Jock Young: Late Modernity, Exclusion and Crime

Jock Young (2002) argues that we are now living in a late modern society characterised by instability, insecurity and exclusion, which make the problem of crime worse.

He contrasts today’s society (since the 1970s) with the period preceding it, arguing that the 1950s and 60s represented a golden age of modern capitalist society, a period of stability, security and social inclusion, characterised by full employment and a well functioning welfare state. There was also low divorce, rate, strong communities and a general consensus about right and wrong, and crime rates were very much lower.

Since the 1970s, however, society has become a lot more unstable – de-industrialisation and the corresponding decline of unskilled manual jobs has led to increased unemployment, underemployment and poverty, especially for young people. These changes have also destabilised family and community life and contributed to rising divorce rates, as have New Right policies designed to hold back welfare spending. All of this has contributed to increased marginalisation and exclusion of those at the bottom.

However, just as more and more people are suffering from the economic exclusion described above, we now live in a media saturated society which stresses the importance of leisure, personal consumption and immediate gratification as the means whereby we should achieve the ‘good life’.

The media today generally informs us that the following are normal and desirable – in in order to belong to society we are required to do the following:

– We need to have high levels of consumption – and buying now, paying later, and debt are seen as legitimate strategies for maintaining our consumption levels.

– We need to have active leisure lives and publicise this – in effect we should turn ourselves into mini-celebrities – in short, we need to be somebody.

– We should strive to achieve success ourselves rather than depending on others – anyone can be successful if they try hard enough is the message.

Young now essentially applies Merton’s Strain Theory to this situation – he argues that today there are millions of people (just in the UK) who will never earn enough money to live a high-consumption, celebrity lifestyle, and this results in many people suffering relative deprivation, and frustration (basically anomie).

However, Young goes beyond Merton by arguing that deviant and criminal behaviour become a means whereby people can not only attempt to realise material goals, but crime can also the means whereby they can seek to achieve celebrity, or simply to seek a temporary emotional release from the anomic-frustrations of coping with the usual contradictions and pressures of living in late-modernity.

Two further consequence of the trend towards economic exclusion combined with the media message of ‘cultural inclusion through consumption and celebrity’ are firstly that crime is more widespread and found increasingly throughout the social structure, not just at the bottom, and secondly crime is nastier, with an increase in ‘hate-crimes’.

Examples of attempts to achieve celebrity through deviance include extreme-subcultures, or any form of extreme ‘one-upmanship’ videos on YouTube, while examples at escapism include binge-drinking and violence at the weekends. Young also argues that the anomie and frustration generated in late-modernity also explains the increase in more serious crimes such as hate-crimes against minority groups and asylum seekers.

Evaluating Jock Young’s theory of crime in Late Modernity

These ideas can add a new dimension to our understanding of the causes of crime and deviance – particularly with regard to the non-economic reasons why people commit crimes – those acts which seemingly have no monetary reward, by focusing on the emotions and feelings involved in offending.

Young argues against the idea that crime is committed when there are available opportunities (rational choice theory) or lack of controls against criminal behaviour. He says that crime here is depicted as quite a routine and logical act, and something which we, the victims, have to protect ourselves against.

Young argues that these approaches do not explain why why crime is such an attractive option for so many young people (particularly young men). He says that there are many crimes such as drug use and vandalism, joyriding and even rape and murder, which clearly involve much more than a simple rational choice. There is obviously something much more appealing for those involved in crimes such as street robbery than the promise of (very small) profits on offer.

Advertisements

Right Realist Criminology

Right Realism believes individuals make a rational choice to commit crime, and emphasises tough control measures to reduce crime – such as zero tolerance policing.

By the end of the 1970s Marxist and Interactionist approaches to crime were beginning to lose their popularity in criminology. The basic problem was that these approaches weren’t that useful in actually helping to control or reduce crime – knowing that crime is an outgrowth of capitalism, for example, doesn’t offer any practical solutions to preventing burglary, other than abolishing capitalism, which, let’s face it, isn’t that likely to happen. Similarly, Interactionist approaches which saw crime as socially constructed, and thus not ‘real’ didn’t do much to help the millions of victims who were victims of actual rising crime rates in the 1970s and 80s.

Hence by the beginning of the 1980s, Realist criminology emerged, which differed from previous approaches such as Marxism and Interactionism because it thought criminologists should abandoned grand theorising about the ultimate causes of crime; they should work with governments to develop practical solutions to crime; and they should take seriously the widespread public fear of crime.

Realist Criminology differs to previous criminological theories because….

  1. They abandon ‘Grand Theories’ such as Marxism. They are not interested in looking at the ‘deep structural causes’ such as Capitalism – It is not Criminologists’ job to get rid of Capitalism so it is pointless focussing on it.

  2. They are more ‘pragmatic’. They ask how governments can reduce crime here and now, and work within the constraints of the social system.

  3. They take a victim- centred approach to crime, putting victims and the public’s concern about crime at the centre of theorising and policy making.

Realist approaches emerged in the 1970s and 80s in the context of right wing neoliberal governments coming to power in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Although neoliberal governments favoured policies of lower taxation and the rolling back of the welfare state, the one area where the state did have a a role to play was in the maintenance of law and order, and realists take a tough approach to offenders, generally emphasising the increased use of police and punishment to keep crime rates in check.

Right and Left Realism

There are two types of realism – both share the above features in common, but there are signficiant differences –

Right Realism is associated with the right wing neoliberal government of Margaret Thatcher which came to power in 1979, although most of the governments which followed have adopted more right realist policies.

Right Realists Reject the idea put forward by Marxists that deeper structural or economic factors such as poverty are the causes of crime – they mainly hold that the individual is responsible for crime – although they do accept that high levels of ‘social disorder’ and low levels of ‘social control’ are associated with higher crime rates. Right Realism tends to focus on the individual as being responsible for crime, arguing that we need to get tough on criminals to reduce crime.

Left Realists on the other hand are more left wing and and argue that inequality is the main cause of crime and we need more community interventions to reduce crime.

Right Realism – The Causes of Crime

Although they aren’t especially interested in the causes, they still have a theory of what ‘causes crime’ – The two main theories about the causes of crime associated with Right Realism are ‘Rational Choice Theory’, ‘Broken Windows Theory’, and Charles Murray’s Underclass Theory (also a form of subcultural theory).

Rational Choice theory

An important element in the right realist theory of crime is the idea that crime is a matter of individual choice – individuals choose to commit crime.

Rational Choice Theory states that most criminals are rational actors. If the criminal calculates that the risk of getting caught is low, or that the punishment if caught will not be severe, then they are more likely to commit crime, assuming the reward for doing that crime is high enough. They are rational in that they weigh up the costs and benefits in order to assess whether a crime is worth committing.

What rational choice theory predicts is that crime will increase if the following happens:

  • If crime brings higher rewards relative to working within the rules of society. Rewards could be material, or they could be things like higher status or more security.

