Cultural Criminologists argue the exact opposite of Right Realism who focus on the ordinary motivations and repetitiveness of much crime. Instead, they stress the highly emotional nature of crime – instead of what the criminals will gain, these researchers are interested in how committing the crime actually makes people feel. The focus of cultural criminologists is on the thrill of the act – it can offer a brief escape from an otherwise grey emotional existence. They argue there is an intoxicating mix of fear and pleasure that often accompanies risk taking.
According to these theorists, crime is not a rational mundane activity, where costs and benefits are weighed up. Rather it is a reaction against the mundane. It is a time when those involved momentarily experience status, excitement and even some control over their own lives, which are otherwise characterised by feelings of worthlessness and insecurity.
Two Postmodern thinkers associated with this point of view are Katz and Lyng. Katz (1988) argues that people get drawn into crime because it is seductive, because it is thrilling. Postmodernists interpret this simply as part of a postmodern society which calls on us to enjoy our leisure time – crime is one means whereby some people do just that – this is very much the feeling of many people who took part in the London Riots in 2011.
Lyng (1990) developed the concept of ‘edgework’ – by this he meant that crime was a means whereby people could get a thrill by engaging in risk-taking behaviour – going right to the edge of acceptable behaviour, and challenging the rules of what is acceptable. Again, we can see this very much as an outgrowth of a postmodern society which encourages and rewards risk-taking behaviour.
The risks involved in law breaking act as a challenge, and crime is carried out precisely because the rules are in place. Cultural criminologists argue that most young offenders do not set out on their escapades assessing the chances that they will be arrested, and this is why the steady increase in control in culture over our lives (CCTV, ASBOs, anti-terrorist legislation and creation of new offences) does nothing to deter, but actually creates more law breaking as they are faced with more ‘thrilling’ challenges.
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