhoods that develop as a result of social forces operating
in urban areas, and become natural areas for crime
Chicago School pioneering research on the social ecology of the city and urban crime
developed in the early 20th century by sociologists at the University of Chicago
Sociological Criminology:
Sociologists look at how patterns of behaviour exist within the social structure criminologists
look at how criminal patterns exist within society, how they can be predicted, and how they
can be controlled
We look at social structure because explanations of crime as an individual-level phenomenon
fail to account for consistent patterns in the crime rate
Sociologists look at social change and the dynamic aspects of human behaviour it follows
transformations in cultural norms and institutions and the subsequent effect they have on
individual and group behaviour
Criminologists believe that understanding the dynamics of interactions between individuals
and their families, peers, schools, and work is important to understanding the cause of crime
Sociology is concerned with the benefits of positive human interactions and the costs of
negative interactions
Crime is itself an interaction and therefore should not be studied without considering the
interactions of all participants in a criminal act: the law violator, the victim, the law enforcers,
the lawmakers, and the social institutions
Concern about the ecological distribution of crime, the effect of social change, and the
interactive nature of crime itself has made sociology the foundation of modern criminology
Economic Structure and Crime:
All societies are characterized by stratification into social classes these social classes are
created by the unequal distribution of wealth, power, and prestige to their members
People within classes have similar possessions and share attitudes, values, norms, and
The upper class is reserved for a small number of exceptionally well-to-do families who
maintain enormous financial and social resources, while the lower class consists of those
people who live in poverty, including the working poor; the middle class are the managers,
professionals, and white-collar workers
The Canadian census shows that almost 20% of Canadian children live in low-income
households World Vision says that the people living in poverty are made up of new
immigrants, Aboriginal people, and families headed by single mothers
Lower-class slum areas are scenes of inadequate housing and healthcare, disrupted family
lives, underemployment, depression, and despair
Members of the lower class are constantly bombarded with a flood of advertisements linking
material possessions to self-worth, but they are often unable to attain desired goods and
services through conventional means
The social problems found in lower-class areas have been describes as an epidemic as
neighbourhood quality decreases, the probability that residents will develop problems sharply
The disadvantages of lower-class citizens are particularly acute for members of racial
minorities immigrants and Aboriginal people in Canada have lower income levels and a
higher unemployment rate; they have a shorter lifespan than Caucasians
A link has been established between entrenched poverty and human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV) infection
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February 25th, 2016
Some people have also suggested that the concentration of poor, single-parent, and poorly
educated Aboriginal people in large cities disadvantages them in ways that might account for
their overrepresentation in the justice system
Low-income Aboriginal women are at least twice as likely to suffer physical or sexual assault
by a partner as the national average
A study of Native reserves in northern Manitoba found extensive lack of running water,
plumbing, or sanitary septic systems on reserves, contributing to disease and death
The culture of poverty is marked by apathy, cynicism, helplessness, and mistrust of social
institutions, such as schools, government agencies, and the police
o Culture of poverty the lower class culture, characterized by values and norms in
conflict with conventional society
Underclass a world cut off from society, its members lacking the education and skills
needed to survive, which becomes a breeding ground for criminality
Are the Poor Undeserving?