  • There is no risk of getting caught committing a crime

  • There is no punishment for crime

Rational choice theory has been developed by Cohen and Felson in their ‘Routine Activities Theory’ (1979). They argued that in most circumstances social control mechanisms, lack of opportunity and/ or the risk of getting caught prevented crime from taking place. Crime therefore needed three conditions to take place:

1. Individuals who were motivated to offend

2. The availability of opportunity and targets

3. The lack of capable guardians such as parents or police who might prevent crime occurring.

Most crime in their view was opportunistic, rather than planned in advance. Therefore, if individuals motivated to commit crimes encountered easy opportunities to commit them in the routine activities of their daily lives then crime was more likely to occur.

Broken Windows Theory (Wilson and Kelling 1982)

broken windows

This approach is based on James Q. Wilson and George Kelling’s (1982) article ‘Broken Windows’, which has been described as ‘perhaps the most influential single article on crime prevention ever written’. (Downes, 1992).

Wilson and Kelling use the the phrase ‘broken windows’ to stand for all the various signs of disorder and lack of concern for others that are found in some neighbourhoods. This includes undue noise, graffiti, begging, dog fouling ,littering, vandalism and so on. They argue that leaving broken windows unrepaired, tolerating aggressive behaviour etc. sends out a signal that no one cares.

In such neighbourhoods, there is an absence of both formal social control and informal social control (the police and the community respectively). The policy are only concerned with serious crime and turn a blind eye to petty nuisance behaviour, while members of the community feel intimidated and powerless. Without remedial action, the situation deteriorates, tipping the neighbourhood into a spiral of decline. Respectable people move out (if they can) and the area becomes a magnet for deviants.

Charles Murray and the Underclass

Charles Murray argued that changes to family structure was responsible for much of the increase in the crime rate in the 1970s and 80s – he largely attributes the growth of crime because of a growing underclass or ‘new rabble’ who are defined by their deviant behaviour and fail to socialise their children properly. The children of the underclass fail to learn self-control and also fail to learn the difference between right and wrong.

The underclass has increased because of increasing welfare dependency. Murray argues that increasingly generous welfare benefits since the 1960s have led to increasing numbers of people to become dependent on the state. This has led to to the decline of marriage and the growth of lone parent families, because women can now live off benefits rather than having to get married to have children. This also means that men no longer have to take responsibility for supporting their families, so they no longer need to work.

According to Murry, lone mothers are ineffective agents of socialisation, especially for boys. Absent fathers mean than boys lack paternal discipline and appropriate male role models. As a result, young males turn to other, delinquent role models on the street to gain status through crime rather than supporting their families through a steady job.

Increasing crime is effectively a result of children growing up surrounded by delinquent, deviant criminal adults which creates a perfect crimogenic environment.

For Murray, the underclass is not only a source of crime, its very existence threatens society’s cohesion by undermining the values of hard work and personal responsibility.

Evaluations – THINK about the following…

  1. Supporting Evidence: Crimes this theory can explain – Is there any statistical evidence or case study* evidence which supports this theory?

  2. Criticising evidence: Crimes this theory cannot explain – Is there any statistical evidence or case study evidence which criticises this theory?

  3. Evaluate using other perspectives – What does the theory under investigation ignore?

  4. Historical evaluation – Has society changed so much that the theory is just no longer relevant?

  5. Evaluate in terms of ideology/ power – Is the theory biased, does it serve the powerful

Right Realism – Controlling Crime

Right realists emphasise two main techniques of crime control – situational crime prevention, and environmental crime prevention, both of which involve making it harder for criminals to commit crime and increasing the risk of getting caught committing crime, thus making crime a less attractive proposition to prospective criminals. Situational Crime Prevention involves protecting specific targets from potential criminals – by putting window locks on windows, or putting CCTV in a shop for example, while Environmental Crime Prevention focusses on making whole neighbourhoods or larger areas more crime-resistant, through putting more police on the streets for example, or adopting a more ‘Zero Tolerance’ approach to minor crimes.

Situational Crime Prevention (SCP)

Situational crime prevention policies focus on the specific point at which potential victims and criminals come together, making it harder for the criminal to commit crime. They stem directly from Rational Choice Theory and involve either reducing the opportunity for people to commit crime or increasing the risk of getting caught when committing a crime.

situational crime prevention

There are two basic ways you can do this – through increasing surveillance of the population (monitoring their behaviour and making them aware of the fact they are being monitored) and target hardening (making buildings, objects and people harder to steal or kidnap or damage).

One of the major reasons why governments find such policies so appealing is because they are relatively cheap and simple to implement. Situational crime prevention techniques can be carried out by a wide range of actors – not only formal social control agencies such as the government, police but also local councils, schools, business and private individuals can make their property and possessions harder to burgle or steal relatively easily.

Marcus Felson (1998) gives an example of a situational crime prevention strategy. The Port Authority bus terminal in New York City was poorly designed and provided opportunities for crimes – for example the toilets were a good place to steal luggage, deal drugs and engage in homosexual sex. Re-shaping the physical environment to ‘design out’ crime led to a large reduction in crime. For example, replacing the large sinks which homeless people used for washing reduced the numbers of homeless people hanging around the bus station.

Another example of where situational crime prevention has been successful is around suicide prevention. In the early 1960s, around half of all suicides in Britain were the result of gassing. At that time, Britain’s gas supply came from highly toxic coal gas, but from the 1960s coal gas was gradually replaced by less toxic natural gas, and by 1997, suicides from gassing had fallen to bear zero, with the suicide rate overall witnessing a corresponding decline (ie people hadn’t simply switched to other means of killing themselves.

Other policies associated with Right Realism include ASBOs and the use of prison sentences for minor crimes – we return to both of these in a later topic.

Evaluations of Situational Crime Prevention

  • The Port Authority Bus Terminal Building is an example where this worked.

  • Newburn (2013) points to an obvious link between improved car security measures and reduced car crime.

  • Ignores factors such as inequality and deprivation as causes of crime (Garland 2001).

  • Ignores the role of emotion and thrill as a cause of crime (Lyng 1990)

  • Only tackles opportunistic street crime – won’t work for DV, white collar crime, or state crime.

  • It leads to crime displacement. One criticism of situational crime prevention measures is that they do not reduce crime, they simply displace it, or make it move to another place or another time. After all, if criminals are acting rationally, they will simply move on to easier targets.

  • It creates divided ‘Fortress cities’ (Bauman), as the wealthy hide away behind gated communities leaving poorer people in the ‘mean streets’ outside.

Environmental Crime Prevention

Environmental crime prevention strategies involve changing the broader area or environment in which crime occurs through increasing formal and informal social control measures in order to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and prevent an area from deteriorating. These strategies tend to rely much more heavily on the police than situational crime prevention strategies.

Environmental Crime Prevention strategies stem directly from Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Window’s theory which suggests that disorder and the absence of controls leads to crime. Examples of ECP policies include Zero Tolerance Policing, ASBOs, curfews, street drinking bans, dispersal orders and the three strikes rule in America.

