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Has Lockdown lead to more subcultures?

Recent independent research conducted during Lockdown has found that 56% of people report that they are part of a ‘subgroup’.

The research was conducted by ‘The Nursery‘ and consisted of a phone survey of 1800 adults. The most popular subculture types reported were:

  • Gaming
  • Religious groups (not mainstream religions)
  • Hippy
  • Spirituality
  • Political movements
  • Restrictive diets (e.g. paleo, vegan etc)
  • Punk
  • Bikers
  • Goth
  • Role-play gaming

The most common motive for joining a subculture was a ‘sense of belonging’, with 75% of respondents saying membership of their subculture was an important aspect of their identity.

Gaming is the largest genre of subculture, with 20% of respondents saying they had started gaming during lockdown, and new religious subcultures such as Wicca (3% of people) are also increasingly popular.

Can we really really call something so mainstream a ‘subculture’?

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is an important update for subcultural theories of ‘deviance‘. IF we accept the definition of the above types of subculture (such as gaming cultures) as subcultures, then being part of a subculture is now normal, as 56% say they are part of one, and thus being part of a subculture is no longer deviant.

This seems to offer support for postmodern theories of subculture and society – Britain’s social make-up now consists of people fragmented into groups who choose to subscribe to a subculture/ group that gives their life meaning (almost 50% of respondents cited creativity as an important aspect of their subcultural membership)

This research also shows how far we’ve come from the early days of subcultural theory in the 1950s – such as Albert Cohen’s Status Frustration theory, and how irrelevant that is to understanding our diverse, consumer oriented postmodern subcultures.

It’s unlikely that 56% of the population join subcultures due to status frustration!

Then again, that particular theory wasn’t trying to explain subcultures such as those in the above research, and it may still be relevant in explaining why people join more deviant subcultures?

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The Covid Vaccines are not Safe

At least not according to Dr Mike Yeadon, who is the former Chief Science Officer at Pfizer and has 30 years experience working in developing vaccines to combat viruses such as covid-19.

You can watch an interview with him here on the Hive blockchain (video on Lbry), this has been censored from YouTube, but is still available on censorship resistant blockchain technology (which is why you should ALL buy Bitcoin and get on the Hive blockchain!).

Yeadon is not anti-vaccine (30 years working in the industry is evidence enough of that) but he is concerned that the latest coronavirus vaccines are experimental – gene based – so they call on your body to manufacture a response to covid – and the drug companies simply haven’t had sufficient time to put these new experimental drugs through the usual 2-3 years of clinical trials.

It follows that we do not yet have sufficient data on the potential short or long term consequences of these vaccines and thus any one of the hundreds of millions of people who have already received a dose of any of the new vaccines is taking part in a clinical trial.

He argues they have done so without being able to give their full, informed consent because governments around the world have lied to people by pushing out propaganda stating that the vaccines are ‘safe’.

His point is that we don’t have enough data to be able to say these vaccines are ‘safe’ – because they haven’t gone through a trial period yet, only after another couple of years, maybe more, will be able to make judgements as to their safety.

Governments and Pharmaceutical Companies are Criminals

Yeadon further suggests that this is criminal – that is the drug companies and governments pushing the vaccines are criminals because they are coercing the world’s population into taking part in a mass medical experiment without telling them the truth, without their informed consent.

This goes against International Law, specifically the Nuremberg Conventions, which explicitly states that human beings have the right to NOT take part in medical experiments without being able to give their full consent, which isn’t the case with the covid-19 vaccine.

This is especially worrying, says Yeadon, when the risk of most people dying from the virus itself are extremely minimal!

Really about Social Control?

The pharmaceutical industry is already manufacturing ‘top up’ vaccines, which he doesn’t believe are sufficiently different to provide any kind of protection against future variations in Coronavirus

Mike Yeadon further argues that nation states and drug companies could be undermining liberal democracy itself – IF we enter a future where ‘vaccine passports’ become the norm then this could effectively mean people are forced into taking part in this mass clinical trial if they wish to travel from one country to another, or maybe even to go to work or to the supermarket.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is what sociology is REALLY about – here’s a critical scientist basically being objective and just stating a fact – that the covid vaccines cannot be said to be safe because they haven’t yet undergone a suitable trial-period of 2-3 years.

And here we have powerful interests colluding to manipulate the world’s population into taking part in a medical trial by lying to them, which is in contravention of international law and against human rights.

Obvious links to crime and deviance and state crime here!

There are also links to the media – critical discussion of the pandemic is being censored in mainstream and social media.

There are also more obscure links to Ulrich Beck’s ‘Risk Society’ thesis – this in an interesting example of when ‘risk’ seems to have gone out of the window!

How Did Lockdown Affect crime?

