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Chapter 5

Sociology 1020 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Society 1, Uniform Crime Reports, Environmental Design

Course Code
SOC 1020
Kim Luton

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The Relativism of Deviance
- Murder is a legal classification, not a type of behaviour
- Getting agreement on behaviour that has always been deviant is more difficult than it appears
- Many acts we now see as reprehensible were previously accepted (ex. Wife assault)
- Many acts that were once crimes are not considered common (ex. Drinking alcohol)
- Behaviour standards vary dramatically across groups
-Relativism: recognizes that what counts as deviance varies across culture and through history,
and does not judge whether such acts are right or wrong
The Relationship between Crime and Deviance
-Norms are shared expectations of behaviour that prescribe what is culturally appropriate or
-Abnormal means something violates a norm; implies a value judgment that the behaviour is
-Crimes are behaviours that have been officially recognized by the state as serious forms of anti-
social behaviour; criminal justice officials can formally sanction individuals who engage in
crimes (cannot do this for non-criminal forms of deviance)
- Not all deviant behaviours are criminal (ex. Smoking marijuana is illegal but large segments of
Canadian society do not view it as deviant; intense political dynamic to decisions about what
types of behaviour are classified as crimes)
Studying Crime and Deviance
Official data
- Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics is the unit within Statistics Canada that collects/publishes
national data on crime, courts, and corrections
- Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) produces standardized measures of recorded crimes in Canada
- Crime is generally a male undertaking
- Crime rate began a steady decline (1991); clashes with the assumption of most Canadians who
believe that crime rates are high and climbing
- Crime statistics are a measure of police activity
- Non-reporting: police never learn about a considerable volume of crime
- A police officer may decide your problem is not a criminal matter; an officer may conclude there
is no prospect of making an arrest, not bother doing the paperwork
- Crime funnel: filtering out crimes continues at every step of the criminal justice process (each
step in the funnel more and more cases fall by the wayside)
-Dark figure of crime is the unknown and unmeasured volume of crime
Victimization and self-report studies
-Victimization surveys (ex. Statistics Canada General Social Survey) telephone Canadians to ask
them whether and how they might have been victimized in the past 12 months
-Self-report studies ask individuals about their personal experience of crime, specifically about
crimes they have personally committed over the previous year (can measure crimes that never
make their way to official studies)
- Many engage in more prosaic behaviours which they would be prosecuted if they got caught
- People lie about their criminal behaviour
- Individuals are reluctant to admit to having committed serious crime
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-Ethnography/Participant observation involves a researcher interviewing individuals or
accompanying them on their day-to-day routines (aims to learn about the world of deviance from
the vantage point of people who are personally involved in such activities)
- Provide a sense of the criminal as a human being
- Tend to focus on individuals who are comparatively low on the social spectrum
-Manners/Etiquette are the social rules that govern interpersonal relations
- Usually reminded of manners when they are broken (prompt surprisingly deep reactions in
offended party)
-Formal social control mechanisms are undertaken by the state and include things such as courts,
prisons, and probation
-Informal social control mechanisms respond to non-criminal deviant acts; such reactions come
from individual citizens or community groups (ex. Subjecting an individual to ridicule, shaming,
gossip, etc. – extremely effective!!)
-Civilizing process refers to a very long-term historical change to individual sensibilities (broad
structures of feeling); these sensibilities have become much more refined over the centuries,
modern individuals are more easily/deeply offended by phenomena that people in earlier societies
found unremarkable (ex. Interpersonal violence, public sexuality, human waste)
Deviance and the human body
- Modern society puts emphasis on shape of the human body (obsession)
- Different cultures hold different standards of normal/beautiful bodies
- Women have traditionally felt the pressure of social norms that say they need to transform their
bodies to meet often unattainable standards of beauty
-Stigma is a characteristic, behaviour, or attribute that is deeply discrediting
- power of stigma derives from our day-to-day encounters with others as we read their bodies
(shape, colour, fitness, physical ability, etc.)
- stereotyping/making attributions about a person due to their perceived group membership
-3 categories of stigma: (1) character – involves interpreting someone as
dishonest/domineering/etc. (2) tribal – a persons membership in certain kinds of tainted groups –
nationalities, races, religions. (3) body – culturally specific deviations from idealized body types
- Cosmetic surgery is one of the fastest growing medical procedures in the world
Theories of Crime
Pre-scientific theories: Religion
- Historically, religious beliefs were used to understand crime/deviance
- The devil took control of people so he could have them do his bidding (Satan – Adam/Eve)
- Ex) multi-religious coalition that sought to stop the legalization of gay marriage
- Assorted “cults” embrace the extreme religious beliefs/practices
Classical criminology
-Classical criminology is the basis for all Western criminal justice systems; holds certain
assumptions about society and humanity and questionable nature of these assumptions produced
difficulties for the operation of the criminal justice system
- Aims to deter crime through rational and calibrated use of the state’s formal system of
- Type/severity of punishment was at the discretion of the judge; similar crimes received different
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