Chapter 3 - Rejecting Individualism
• Early theories blamed individual offenders - not society - for the crime problem.
• But as the U.S entered the 20th century, a competing & powerful vision of crime emerged - a
vision suggesting that crime, like other behaviour, was a social product.
• This major theoretical shift, one that rejected individualist explanations of crime in favour of
social explanations might have been expected as society was undergoing sig changes &
people's experiences were changing as well.
• The Chicago school of crim - argued that 1 aspect of American society, the city, contained
potent criminogenic forces. The other tradition, Robert Merton's strain theory argued that the
pathology did not lie in 1 ecological location (ex: the city) but rather in the broader cultural
& structural arrangements that constituteAmerica's social fabric.
• Although they differed in how they believed that society created lawbreakers, these theories
agreed that the key to unlocking the mystery of crime was in understanding its social roots.
Sociological Disorganization Theory
− Shaw and McKay
− Burgess’s Concentric Zone Theory
• Shaw & McKay's Theory of Juvenile Delinquency
• It was Burgess' model that led them to the conclusion that neighbourhood organization was
instrumental in preventing or permitting delinquent careers.
• Why do people commit crime?
• Social structures: economic and social relations in society
• Social processes: how do we learn behaviour?
Burgess's Concentric Zone Theory
• Chicago School - focus on urban sociology
• Process of industrialization in the 1900s
• Pop of Chicago grew to 2 million people from 200,000 people.
• More people = more crime
• What led to crime in this community?
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• Chicago school is renowned for its work on neighbourhood issues → look at how
• 1 of the earliest models to explain urban model structures.
• Cities grow radially in a series of concentric zones or rings. Burgess outlined 5 zones.
• Competition determined how people were distributed spatially among these zones.
1. Central Business District (middle of the city – much of the production happens here).A
location that afforded access to valuable transportation resources.
2. Transitional Zone (each wave of immigration starts in the transitional zone)
- Recent immigrant groups come to live in this zone → too poor to live elsewhere.
- Characterized by deteriorated housing
- Least desirable living area
- Social disorganization because of heterogeneity – and they’re not here for a long
period of time
- That’s where the slums used to be
- Factories, abandoned Buildings
3. Working Class Zone
- Single family tenements
- Stable jobs
4. Residential Zone - Outer Zones, away from the pollution of factories & away from the
residences of the poor.
− Single family homes & yards/garages
5. Commuter Zone
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• These social patters were not w/o consequences. They weakened the family & communal
ties that bound people together & resulted in social disorganization. This disorganization
was the source of a range of social pathologies, including crime.
• But would Burgess's theory stand up to empirical testing?
• Connection between social disorganization and rates of crimes developed by Shaw and
McKay → they relied on Burgess’s concentric zone theory.
• Conclusions: delinquency flourished in the transitional zone.
− Also crime was highest in slum neighbourhoods regardless of which racial or ethnic
group resided there.
− It was the nature of the neighbourhood - not the nature of the individuals within the
neighbourhood - that regulated involvement in crime.
− Also most youth crime tends to happen in the transitional zone; less criminal activity
as you move out.
• Neighbourhood organization is the main factor in preventing or permitting youth crimes –
• In more affluent comms, families fulfilled youth's needs & parents carefully supervised
• Transitional Zone - families & other conventional institutions (schools, churches etc)
were strained by rapid & concentrated urban growth, people moving in & out & poverty
→ social disorganization prevailed.
• As a consequence, youth didn't receive the support or supervision needed for wholesome
development → delinquent friends & increased involvement in illegal activities.
Edward Sutherland (1883-1950) - DifferentialAssociation Theory (sociological positivist
• Crime is viewed as a result of social processes
• Social groups are arranged differently; some are organized in support of criminal activity,
whereas others are organized against such behaviour.
• Like S & McKay, Sutherland said that crime would be more prevalent in those areas
where criminal organization had taken hold & where people's values & actions were
shaped on a daily basis.
• Not looking at causes of crime, but at the process of learning crimi