How has the pandemic and the societal reaction to the pandemic (changes in policing practices and lockdown) affected trends in crime?

Some recent research sheds some light on this and offers us a useful update for Crime statistics.

Langton et al (2021) investigated 13 categories of Police Recorded Crime during March to August 2020 to see how they differed from ‘expected’ crime rates based on historical data.

March 2020 was when the first wave of lockdowns began, with the restrictions being eased from July, so the period investigated is really exploring the impact of lockdown wave one on the crime rate!

The research found the following:

  • Antisocial behaviour and drug crimes were the two crimes which had increased during this period. By April, one month into lockdown, ASB crimes were 100% higher than in previous years, but then came back down to ‘normal’ levels as lockdown restrictions were eased in July.
  • Theft and robbery saw the most dramatic decreases during lockdown – they were 60% down in April, a dramatic immediate decrease, but then they ‘bounced back’ – heading back up to near expected levels by August!  This is most likely related to the restricted mobility during lockdown, and then being lifted.
  • Burglary, bicycle theft, criminal damage and arson all fell from 30-40% during lockdown and then gradually increased during summer but remained below usual levels. This is possibly due to the domestic nature of these crimes – more people were at home during lockdown, and even though restrictions had been lifted by August, many people had adapted to homeworking by that point. 
  • Public order offences saw the least change – down 20% in April, but then back up to usual levels.
  • The research also looked at ‘other crimes’ but this is a wide-ranging category so doesn’t really warrant investigation!

How Lockdown Affected Different Crimes

The research displayed its data like this: red is the actual crime rate, the dotted line the expected crime rate based on previous crime trends.

Why did Police Recorded Crime rates change?

The important thing to keep in mind here are that these are just Police Recorded Crime Rates, and policing practices changed during lockdown – new laws meant the police had the power to fine people for just being out for the ‘wrong reason’ or for having too many people at a gathering. So these changes are more about societal changes, NOT underlying changes to the crime rate! This is an important link to the Interactionist/ labelling theory of crime.

Anti Social Behaviour and Public Order offences may have increased/ stayed level because of this – as people ‘protest’ or just break lockdown rules – the police recorded many of these breaches as one of these two crimes.

Having said that, it seems reasonable to assume that some crimes did go down – the fact that people were at home more meant burglaries decreased for example, and bicycle theft as there were less people leaving their bikes around! One also imagines shoplifting declined dramatically!

Limitations of Police Recorded Crime Data

  • As mentioned above, the changes could be due to changes in policing and/ or changes in law during lockdown, not necessarily any underlying changes in the real crime rate.
  • Because of changes to policing and the law (new lockdown rules) it’s difficult to make a comparison of the underlying crime rate during lockdown and previous years.
  • The above analysis doesn’t specifically include two major categories of crime: sexual and domestic abuse, and computer related crimes – two (allegedly) crimes which both increased significantly during lockdown.

Signposting

This topic is part of the A-level Sociology Crime and Deviance module.

Japan to Release Fukushima Nuclear Waste into the Sea

Japan announced today that it’s going to release one million tonnes of contaminated water from the old Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea – which will no doubt have negative consequences for fishing around Japan and maybe in neighbouring countries.

It was 10 years ago when an earth quake ruined the nuclear plant, putting it out of action, and 10 years on the Japanese government is still dealing with its legacy – a toxic radioactive legacy that is going to linger for many years into the future.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a great example of how large scale modernist projects can go very wrong and cause enormous high level environmental damage. When we way up the huge costs of nuclear disasters such as this, it makes smaller scale renewable energy systems look much more appealing.

It’s also a reminder not to trust BIG tech or governments – the two together are required to build and back huge high tech projects like nuclear power – and when they go wrong, it’s the government that has to deal with the problems, and in this case we can see that they don’t have any decent answers – other than holding onto the waste and then finally releasing it.

All in all, it’s a great argument for people centred development, small scale solutions to meeting our energy needs!

Sociological Observations on the UK’s Vaccine Role-Out

The UK has vaccinated more people (proportionate to population) than any other country:

This is probably due to a combination of the following:

  • A successful ‘social policy’ initiative by the UK government – a sustained focus on getting as many people as possible vaccinated in as short a time as possible and the funding to match.
  • Our National Health Service – so having the infrastructure in place already to enable a relatively easy roll-out of the vaccinations.
  • The fact that UK companies are in the front-line of researching and producing the vaccine – so our ‘industrial and knowledge infrastructure’.
  • Possibly the high level of trust people place in the medical profession (not so much in the government).

However, ethnic and class inequalities are still in evidence:

It’s interesting that the UK is so far ahead of the rest of the EU in rolling out the vaccine, so clearly this isn’t just a matter of ‘developed’ countries being better equipped to roll out mass vaccination programmes.