Zero Tolerance Policing

Zero Tolerance Policing involves strictly enforcing penalties for relatively minor crimes or anti-social behaviour such as begging, drug possession, public drinking.

This approach was famously used to crack down on rapidly increasing crime in New York City in the 1980s, which was suffering from a crime epidemic, linked to high levels crack-cocaine use a that time.

Specific examples of Zero Tolerance approaches adopted at that time included a ‘clean car program’ which was instituted on the subway, in which tube-cars were taken out of service immediately if they had any graffiti on them, only being returned once clean. As a result graffiti was largely removed from the subways.

Other successful programmes were put in place to tackle fair dodging, drug dealing and begging. This resulted in a 50% reduction in crime in New York City between the years 1993 and 1996.

Evaluations of Environmental Crime Prevention

  • The New York ‘Zero Tolerance’ study suggests that zero tolerance policies work to reduce crime.

  • HOWEVER, Levitt and Dubner in Freakonomics found that this correlation was coincidental – other factors were responsible for the decline in crime.

  • It is more expensive than situational crime prevention – it takes a lot of police to patrol an area and clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

  • Reiner (2015) argues that the police would be better deployed focusing on more serious crime hot spots rather than clamping down on minor forms of anti-social behaviour.

  • From an Interactionist perspective, giving more power to the police will just lead to more labelling and more criminal careers.

Related Posts 

For more please see my main page on crime and deviance.

Environmental Crime Prevention – Definition, Examples and Evaluation

Environmental Crime Prevention strategies include formal and informal social control measures which try to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and prevent an area from deteriorating. They emphasises the role of formal control measures (the police) much more than situational crime prevention theory.

Examples, some of which are dealt with below, include Zero Tolerance Policing, ASBOs, curfews, street drinking bans, dispersal orders and the three strikes rule in America.

These strategies are associated with Right Realism and are based on Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory – the idea signs of physical disorder give off the message that there is low informal social control which attracts criminals and increases the crime rate.

Zero Tolerance Policing

zero tolerance policing

Zero Tolerance Policing involves the police strictly enforcing every facet of law, including paying particular attention to minor activities such as littering, begging, graffiti and other forms of antisocial behaviour. It actually involves giving the police less freedom to use discretion – under Zero Tolerance policy, the police are obliged to hand out strict penalties for criminal activity.

The best known example of Zero Tolerance Policy was its adoption in New York City in 1994. At that time, the city was in the grip of a crack-cocaine epidemic and suffered high levels of antisocial and violent crime. Within a few years of Zero Tolerance, however, crime had dropped from between 30 – 50%. For an overview of ZT in New York and criticisms see this video (and love the ‘tache). 

In the UK Zero-tolerance policing allegedly slashed crime in Liverpool, a city historically blighted by antisocial behaviour and violent assaults, following its introduction in 2005. Overall recorded crime fell by 25.7 per cent in the three years to 2008 with violent crime falling by 38%.

It was not only the likes of drug dealers and burglars who were targeted. Boys kicking footballs against an old lady’s fence, litterbugs and graffiti louts were also on the police’s radar, and twice a month hundreds of officers flooded the streets to hunt suspects who had jumped bail or those wanted for a particular kind of offence.

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

ASBOs are one of the best known crime control methods in the UK – they’re probably best described as bring related to Zero Tolerance techniques – in that you can get an ASBO for antisocial rather than criminal behaviour, and go to jail if you breach it, thus they police minor acts of deviance, although they’re not a perfect fit as the police have little to do with imposing them – that’s down to the local magistrate.

ASBO

Antisocial Behaviour Orders were introduced in 1998 in order to correct minor acts of deviance which would not ordinarily warrant criminal prosecution. Anyone over the age of 10 can receive an Antisocial Behaviour Order, and about half of them have been handed out to 10-17 year olds  or’juveniles.

(In 2014 ASBOs were replaced by Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs), but more on those later.)

According to the gov.uk website ‘behaving antisocially includes:

  • drunken or threatening behaviour
  • vandalism and graffiti
  • playing loud music at night

Getting an ASBO means you won’t be allowed to do certain things, such as:

  • going to a particular place, eg your local town centre
  • spending time with people who are known as trouble-makers
  • drinking in the street’

25000 Antisocial Behaviour Orders were administered between the year of their introduction in 1999 and the end of 2013, but how effective were they at reducing and controlling deviant behaviour?

Some (relatively) famous case studies of recent ASBO recipients

In 2013 the so called ‘Naked Rambler‘ received an ASBO stipulating that he had to cover his genitalia and buttocks when he appeared in public, apart from in a changing room. The 53 year old was jailed for 11 months, after he defied the banning order.

naked rambler

In 2014 Jordan Horner, 20, a Muslim convert from northeast London was ordered to stop preaching in public,as part of a campaign for a sharia state in Britain.

muslim ASBO

 

Criticisms of Environmental Crime Prevention Strategies

  • Zero Tolerance Policing in New York resulted in a lot more people being arrested for possession of marijuana – 25 000 a year by 2012 (one every ten minutes) – some of those people lost their jobs or rental houses as a result (the human cost of Zero Tolerance)
  • ASBOs give people a criminal record for not actually doing anything criminal – You could (past tense!) get an ASBO for being loud, which isn’t in itself criminal, and then go to jail for breaching the ASBO – by being loud again.
  • Zero Tolerance methods are not necessary – As the video above points out, despite the claims of the right wing governments who implement them, crime has gone down in cities in the US and the UK without the widespread use of Zero Tolerance techniques. This excellent article points out that ZT was never adopted widely in the UK or the Netherlands but both countries have witnessed a decline in crime in recent years. The simple truth is that crime has been going down for other reasons, ZT policing has little to do with this.
  • It creates a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – ‘If police concentrate their patrols in a certain area and assume every young man they see is a potential or probable criminal, they will conduct more searches — and make more arrests. Which means a high percentage of young men in that neighborhood will have police records. Which, in turn, provides a statistical justification for continued hyper-aggressive police ­tactics.’ (It’s time to rethink ZTP).
  • It might be racist – the above two articles also deal with the fact that somewhere in the region of 85% of people dealt with under Zero Tolerance in New York were/ are black or Hispanic

 

Work in progress, to be updated….

Left Realist Criminology

Left realists believe the main causes of crime are marginalisation, relative deprivation and subcultures, and emphasise community oriented programmes for controlling and reducing crime.

As a response to the increasing influence of Right Realism, Left Realism was developed by Jock Young, John Lea and Roger Matthews. Left Realism is related to Marxism and the New Criminology, but tries to focus on finding practical ways of solving crime, as it claims that these two theories are too idealistic and have unrealistic ideas about how to solve crime.

