January 11 , 2012 Readings
Chapter 2: Practices of Governance and Control Theoretical Underpinnings
Minaker and Hogeveen
- Issues of control and order lay at the center of youth and crime.
- Two discourses:
o Advocates consider youth vulnerable and in need of assistance and
They identified certain youth groups as problematic and called
thus created reformable young offender: one who required
intervention and could be rehabilitated
Today these advocates are concerned with prostitution.
o Other discourses consider youth in need of discipline and punishment.
Today this is pervasive for especially violent youth, squeegee kids,
Aboriginal youth, and increasingly female offenders.
- Canada 1990s saw youth as out of control and violent. The public demanded
a law and order agenda that called for more punitive measures.
o Concept of punishable young offender: unlike the reformable young
offender, requires punishment first and foremost, leaving reform and
rehabilitative interventions as secondary measures.
- Intrusive punishment discourses: holds that young people are accountable
for their criminal actions and applies more punitive sanctions. Epitomizes
the phrase if we are tough on crime, if we punish crime, then people get the
message. Considered in late 1990s and today.
- Theories are knowledge claims.
- All theories are based on assumptions about human nature and society.
- Sociology is a discipline about debunking looking beyond the obvious
explanation, assumptions and searching for deeper meaning.
- Sociological imagination: the ability to see the relationships between
individual experiences and the larger society.
- Two broad paradigms that underline sociological explanations of crime and
o Consensus approach: based on assumption that agreement exists
among members of society on matters related to youth crime and
justice, which stems from shared beliefs, values and goals. Ex.
Mainstream criminological theories like strain theory
o Conflict approach: assumes that individuals and groups in society hold
conflicting social, political, cultural or economic interests which often
pit powerful groups against the marginalized. Ex. Marxist theory and
labeling theory - Women critique of mainstream criminology was criminologys androcentric
nature. This means male-centeredness. They argued that women were
excluded from being subjects and producers of knowledge. This spurred the
feminist perspective (radical, liberal, socialist, anti-racist). Led to scholars
asking new questions about crime. Focusing less on crime and more on
criminalization and the consequences of criminal justice intervention.
- Since some significant critiques in the 1980s and 1990s, recognition of race is
becoming a critical component of feminist discourses
Theorizing Youth and Crime
- Three main theoretical perspectives to explain juvenile delinquency:
o Social control
o Social learning
o Strain theories
- Social control: begins with presumption that the appropriate question is not
why individuals commit crime but why most people conform to societal rules
- Social learning labeling: micro level approach guided by social construction
(a label) given to a particular phenomenon in society.
o Expanded this theory to symbolic interactionism (drawing attention
to the process and affects of labeling in young peoples lives). Drew
attention to the process and affects of labeling in young peoples lives.
o Impact of stigmatization on behavior and identity. Stigmatization is
the process of applying stigma a negative evaluation of difference to
an individual or group.
o For Merton strain exists when there is a gap between socially
accepted goals and aspirations and legitimate means or ways of
accessing these goals.
An Alternative Standpoint
- A different view is that there is more theorizing about youth crime than
finding the inherent causes of youth crime.
- This alternative standpoint would place more emphasis on social, economic,
political and historic context wherein youth crime is situated.
- Youth crime is multi-dimensional; therefore it is misleading to discuss
isolated factors like poverty.
- Rather than focusing on youth crime or youth justice in isolation, it
adopts a more integrative approach to understanding the relationship
between youth, crime and society.
- Youth are disproportionate victims. The target of most youth offending is
either other youths or property.
- Authorized knowers: those key individuals and groups whose claims are
heard, who are granted expert status and whose arguments are taken
seriously and subsequently acted upon.
- the other: key concept in feminist theorizing, helps to make sense of the
place that youthful offenders occupy in contemporary society. It is thedisenfranchised, marginalized individual or group in society and their
systematic exclusion especially the disadvantaged (in terms or race,
ethnicity, gender, etc.).
o They have no voice. Their claims are not heard, ignored, silenced and
not taken seriously by authorized knowers.
- Youth crime and justice is a political project aimed at improving
circumstances that produce youth crime and challenging the process
involved in defining young people as others.
Historical Conceptions of Juvenile Delinquency
- Theories of crime must be viewed in context of
o Authorized knowers
o Criminological knowledges: knowledge claims about youth crime
upon which forms of social control and/or punishment are based. Not
limited to academic discipline of criminology.
o Forms of social control and/or punishment
o Societal patterns and changes
- Classical theories of crime, deviance and control
o Dominated early criminology until the mid-19 century.
o Classical theory: considered first formal school of criminology. Based
on Enlightenment philosophies of liberalism and utilitarianism. Made
up of distinctions between offenders. Main focus on finding ways to