However I think it’s certainly the case that without a functioning Nation State a mass vaccination programme would be much more difficult to roll-out and track.

Ethnic minorities are less likely to have received the vaccine

Lower social classes are less likely to have received the vaccine:

You should be able to apply some perspectives and sociological concepts to analyse why this may be the case – perhaps lower levels of trust in institutions by these groups?

Interestingly India has just started a mass roll-out of vaccines, aiming to inoculate 300 million people by August – I have a feeling they are going to hit their target, despite the much larger number of people and larger geographical area!

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How Pollution and Toxic Waste harm development

Western models of development are built around high levels of production and consumption to increase economic growth, and all other things being equal, the more we produce and consume, the more pollution and waste we produce.

According to the World Health Organisation, Air Pollution kills 7 million people a year, most of whom live in developing countries.

This recent report outlines the 15 most polluted cities in the world, 10 of which are in India, which reflects the extent to which India’s recent development has been dependent on the largely unregulated use of fossil fuels (coal and oil) in recent decades.

There are some regions of earth where pollution is particularly intense, and these tend to be areas of resource extraction or industrial manufacture in countries with lax environmental legislation.

One well-known historical example of this is Shell’s oil extraction operations in the Niger Delta – where huge amounts of oil have leaked into local water ways, destroying local economies and ‘gas flaring’ is used to burn off excess gas generated during the oil extracting process. You can explore this more in this video: Poison Fire.

There are also certain regions of China which are very polluted, and this is something Anna Lora-Wainwright (2018) explored in her recent ethnographic study – Resigned Activism – Living with Pollution in Rural China.

NB – this isn’t ‘ordinary pollution’ she’s looking at – she studied three villages in total, all of which are coping with the effects of large-scale industrial pollution because of the heavy manufacturing or waste disposal that occurs in those areas. All of these villages have well over the national average of cancer deaths reported, and it’s obvious the pollution is the problem

One village was dealing with phosphorus pollution, another Zinc and Lead pollution and the third the pollution from electronic waste. The later village has global notoriety – Guiyu is well known as the world’s largest e waste site.

Lora-Wainwright focused on how people responded when they knew they were being subjected to a significant cancer risk from pollution – how they organised and protested, but also how they just coped on a day to day basis -living with things such as polluted water that’s going to give you cancer if you drink it.

She also focused on how this all ties in with the wider Chinese government’s industrialization agenda and the fact that the government would rather keep reports about such pollution quiet.

The book is currently under revision, but you can listen to a podcast which summarises the findings here.

It is not just industrial production processes that cause environmental problems, it’s also people’s increasing levels of consumption and the amount of domestic waste generated….

One country which faces a real challenge with pollution from domestic waste is Indonesia, a densely populated country where residents have developed the habit of throwing their rubbish in the river, resulting in one of Indonesia’s river’s: The Citarum being dubbed ‘the dirtiest river in the world’, explored in this 2020 DW Documentary.

Discussion Question: do you think industrial capitalist models of development can ever be sustainable? 

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Global Warming and the threat to Human Development

This post explores the extent to which Global Warming poses a threat to continued social and economic development.

According to the latest data from Climate.gov global warming is currently causing sea levels to rise by 0.3 centimetres a year, which means that sea levels may have risen by up to 2.5 metres by 2100.  

A recent report by Climate Central (2019) suggests that 300 million people live in areas that will be subject to severe flooding due to climate change, China and Bangladesh have the most people living in at-risk areas.

The Polynesian Island of Tuvalu, population 11 000, is on the frontline of Sea Level Rise – located in the Pacific Ocean this is a thin slip of an Island where the residents are now struggling to survive because of rising sea levels. This Guardian article (2019) takes an in-depth look the problems the residents face. There is a very real chance all of these people could end up being climate change refugees within the next decade. NB the United Nations is aware of their plight, but it’s difficult to see what we can do that is practical.  

This documentary from 60 Minutes Australia (2019) explores the rapid disappearance of parts of the Solomon Islands, where sea levels have increased by up to 15 centimetres in the last 20 years:

From a research methods perspective this is interesting as one researcher used old photos to compare where some of the islands used to be compared to their reduced sizes today; and there are also interviews with people who grew up on the islands – some of the places they used to picnic as kids are now gone forever, completely under water!

The Global Climate Risk Index is a useful broader source than the above – it focuses more on all extreme weather events, so not just flooding (also droughts and extreme weather events).

NB – just to reiterate that the latest modelling suggests that if anything sea levels are rising FASTER than previously projected, so these problems are set to get worse!

Why are so many Nigerian schoolchildren being kidnapped?

More than 600 students have been abducted from schools in the North West of Nigeria since December 2020.