Key ideas:

  • As a criticism of Marxism, Left Realists point out that the victims working class street crime are most likely to be the working class, and it is these types of ‘ordinary crime’ that worry working class people. Criminology should thus focus on dealing with these types of ‘ordinary crime’ rather than focusing on elite crime.

  • The three three major causes of (working class street) crime are relative deprivation, marginalisation and subcultures.

  • Solutions to crime should focus on social and community crime prevention and improving relations between the police and local communities.

Left Realism – Causes of Crime

Young (1997) argues that you have to be tough on crime, but this does not just mean being tough on criminals, it means being tough on trying to change the social factors which have a long term impact on crime rates and ensuring that the criminal justice system promotes social justice.

He argues that since the Second World War, rising living standards and the development of welfare provisions have gone hand in hand with a higher crime rate. Lea and young conclude that they can explain this using the following key concepts; relative deprivation, marginalisation and subculture.

Relative deprivation

Lea and Young argue that crime has its roots in deprivation, but deprivation itself is not directly responsible for crime – for example, living standards have risen since the 1950s, so the level of deprivation has fallen, but the crime rate is much higher today than it was in the 1950s.

Left Realists draw on Runciman’s (1966) concept of relative deprivation to explain crime. This refers to how someone feels in relation to others, or compared with their own expectations.

The concept of relative deprivation helps to explain the apparent paradox of increasing crime in the context of an increasing wealthy society. Although people are better off today, they have a greater feeling of relative deprivation because of the media and advertising have raised everyone’s expectations for material possessions – we are wealthier, but we feel poorer, and thus there is more pressure to get more stuff to keep up with everyone else, which generates historically high crime rates.

Subculture

Left Realists see subcultures as a group’s collective response to the situation of relative deprivation, and they draw on Cohen’s theory of status frustration to explain how they emerge. There are many different subcultural adaptations to blocked opportunities, and not all result in crime – but those subcultures which still subscribe to the mainstream values of material wealth but lack legitimate opportunities to achieve those goals.

Marginalisation

This is where people lack the power or resources to fully participate in society. According to Left Realists marginalised groups lack both clear goals and organisations to represent their interests. Groups such as workers have clear goals (such as wanting better pay and conditions) and organisations to represent them (such as trades unions), and as such they have no need to resort to violence to achieve their goals.

By contrast, unemployed youth are marginalised – they have no specific organisation to represent them and no clear sense of goals – which results in feelings of resentment and frustration. Having no access to legitimate political means to pursue their goals, frustration can become expressed through violence.

Evaluations – THINK about…

  1. Supporting Evidence: Crimes this theory can explain – Is there any statistical evidence or case study* evidence which supports this theory?

  2. Criticising evidence: Crimes this theory cannot explain – Is there any statistical evidence or case study evidence which criticises this theory?

  3. Evaluate using other perspectives – What does the theory under investigation ignore?

  4. Historical evaluation – Has society changed so much that the theory is just no longer relevant?

  5. Evaluate in terms of ideology/ power – Is the theory biased, does it serve the powerful

Left Realism – Solutions to Crime

Left realist solutions to crime emphasis Social and Community Crime Prevention strategies which focus on individual offenders and the social context which encourages them to commit crime.

There are two broad approaches – Intervention, identifying groups at risk of committing crime and taking action to limit their offending, and Community based approaches– involving the local community in combating crime.

One of the best-known intervention programmes aimed at reducing criminality is the Perry pre-school project for disadvantaged black children which took place in Michigan, USA. IN this programme a group of 3-4 olds were offered a two-year intellectual enrichment programme, during which time the children received weekly home-visits.

A longitudinal study following the children’s’ progress showed significant differences between the experimental group and a control group. By age 40, they had had significantly fewer arrests for various types of grime, and a higher percentage had graduated high school and made it into full-time employment. It was calculated that for every $1 spent on the programme, $17 were saved on welfare, prison and other costs.

As far as community-based strategies for reducing crime are concerned – Young and Matthews (1992) argue that improving leisure facilities for the young, reducing income inequalities, improving housing estates, raising the living standards of poorer families, reducing unemployment and creating jobs with prospects, will all help to cut crime. Long term problems must be addressed, but more immediate measures can also be taken.

Improving Policing

A third strategy for reducing crime according to left realists is to improve policing. They argue that over 90% of crimes are cleared up by the police as a result of information from the public, however research suggests that public confidence in the police has declined. Left Realists argue that if this relationship breaks down, the flow of information from the victims of crime will dry up. If Police do not have the information they need from the public, they have to find new ways of solving crime, and there is a drift towards military policing (the police having to resort to tactics such as stopping and searching or using surveillance) they then alienate people in the community and make everyone feel like criminals, and as a result trust in the police declines further. Therefore the police must concentrate on improving relationships with the community and the public should have more say in shaping police policy –where the police should listen to the public about what crime affects them most in their area.

Evaluations of Left Realist solutions to crime

  • If done effectively, these are the most costly of all crime prevention measures.

  • HOWEVER, if done properly, community prevention measures can save hundreds of thousands of pounds, by ‘turning’ a potential criminal into an employed tax-payer.

  • Marxists argue that these policies may tackle deprivation but they do not tackle the underlying structural inequalities in the Capitalist system which are the root cause.

  • Such approaches target working class, inner city communities and do not tackle elite crime.

  • Michel Foucault and David Garland interpret the these strategies as being about surveillance and control rather than real social change which prevents crime.

Extension work – Find out more about ‘Multiple Aetiology and The Square of Crime

Left Realists argue that crime is caused by several different factors. They call this multiple aetiology. Crime is a product of formal and informal rules, actions of offenders and of reaction by victims, the state and its agencies, it is therefore important to understand why people offend, what makes victims vulnerable, the factors that affect public attitudes and responses to crime and the social forces that influence the police. This can be done by drawing together a number of different agencies in the community, who should all work together to solve crime.

Related Posts 

For more please see my main page on crime and deviance.

Labelling Theory of Crime – A Summary

People do not become criminals because of their social background, crime emerges because of labelling by authorities. Crime is the product of interactions between certain individuals and the police, rather than social background.

NB these are very brief summary notes, for a much more in-depth post on everything below please see my main post on the labelling theory of crime.

Crime is Sociology Constructed

  • There is no such thing as an inherently deviance act

  • Howard Becker (1963) “Deviancy is not a quality of the act a person commits, but rather a consequences of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’.”

  • Becker – The Outsiders – Malinowski – Incest example

  • Applies to drugs – compare illegal ‘legal’ highs UK to legal weed in Colorado

Not everyone who is deviant gets labelled as such

  • Whether an actor is labelled as deviant depends on: their interactions with the police, their background/ appearance, the circumstances of the offence.

  • negative labels (deviant/ criminal) are generally given to the powerless by the powerful.

  • Cicourel – first stage – working class kids more likely to be labelled as deviant by police; second stage – more likely to be prosecuted by courts, most of this is based on appearance and language, not the deviant act.