Some view impoverished people as being in some way responsible for their own fate,
believing that if they tried, they could “improve themselves”
However, people living in poverty are more likely to experience high crime, poor schools, and
excessive mortality they have higher rates of unemployment, are more dependent on
welfare, and are more likely to live in single-parent households
Under these conditions, self-help and upward mobility are highly difficult
Adolescents residing in areas of concentrated poverty are more likely to suffer in their
cognitive development, sexual and family formation practices, school attendance habits, and
transition to employment
People living in poverty confront obstacles far greater than the mere lack of financial
resources: they are ill-prepared to take advantage of employment opportunities even in
favourable labour markets
The fact that many of the underclass are children who can expect to spend all their life in
poverty is probably the single most important problem facing the nation today
Unemployment and Crime:
According to the social structure approach, crime is linked to economic deprivation
The crime rate has risen dramatically since the 1960s; this increase occurs even during
prosperous times there is little indication that changing market conditions cause offenders
to renounce crime and choose legitimate earning opportunities; crime rates are linked slightly
to labour market conditions, but the relationship between them is one of many
A routine activities theorist might suggest that although joblessness increases the motivation
to commit crime, it simultaneously decreases the opportunity to gain from criminal enterprise
Parents who are unemployed may be at home to supervise their children, reducing the
opportunity for the kids to commit crime however, teenagers have higher crime rates than
any other age group because they are not yet part of the workforce and are unlikely to be
directly affected by employment rates
When individual offenders are the unit of analysis, we find that unemployed individuals are
more likely to commit crime unemployment may increase crime because it reduces
people’s stake in conformity; by severing attachments to co-workers and reducing parents’
ability to be breadwinners, unemployment reduces the attachment people have to
conventional institutions and their ability to exert authority over their children
The crime-unemployment relationship may also be offence-specific, having the greatest
influence on opportunistic property crimes, such as burglary, and the least influence on
violent assault crimes, which are more likely to be motivated by such factors as rage,
jealousy, or substance abuse
Criminal behaviour can also exclude offenders from work an early experience with
delinquent behaviour and drug abuse may later result in unemployment as an adult
Embeddedness in a deviant lifestyle is contrasted with the establishment of roots in a
conventional lifestyle: youths who get early work experience, who make contracts, and who
learn the ropes of the job market establish the groundwork for a successful career
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Branches of Social Structure Theory:
Social structure theory an approach that looks at the effects of class stratification in
These theories suggest that forces operating in deteriorated lower-class areas push many of
their residents into criminal behaviour patterns unsupervised teenage gangs, high crime
rates, and social disorder in poor areas are seen as major social problems
Lower-class crime is often the violent, destructive product of youth gangs and marginally
employed young adults, which suggests that the social forces that cause crime begin to affect
people while they are relatively young and continue to influence them throughout their life
Social structure theorists don’t believe that crime is caused by psychological imbalance,
biological traits, insensitivity to social controls, personal choice, or any other individual-level
People living in equivalent social environments behave in similar ways, and if the
environment did not influence human behaviour, crime rates would be distributed equally
across the social structure
Social disorganization theory an approach that looks at neighbourhoods marked by
culture conflict, lack of cohesiveness, transiency, and anomie
o Focuses on conditions within the urban environment that affect crime rates
! Deteriorated neighbourhoods
! Inadequate social control
! Law-violating gangs and groups
! Conflicting social values
o A disorganized area is one in which institutions of social control, such as the family,
commercial establishments, and schools, can no longer carry out their functions
o Indicators of social disorganization include high rates of unemployment and of school
dropouts, deteriorated housing, low income levels, and large numbers of single-
parent households
Strain theory an approach that looks at the conflict caused when people cannot achieve
their goals through legitimate means, and are denied access to adequate educational
opportunities and social support
o Holds that crime is a product of conflict between goals and means
! Unequal distribution of wealth and power
! Frustration
! Alternative methods of achievement
o Although social and economic goals are common, the ability to obtain these goals is
o Most people desire wealth, material possessions, power, and prestige; however,
people in lower class are less able to achieve these symbols of success through
conventional means
o Consequently, they feel anger, frustration, and resentment, which causes strain
o Either they can accept their condition as socially responsible citizens, or they can
choose and alternative means of achieving success, such as theft, violence, or drug
Cultural deviance theory criminal behaviour is in conformity to lower-class sub-cultural
values that develop in disorganized neighbourhoods due to strain and values in conflict with
conventional social norms
o Combines elements of both strain and social disorganization
! Development of subcultures as a result of disorganization and stress
! Subcultural values in opposition to conventional values
o Unique lower-class cultures develop in disorganized neighbourhoods, creating a
unique set of values in conflict with conventional social norms
o Criminal behaviour is an expression of conformity to lower-class subcultural values
and traditions, and not simply a rebellion against conventional society
o Each of these separate theories supports the view that socially isolated people, living
in disorganized neighbourhoods, are the ones most likely to experience crime-
producing social forces
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