The latest Mass kidnapping was in late February 2021, when over 300 girls were kidnapped from a secondary school, although they were released after a relatively short period of time afterwards.

This rather grim trend is clearly relevant to the Global Development topic within A-level sociology, especially the education topic.

Why are so many girls in Northern Nigeria being abducted?

The roots of this practice can be traced back to Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group originally founded by Mohammed Yusuf (since deceased) – the name of the group literally means ‘Western Education is Banned’ and in 2014 this was the group who gained global notoriety when they abducted 300 schoolgirls, leading to the ‘Bring Back our Girls Campaign’.

Since then Boko Haram has gone through various shifts and split in two, and probably has less power now than it did back in 2014, however, they seem to have set something of a trend with their kidnapping of girls tactics.

Since then, thousands of children have been kidnapped, but now it is not politically motivated as it was with Boko Haram, there are just rogue gangs who are now kidnapping literally for the ransom money.

There are alleged cases of organised gangs being not only paid off by local officials for returning kidnapped girls, but not even being punished, but being pardoned, and this has only attracted more people to do likewise.

It seems that dire poverty in Northern Nigeria is driving people to do this, and it’s also driving the army to not be too bothered about tracking down kidnapped children.

There’s lots of links to A-level sociology here – obviously this is a tricky barrier to development – this is happening because of poverty, local political corruption, geography – it’s very sparse in the North of Nigeria, making kidnapping an easy crime to commit.

Clearly this is going to prevent development because of the disruption to education – it’s not only the kids actually getting abducted, but it’s also children being taken out of school by parents for fear of them being abducted.

And as with so many things in development, the solutions here are not that obvious!

Also note the links to Right Realist theories of Crime – namely rational choice theory!

Find out more…

This BBC News article summarises the latest trends.

The relationship between industrial development and the environment

Does industrial development lead to environment decline?

This is one of the key questions in the Global Development for A-level sociology.

The historical relationship between industrialisation and harm to the environment

Historically, both Capitalist and Socialist models of development have largely ignored the environmental impact of development for most of the last 200 years, with the environment only appearing  on the International Development Agenda until the late 1980s (see later).

The industrial capitalist model of development favoured by Modernisation Theorists is based on achieving economic growth through industrialisation and exporting goods to other countries in order to increase income. Both of these processes have been historically dependent on consuming large amounts of natural resources and have tended to create large amounts of pollution. This is because the efficiencies of industrial production are achieved through mechanisation, which has historically been fuelled by polluting fossil fuels, mostly coal (which aren’t needed when people grow their own food and make their own clothes in subsistence systems), and the exporting of goods around the world also requires more energy for transportation compared to subsistence systems, which has increased the demand for oil.

The Modernisation Approach also aims to achieve the ‘high age of mass consumption’, implying that the ultimate aim of development is for everyone in the world to consume at the level of people in the western, developed world. Today this would mean the average person eating a lot more meat, owning a car, taking holidays abroad and having a higher turnover of material goods (mobile phones and clothes for example), and the more people who move towards this, then the greater the demand on the earth’s natural resources (land, water, fossil fuels, minerals) and the greater the pollution that is created in the manufacturing and distribution of these goods.

While it remains easy for people in the West today to ignore the environmental impacts of the industrial-capitalist mode of development there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that this path to development has resulted in significant harm to the environment. We have already seen this in case studies such as the coal mining fuelling industrialisation in Northern India, Deforestation in Haiti, and the toxic waste resulting from ship-breaking in Bangladesh.

A clear relationships between industrial development and increasing CO2 emissions…

CO2 emissions are effectively a measurement of how much oil and coal a country uses, the burning of which lead to global warming which is widely regarded as the major environmental problem of our time.

Based on the table to the chart above (taken from Our World in Data) ,there seems to be a clear relationship between Industrial Capitalist Development and environmental decline.

Increasing Awareness of Environmental Decline in Recent Decades…

Increasing awareness of the damage we are doing to the environment has led to the emergence of numerous conservation groups, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature who have successfully campaigned for the establishment of various nature reserves around the world, and also to well-known international environmental pressure groups such as Greenpeace and the Friends of The Earth who campaign more broadly to get governments to introduce measures to slow the pace of environmental decline. These groups today have wide ranging support from the general public to the extent that Green Parties around Europe have gained steady support in the last three decades (not that you’d know this because the media under-reports it).

There are numerous ways of categorising the harms we are doing to the planet, and one way of doing so is to break down environmental challenges into the following categories…Global warming and sea level rise

  • Global Warming and Sea Levels Rising
  • Deforestation
  • Desertification
  • Pollution and toxic waste
  • Resource Depletion
  • Species Extinction
  • New ‘Risky’ Technologies

We will explore these challenges further in future posts!

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