Labelling has real consequences – it can lead to deviancy amplification, the self-fulfilling prophecy and deviant careers

  • Lemert – primary and secondary deviance

  • Becker – labelling, the deviant career and the master status

  • Labelling theory applied to education – the self-fulfilling prophecy

  • Moral panics, folk devils and deviancy amplification

Labelling theory should promote policies that prevent labelling minor acts as deviant

  • Decriminalisation (of drugs for example)

  • Reintegrative shaming to label the act, not the criminal.

Evaluations

Positive

Negative

Labelling theory emphasises the following:

– That the law is not ‘set in stone’ – it is actively constructed and changes over time

– That law enforcement is often discriminatory

– That we cannot trust crime statistics

– That attempts to control crime can backfire and may make the situation worse

– That agents of social control may actually be one of the major causes of crime, so we should think twice about giving them more power.

– It tends to be determinstic, not everyone accepts their labels

– It assumes offenders are just passive – it doesn’t recognise the role of personal choice in committing crime

– It gives the offender a ‘victim status’ – Realists argue that this perspective actually ignores the actual victims of crime.

– It tends to emphasise the negativesides of labelling rather than the positive side

– It fails to explain why acts of primary deviance exist, focussing mainly on secondary deviance.

– Structural sociologists argue that there are deeper, structural explanations of crime, it isn’t all just a product of labelling and interactions.

Crime Prevention and Control Strategies

This summary sheet defines and gives examples of situational crime prevention, environmental crime prevention and social/ community crime prevention strategies

Situational Crime Prevention

  • Includes strategies which focus on the specific point at which potential victims and criminals come together, making it harder for the criminal to commit crime.

  • Examples include ‘target hardening’ – shutters, window locks, anti-climb paint and also CCTV and security guards. Also ‘designing out’ features which encourage criminality – e.g. sloping seats at bus stops.

  • Based on rational choice theory and Cohen and Felson’s ‘Routine Activities’ theory which state that much crime is opportunistic, and if you reduce the opportunities to commit crime, you reduce the crime rate.

  • Appealed to policy makers because target hardening is cheap and simple.

Evaluations of Situational Crime Prevention

  • The Port Authority Bus Terminal Building is an example where this worked.

  • Newburn (2013) points to an obvious link between improved car security measures and reduced car crime.

  • Ignores factors such as inequality and deprivation as causes of crime (Garland 2001).

  • Ignores the role of emotion and thrill as a cause of crime (Lyng 1990)

  • Only tackles opportunistic street crime – won’t work for DV, white collar crime, or state crime.

  • It creates divided ‘Fortress cities’ (Bauman).

  • It leads to crime displacement.

Environmental Crime Prevention

  • Includes formal and informal social control measures which try to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and prevent an area from deteriorating.

  • Emphasises the role of formal control measures (the police) much more than situational crime prevention theory.

  • Examples include Zero Tolerance Policing, ASBOs, curfews, street drinking bans, dispersal orders and the three strikes rule in America.

  • Based on Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory – signs of physical disorder give off the message that there is low informal social control which attracts criminals and increases the crime rate.

Evaluations of Environmental Crime Prevention

  • The New York ‘Zero Tolerance’ study suggests that zero tolerance policies work to reduce crime.

  • HOWEVER, Levitt and Dubner in Freakonomics found that this correlation was coincidental – other factors were responsible for the decline in crime.

  • It is more expensive than situational crime prevention – it takes a lot of police to patrol an area and clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

  • Reiner (2015) argues that the police would be better deployed focusing on more serious crime hot spots rather than clamping down on minor forms of anti-social behaviour.

  • From an Interactionist perspective, giving more power to the police will just lead to more labelling and more criminal careers.

Social and Community Crime Prevention

  • Focus on individual offenders and the social context which encourages them to commit crime.

  • There are two broad approaches – Intervention, identifying groups and risk of committing crime and taking action to limit their offending, and Community – involving the local community in combating crime.

  • Farrington’s (1995) longitudinal research comparing offenders and non offenders found various ‘risk factors’ which correlated with crime – such as low education and parental conflict.

  • Intervention programmes based on the above have included pre-school programmes to help with attainment and parenting classes.

  • Examples of this working include the Perry School Project (USA) and the Troubled Families Initiative (UK).

Evaluations of social and community crime reduction

  • If done effectively, these are the most costly of all crime prevention measures.

  • HOWEVER, if done properly, community prevention measures can save hundreds of thousands of pounds, by ‘turning’ a potential criminal into an employed tax-payer.

  • Marxists argue that these policies may tackle deprivation but they do not tackle the underlying structural inequalities in the Capitalist system which are the root cause.

  • Such approaches target working class, inner city communities and do not tackle elite crime.

  • Michel Foucalt and David Garland interpret the these strategies as being about surveillance and control rather than real social change which prevents crime.

The Labelling Theory of Crime

Labelling theory argues that criminal and deviant acts are a result of labelling by authorities – and the powerless are more likely to be negatively labelled.

The labelling Theory of Crime is associated with Interactionism – the Key ideas are that crime is socially constructed, agents of social control label the powerless as deviant and criminal based on stereotypical assumptions and this creates effects such as the self-fulfilling prophecy, the criminal career and deviancy amplification.

Interactionists argue that people do not become criminals because of their social background, but rather argue that crime emerges because of labelling by authorities. They see crime as the product of micro-level interactions between certain individuals and the police, rather than the result of external social forces such as socialisation or blocked opportunity structures.

Four Key concepts associated with Interactionist theories of deviance

  1. Crime is Sociology Constructed – An act which harms an individual or society else only becomes criminal if those in power label that act as criminal.

  1. Not everyone who is deviant gets labelled as such – negative labels are generally (deviant/ criminal) are generally given to the powerless by the powerful.

  1. Labelling has real consequences – it can lead to deviancy amplification, the self-fulfilling prophecy and deviant careers.

  1. Labelling theory has a clear ‘value position’ – it should aim to promote policies that prevent labelling minor acts as deviant.

1- Crime is Socially Constructed

Rather than taking the definition of crime for granted, labelling theorists are interested in how certain acts come to be defined or labelled as criminal in the first place.

Interactionists argue that there is no such thing as an inherently deviant act – in other words there is nothing which is deviant in itself in all situations and at all times, certain acts only become deviant in certain situations when others label them as deviant. Deviance is not a result of an act or an individual being ‘uniquely different’, deviance is a product of society’s reaction to actions.

Howard Becker - labelling theorist

As Howard Becker* (1963) puts it – “Deviancy is not a quality of the act a person commits, but rather a consequences of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’. Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label.” (*The main theorist within labelling theory)

Howard Becker illustrates how crime is the product of social interactions by using the example of a fight between young people. In a low-income neighbourhood, a fight is more likely to be defined by the police as evidence of delinquency, but in a wealthy area as evidence of high spirits. The acts are the same, but the meanings given to them by the audience (in this case the public and the police) differ. Those who have the power to make the label stick thus create deviants or criminals.

