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Chapter 1

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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC205H5
Professor
Paula Maurutto
Semester
Winter

Description
SOC205 Chapter 1 Notes Jan 10, 2014 Chapter 1 - The Context & Consequences of Theory Theory in Social Context • Most people have developed views on why crime occurs; that is, they have their "theories" of criminal behaviour. • Social experiences shape the ways in which people come to think about crime. i) Members of the general public are not the only ones whose crime theories are influenced by their life experiences. ii) If social experiences influence attitudes about criminality, then as society changes - as people come to have different experiences - views about crime will change as well. − At different times in U.S history, Americans have attributed the origins of crime to spiritual demons & the inherent sinfulness of humans, to the defective biological constitution of inferior people. − These theories of crime became popular when particular circumstances combined to provide people w/ the experiences that made such reasoning seem logical/believable. Theory & Policy: Ideas Have Consequences • Thomas Szasz - ideas have consequences. Lawlessness is a costly problem; people their property & sometimes their lives. The search for the sources of crime is not done within a vacuum. • Understanding why crime occurs is a prelude to developing strategies to control the behaviour. Pfohl on the relationship b/w theory & policy: "theoretical perspectives provide us with an image of what something is & how we might best act toward it". • As theories of crime change, so do cjs policies. • Only when shifts in societal opinion occur that theoretical models gain or lose credence & in turn, gain or lose the ability to justify a range of criminal justice policies. Inventing Criminology: Mainstream Theories • The classical school arose in the Enlightenment era. It emphasized the rejection of spiritual or religious explanations of crime in favour of the view that offenders use their reason - the assessment of costs & benefits - in deciding whether a potential criminal act pays & should be pursued. • Criminal law could be reformed so that it would be fair (everyone treated equally) & just punitive enough to dissuade people from breaking the law (the crime would not be profitable). This approach is the exemplar of more contemp theories of rational choice & deterrence. • Positivist School (Cesare Lombroso) - emphasized the scientific study of criminals. Page 1 of 2 SOC205 Chapter 1 Notes Jan 10, 2014 • Positivism arose in the late 1800s. Scholars assumed that there was someth
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