Becker provides a more extreme example in his book The Outsiders (1963) – in this he draws on a simple illustration of an anthropological study by anthropologist Malinowski who describes how a youth killed himself because he hand been publicly accused of incest. When Malinowski had first inquired about the case, the islanders expressed their horror and disgust. But, on further investigation, it turned out that incest was not uncommon on the island, nor was it really frowned upon provided those involved were discrete. However, if an incestuous affair became too obvious and public, the islanders reacted with abuse and the offenders were ostracised and often driven to suicide.

To be clear – in the above example, everyone knows that incest goes on, but if people are too public about it (and possibly if they are just disliked for whatever reason) they get publicly shamed for being in an incestuous relationship.

You could apply the same thinking to criminal behaviour more generally in Britain – According to a recent 2015 survey of 2000 people, the average person in Britain breaks the law 17 ties per year, with 63% admitting speeding, 33% steeling and 25% taking illegal drugs – clearly the general public is tolerant of ‘ordinary’ deviance – but every now and then someone will get spotted doing ‘ordinary’ criminal activities and publicly shamed.

labelling theory and drugs

All of this has led labelling theorists to look at how and why rules and laws get made – especially the role of what Becker calls ‘moral entrepreneurs’, people who lead a moral crusade to change the law in the belief that it will benefit those to whom it is applied. However, according to Interactionists, when new laws are created, they simply create new groups of outsiders and lead to the expansion of social control agencies such as the police, and such campaigns may do little to change the underlying amount of ‘deviant activity’ taking place.

In summary – deviance is not a quality that lies in behaviour itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those who respond to it. From this point of view, deviance is produced by a process of interaction between the potential deviant and the wider public (both ordinary people and agencies of social control).

Application of the concept of ‘social constructionism’ to drug crime

Looking at how drug laws have changed over time, and how they vary from country to country to country is a very good way of looking at how the deviant act of drug-taking is socially constructed…

In the United Kingdom, a new law was recently passed which outlawed all legal highs, meaning that many ‘head-shops’ which sold them literally went from doing something legal to illegal over night (obviously they had plenty of notice!)

Meanwhile – in some states in America, such as Colorado, things seem to be moving in the other direction – it is now legal to grow, sell and smoke Weed – meaning that a whole new generation of weed entrepreneurs have suddenly gone from doing something illegal to something legal, and profitable too!

NB – There’s a lot more information about the social construction of drug use out there – think about the difference between coffee, nicotine, alcohol (all legal) and cannabis. 

Discussion Question

Do you agree with the idea that there is no such thing as an inherently deviance act? Work your way through the list of deviance acts below and try to think of contexts in which they would not be regarded as deviant.

– Violence

– Theft

– Fraud

– Drug taking

– Public nudity

– Paedophilia

– Vandalism

2 – Not Everyone Who is Deviant Gets Labelled

Those in Power are just as deviant/ criminal as actual ‘criminals’ but they are more able to negotiate themselves out of being labelled as criminals.

NB to my mind the classic song by NWA ‘Fuck Tha Police’ is basically highlighting the fact that it’s young black males in the US that typically get labelled as criminals (while young white kids generally don’t)

Back to Labelling theory proper – the key idea here is that not everyone who commits an offence is punished for it. Whether a person is arrested, charged and convicted depends on factors such as:

    1. Their interactions with agencies of social control such as the police and the courts
    1. Their appearance, background and personal biography
  1. The situation and circumstances of the offence.

This leads labelling theorists to look at how laws are applied and enforced. Their studies show that agencies of social control are more likely to label certain groups of people as deviant or criminal.

The main piece of sociological research relevant here is Aaron Cicourel’s ‘Power and The Negotiation of Justice’ (1968)

Aaron Cicourel – Power and the negotiation of justice

The process of defining a young person as a delinquent is complex, and it involves a series of interactions based on sets of meanings held by the participants. Cicourel argues that it is the meanings held by police officers and juvenile officers that explain why most delinquents come from working class backgrounds.

The first stage is the decision by the police to stop and interrogate an individual. This decision is based on meanings held by the police of what is ‘strange’, ‘unusual’ and ‘wrong’. Whether or not the police stop and interrogate an individual depends on where the behaviour is taking place and on how the police perceive the individual(s). Whether behaviour is deemed to be ‘suspicious’ will depend on where the behaviour is taking place, for example an inner city, a park, a suburb. If a young person has a demeanour like that of a ‘typical delinquent’ then the police are more likely to both interrogate and arrest that person.

The Second Stage is that the young person is handed over to a juvenile delinquent officer. This officer will have a picture of a ‘typical delinquent’ in his mind. Factors associated with a typical delinquent include being of dishevelled appearance, having poor posture, speaking in slang etc. It follows that Cicourel found that most delinquents come from working class backgrounds.

When middle class delinquents are arrested they are less likely to be charged with the offence as they do not fit the picture of a ‘typical delinquent’. Also, their parents are more able to present themselves as respectable and reasonable people from a nice neighbourhood and co-operate fully with the juvenile officers, assuring them that their child is truly remorseful.

As a result, the middle class delinquent is more likely to be defined as ill rather than criminal, as having accidentally strayed from the path of righteousness just the once and having a real chance of reforming.

Cicourel based his research on two Californian cities, each with a population of about 100, 000. both had similar social characteristics yet there was a significant difference in the amount of delinquents in each city. Cicourel argued that this difference can only be accounted for by the size, organisation, policies and practices of the juvenile and police bureaus. It is the societal reaction that affects the rate of delinquency. It is the agencies of social control that produce delinquents.

Discussion Questions

Q1 – Do you agree that the whole criminal justice system is basically biased against the working classes, and towards to middle classes?

Q2 – From a research methods point of view, what research methods could you use to test this theory?

3 – The Consequences of Labelling

Labelling theorists are interested in the effects of labelling on those labelled. They claim that, by labelling certain people as criminal or deviant, society actually encourages them to become more so.

In this section I cover:

    • Primary and Secondary Deviance (Edwin Lemert)
    • The Deviant Career, the Master Status and Subcultures (Howard Becker)
    • Labelling and the Self-Fulling Prophecy applied to education (Howard Becker and Rosenthal and Jacobson)
  • Labelling theory applied to the Media – Moral Panics, Folk Devils and Deviancy Amplification (Stan Cohen)

If the material below seems a little samely – that’s because it’s all subtle variations on the same theme!

Primary and Secondary Deviance

Edwin Lemert (1972) developed the concepts of primary and secondary deviance to emphasise the fact that everyone engages in deviant acts, but only some people are caught being deviant and labelled as deviant.

Primary deviance refers to acts which have not been publicly labelled, and are thus of little consequence, while secondary deviance refers to deviance which is the consequence of the response of others, which is significant.

To illustrate this, Lemert studied the the coastal Inuit of Canada, who had a long-rooted problem of chronic stuttering or stammering. Lemert suggested that the problem was ’caused’ by the great importance attached to ceremonial speech-making. Failure to speak well was a great humiliation. Children with the slightest speech difficulty were so conscious of their parents’ desire to have well-speaking children that they became over anxious about their own abilities. It was this anxiety which lead to chronic stuttering.

Lemert compared the coastal Inuit which emphasised the importance of public speaking to other similar cultures in the area which did not attach status to public-speaking, and found that in such culture, stuttering was largely non-existence, thus Lemert concluded that it was the social pressure to speak well (societal reaction) which led to some people developing problems with stuttering

In this example, chronic stuttering (secondary deviance) is a response to parents’ reaction to initial minor speech defects (primary deviance).

Labelling, The Deviant Career and the Master Status

This is Howard Becker’s classic statement of how labelling theory can be applied across the whole criminal justice system to demonstrated how criminals emerge, possibly over the course of many years. Basically the public, the police and the courts selectively label the already marginalised as deviant, which the then labelled deviant responds to by being more deviant.

Howard Becker argued that the deviant label can become a ‘master status’ in which the individual’s deviant identity overrules all other identities. Becker argues that there are 5 stages in this process:

  1. The Individual is publicly labelled as a deviant, which may lead to rejection from several social groups. For example, if someone is labelled a junkie they may be rejected by their family.

  1. This may encourage further deviance. For example, drug addicts may turn to crime to finance their habit.

  1. The official treatment of deviance may have similar effects. EG convicted criminals find it difficult to find jobs.

  1. A deviant career may emerge. The deviant career is completed when individuals join an organised deviant group. This is the stage when an individual confirms and accepts their deviant identity.

  1. This is the stage at which the label may become a master status, overriding all other forms of relationship outside the deviant group.

Labelling Theory Applied to Education

Labelling theory has been applied to the context of the school to explain differences in educational achievement (this should sound familiar from year 1!)

Within Schools, Howard Becker (1970) argued that middle class teachers have an idea of an ‘ideal pupil’ that is middle class. This pupil speaks in elaborated speech code, is polite, and smartly dressed, He argued that middle class teachers are likely view middle class pupils more positively than working class pupils irrespective of their intelligence. Thus teachers positively label the students most like them.

There is also evidence of a similar process happening with African Caribbean children. Sociologists such as David Gilborn argue that teachers hold negative stereotypes of young black boys, believing them to be more threatening and aggressive than White and Asian children. They are thus more likely to interpret minor rule breaking by black children in a more serious manner than when White and Asian children break minor rules.

Rosenthal and Jacobsen (1968) argued that positive teacher labelling can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the student believes the label given to them and the label becomes true in practise. They concluded this on the basis of a classic ‘Field Experiment’ to test the effects of teacher labels, which consisted of the following:

  • Stage one – tested the IQ (intelligence) of all pupils in the school

  • Stage two – gave teachers a list of the top 20% most intelligent pupils. However, this list was actually just a random selection of student names

  • Stage three –One year later those students who teachers believed to be the most intelligent had improved the most.

  • Stage four –Concluded that high teacher expectation had resulted in improvement (= the self-fulfilling prophecy)

Labelling Theory Applied to the Media

Key Terms: Moral Panics, Folk Devils and The Deviancy Amplification Spiral

Labelling theory has been applied to the representation of certain groups in the mainstream media – Interactionists argue that the media has a long history of exaggerating the deviance of youth subcultures in particular, making them seem more deviant than they actually are, which creates a ‘moral panic’ among the general public, which in turn leads to the authorities clamping down on the activities of those subcultures, and finally to the individuals within those subcultures responding with more deviance.

A moral panic is “an exaggerated outburst of public concern over the morality or behaviour of a group in society.” Deviant subcultures have often been the focus of moral panics. According to Interactionists, the Mass Media has a crucial role to play in creating moral panics through exaggerating the extent to which certain groups and turning them into ‘Folk Devils’ – people who are threatening to public order.

In order for a moral panic to break out, the public need to believe what they see in the media, and respond disproportionately, which could be expressed in heightened levels of concern in opinion polls or pressure groups springing up that campaign for action against the deviants. The fact that the public are concerned about ‘youth crime’ suggest they are more than willing to subscribe to the media view that young people are a threat to social order.

The final part of a moral panic is when the authorities respond to the public’s fear, which will normally involve tougher laws, initiatives and sentencing designed to prevent and punish the deviant group question.

The term ‘moral panic’ was first used in Britain by Stan Cohen in a classic study of two youth subcultures of the 1960s – ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’. Cohen showed how the media, for lack of other stories exaggerated the violence which sometimes took place between them. The effect of the media coverage was to make the young people categorise themselves as either mods or rockers which actually helped to create the violence that took place between them,which further helped to confirm them as violent in the eyes of the general public.

4 – Labelling and Criminal Justice Policy

Labelling theory believes that deviance is made worse by labelling and punishment by the authorities, and it follows that in order to reduce deviance we should make fewer rules for people to break, and have less-serious punishments for those that do break the rules.An example of an Interactionist inspired policy would be the decriminalisation of drugs.

According to Interactionist theory, decriminalisation should reduce the number of people with criminal convictions and hence the risk of secondary deviance, an argument which might make particular sense for many drugs offences because these are often linked to addiction, which may be more effectively treated medically rather than criminally. (The logic here is that drug-related crime isn’t intentionally nasty, drug-addicts do it because they are addicted, hence better to treat the addiction rather than further stigmatise the addict with a criminal label).

Similarly, labelling theory implies that we should avoid ‘naming and shaming’ offenders since this is likely to create a perception of them as evil outsiders and, by excluding them from mainstream society, push them into further deviance.

Reintegrative Shaming

Most interactionist theory focuses on the negative consequences of labelling, but John Braithwaite (1989) identifies a more positive role for the labelling process. He distinguishes between two types of shaming:

  • Disintegrative shaming where not only the crime, but also the criminal, is labelled as bad and the offender is excluded from society.

  • Reintegrative shaming by contrast labels the act, but not the actor – as if to say ‘he has done a bad thing’ – rather an ‘he is a bad person’.

A policy of reintegrative shaming avoids stigmatising the offender as evil while at the same time making them aware of the negative impact of their actions on others. Victims are encouraged to forgive the person, but not the act, and the offender is welcomed back into the community, thus avoiding the negative consequences associated with secondary deviance.

Braithwaite argues that crime rates are lower where policies of reintegrative shaming are employed.

Evaluation of Labelling Theory

Labelling theory emphasises the following

– That the law is not ‘set in stone’ – it is actively constructed and changes over time

– That law enforcement is often discriminatory

– That we cannot trust crime statistics

– That attempts to control crime can backfire and may make the situation worse

– That agents of social control may actually be one of the major causes of crime, so we should think twice about giving them more power.

Criticisms of Labelling Theory

– It tends to be determinstic, not everyone accepts their labels

– It assumes offenders are just passive – it doesn’t recognise the role of personal choice in committing crime

– It gives the offender a ‘victim status’ – Realists argue that this perspective actually ignores the actual victims of crime.

– It tends to emphasise the negative sides of labelling rather than the positive side

– It fails to explain why acts of primary deviance exist, focussing mainly on secondary deviance.

– Structural sociologists argue that there are deeper, structural explanations of crime, it isn’t all just a product of labelling and interactions.

Revision Bundle for Sale

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Crime and Deviance Revision Bundle

It contains

  • 12 exam practice questions including short answer, 10 mark and essay question exemplars.
  • 32 pages of revision notes covering the entire A-level sociology crime and deviance specification
  • Seven colour mind maps covering sociological perspective on crime and deviance

Written specifically for the AQA sociology A-level specification.

Related Posts

My main page of links to crime and deviance posts.

The labelling theory of crime was initially a reaction against consensus theories of crime, such as subcultural theory 

Labelling theory is one of the major in-school processes which explains differential educational achievement – see here for in-school processes in relation to class differences in education.

Labelling Theory is related to Interpretivism in that it focuses on the small-scale aspects of social life.

Tombs and Whyte: The Cost of Health and Safety Infringements

Marxist Criminologists argue that the costs of elite crime are greater than the costs of street-crime, yet the elite are more likely to get away with their crimes. The piece of research below strongly supports this view (refs to follow!)

In the UK Safety Crime has been studied extensively by Professor Tombs, and Dr Whyte (2008). To look at just one example from recent press releases of the Health and Safety Executive: 2.2 million people work in Britain’s construction industry, making it the country’s biggest industry. It is also one of the most dangerous. In the last 25 years, over 2,800 people have died from injuries they received as a result of construction work. There were 77 fatalities last year; many more were injured or made ill.

In March 2008 the HSE reported that over one in three construction sites visited put the lives of workers at risk and operated so far below the acceptable standard that inspectors served 395 enforcement notices and stopped work on 30% of the sites. That followed the report of the HSE on over 1000 spot checks of refurbishment sites across Great Britain during February this year as part of its rolling inspection programme. Work was stopped on site immediately during approximately 300 inspections because inspectors felt there was a real possibility that life would be lost or ruined through serious injury. The inspectors were appalled at the blatant disregard for basic health and safety precautions on refurbishment sites across Great Britain. Basic safety precautions were being flouted. Last year over half of the workers who died on construction sites worked in refurbishment, and the number of deaths rose by 61 per cent.

Tombs and Whyte analyse the causes of such high rates of death and injury in the construction industry: the casualised, sub-contracted and increasingly migrant workforce; the long and complex supply chains; aggressive management; market pressures; industry norms; and problems in regulatory processes.

Weak or non-existent trade unions add to the dangers. An instructive example is a comparison between Norwegian and UK offshore oil industries. The North Sea, while an inhospitable environment, is not inherently dangerous in the sense that it necessarily produces high numbers of worker deaths and injuries. Research has shown that the improved offshore safety in Norway compared to the UK is due to rights for union representatives to stop work when they think that safety is jeopardised, as well as “the maintenance of strong offshore unions with a comprehensive network of trade union-appointed safety representatives; this is in marked contrast to the strident anti-trades unionism of the UK sector”

Tombs and Whyte also looked at the use made of powers under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 to disqualify directors for health and safety failures in the management of companies. Despite the HSE’s spot checks revealing that 30% of construction sites did not meet safety standards, they were able to identify just ten directors who had been disqualified for health and safety reasons between the date when the 1986 Act took effect and the end point of their study in 2005.

Evaluating Marxist Theories of Crime Part 2 – Kweku Adoboli

In 2013 Kweku Adeboli was jailed for 7 years for committing the biggest White Collar fraud in UK history. This case study can be used to selectively criticise aspects of the Marxist theory of crime. 

A City trader recklessly gambled with illicit trades to boost his bonus, and ran up potential losses of more than £7bn at one point, a sum big enough to sink his employer, the global bank UBS, a court has heard.

Kweku Adoboli, a trusted and experienced member of UBS’s exchange traded fund (ETF) desk in London, risked ever-greater sums in an attempt to conceal his losses over two and a half years before he was caught in September 2011, Southwark crown court was told.

Sasha Wass QC, prosecuting, said “Mr Adoboli’s motive was to increase his bonus, his status, his job prospects and his ego. Like most gamblers he believed he had the magic touch. Like most gamblers, when he lost, he caused chaos and disaster to himself and all of those around him.”

The total losses to UBS were eventually calculated at $2.3bn, or just over £1.4bn. Wass told the jury: “This colossal loss rose purely as a result of Mr Adoboli’s fraudulent deal making, which amounted to naked gambling.” However, she added, at one point the scale of Adoboli’s liabilities to the bank through vast trades, reached almost $12bn which risked the very existence of the bank itself.

Adoboli racked up the giant losses undetected through three means. First, he often exceeded the official daily trading limit per employee of $100m. He also failed to hedge trades by making balancing trades to mitigate potential losses, an insurance method that also caps potential profits. Finally, he falsified data so as not to record his trades properly, often inventing false clients and trades for hedges.

But on 14 September, under intense scrutiny and aware a number of trades were “about to hit the buffers”, Adoboli panicked and walked out of the UBS office, saying he had to see a doctor. Using his home email account he sent his bosses a message which, Wass argued, admitted his guilt.

In the email, read to the court, Adoboli said he had tried to suppress losses from “off book” trades, a number of which were, he warned, still “live”. It continued: “I have now left the office for the sake of discretion. I will need to come back in to discuss the positions and explain face to face but for reasons that are obvious I did not think it was wise to stay on the desk this afternoon.”

Adoboli, a former public schoolboy, denies four counts of fraud and false accounting between October 2008 and September 2011.Adoboli became a trader in December 2005, was promoted to associate director in March 2008 and then director in March 2010. His salary rose dramatically as his career progressed. In 2007 he earned £40,000 and a bonus of £55,000; in 2008 he earned £50,000 and a bonus of £15,000. Then in 2009 he earned £100,000 with a £95,000 bonus; and in 2010 his salary was £100 000 and bonus £200 000

What aspects of the Marxist theory of crime does this support or criticise?

Evaluating the Marxist Perspective on Crime (part 1)

All of the material below takes you to evidence that broadly supports two ideas held by Marxists about Crime – you could also use the examples from the ‘data response exercise – no.2 above.

 Are the crimes of the capitalist class more costly than street crime?

To what extent is Capitalism Crimogenic?

The theory of crimogenic capitalism suggests that Capitalism encourages selfishness, materialism and non-caring attitudes, it breeds a dog-eat-dog society. The link below takes you to an example of some of the worst cases of Corporate harms. To what extent do you think Capitalism breeds crime in society?

Is law enforcement selective?

There are quite a few case studies of members of the elite classes seemingly getting away with crime. NB All of the material below is also backs up the Marxist idea that all classes commit crime (part of point 2).