There’s a couple of really useful documentaries relevant to the crime and deviance module which have been on recently, which you might want to grab for college estream if you teach Sociology – As I see it you can get a good three-five years out of a good documentary.
Life Inside Wandsworth Prison demonstrates how under-staffing and overcrowding have resulted in a lack of care for prisoners, with many being locked-down for 23 hours a day, with scant mental-health care provision where required (which many prisoners do). In addition to this the documentary also shows how drugs are readily available in the jail, with weed being openly smoked in front of the guards and it’s clear that many of the prisoners are victims of violence. Available on iPlayer intil Friday 16th Sept – So either watch it now, or you should be able to grab using estream connect for another 11 months.
Britain’s Most Wanted Motorbike Gangs? is available on iPlayer until February 2017 and is useful for evaluating the relevance of all kinds of theories of crime – subcultural theories and interactionism especially.
Finally, don’t forget Bake Off – You can use this to demonstrate how social control works through the Synopticon – through the many watching the few rather than the few watching the many. I’m not going to explain this here, more on that later, but THINK about it and you should be able to figure out what Bake Off’s really about, and it ain’t just biscuits.
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 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).
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Not everyone who is deviant gets labelled as such – negative labels are generally (deviant/ criminal) are generally given to the powerless by the powerful.
Labelling has real consequences – it can lead to deviancy amplification, the self-fulfilling prophecy and deviant careers.
Labelling theory has a clear ‘value position’ – it should aim to promote policies that prevent labelling minor acts as deviant.
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.
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.”
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 a 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.
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.
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.
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:
Their interactions with agencies of social control such as the police and the courts
Their appearance, background and personal biography
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
This may encourage further deviance. For example, drug addicts may turn to crime to finance their habit.
The official treatment of deviance may have similar effects. EG convicted criminals find it difficult to find jobs.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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 deterministic, 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.
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.
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?
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?
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).
The Fifa fraud is a good example of selective law enforcement in international football – peope basically accepting bribes for votes over what country gets the world cup – such blatent corruption goes unpunished
Covering crimogenic capitalism, selective law enforcement and the ideological functions of crime control
Marxists argue that capitalism is crimogenic, and that all classes commit crime but the crimes of the elite do more harm. They also argue that law enforcement is selective, working in favour of elites and that crime control and punishment perform ideological functions.
NB this post has been written primarily for students of A-level sociology studying for the second year exam in crime and deviance with theory and methods.
Introduction/ The basics
Traditional Marxist theories explain crime in relation to power inequalities created by the capitalist system
The inequalities and injustices within Capitalism generate crime.
Class based analysis – both classes commit crime, the crimes of the elite are more harmful
The Bourgeoisie h- have economic power and because of this control the criminal justice system – they defined their own harmful acts as legal and are less likely to be prosecuted for the crimes they commit.
Historical Period (for Marxist Criminology) The 1970s
Crime is a consequence of the economic structure of capitalism
Capitalism is harsh, exploitative and breeds inequality, materialism and selfishness, which combined make crime in Capitalist societies inevitable. See David Gordon’s work on the ‘Dog eat Dog’ society
The Elite Make the Law in Their Own Interests
William Chambliss: At the heart of the capitalist system lies the protection of private property
Laureen Snider – Many nation states are reluctant to pass laws which restrict the freedom of Transnational Corporations to make profit
There is unequal access to the law – the more money you have, the better lawyer you can get
Harmful and exploitative acts in capitalist systems are not formally labelled criminal if these harmful activities make a profit – e.g. Colonialism/ Numerous Wars/ Pollution.
All Classes Commit Crime and the Crimes of the Powerful are of particular interest to Marxist Criminologists
White Collar Crime = Individual middle class/ elite crime within a company , Corporate = Institutional crime
Typical e.g’s include various types of fraud and negligence regarded health and safety at work.
The economic costs of Corporate Crime are greater than street crime (Laureen Snider/ Corporate Watch.
High profile Corporate Crimes = Bernie Madhoff, the Enron $100bn fraud and the 20 000 dead people as a result of Union Carbide’s corporate negligence in Bhopal, India.
Despite being more costly to society, the crimes of the elite tend to go unpunished – As research by Tombs and Whyte suggests
The ideological functions of selective law enforcement
According to Gordon ‘selective law enforcement’ benefits the Capitalist system in three major ways:
we ignore the failings of the system that lead to the conditions of inequality which generate crime.
The imprisonment of selected members of the lower classes neutralises opposition to the system.
sweeps out of sight the ‘worst jetsam of Capitalist society’ such that we cannot see it.
Positive Evaluations of Marxist Theories of Crime
Dog eat Dog explains both WC and Elite crime
TTIP is good supporting evidence for point 2not lone individuals
Lots of case studies and stats support the view that Corporate Crimes are harmful – Bhopal!
Tombs and Whyte’s research – strongly supports point 3
Criticisms of Marxist Theories of Crime
X – Crime has been decreasing in the UK in the last 20 years, yet we’re increasingly ‘neoliberal’
X – Crime existed before Capitalism and in Communist societies
X – Consensus theories argue most people today have private property, so most people are protected by the law
X – It’s unfair to compare corporate crime such as Fraud to street crime, the later has a more emotional toll.
X – Some Corporate Crminals are punished (e.g. Madhoff)
Signposting and Related Posts
These are brief revision notes for A-level sociology, written with the AQA sociology A level paper 2: crime and deviance with theory and methods (7192/3) in mind.
Subcultural Theory explains deviance in terms of a deviant group, split apart from the rest of the society which encourages deviance
Historical Period: The 1940s- 60S, Underclass Theory – 1980s
Albert Cohen: Status Frustration
working class boys try to gain status within school and fail, thus suffer status frustration
Some such boys find each-other and form a subculture
status is gained within the subculture by breaking mainstream rules.
Cloward and Ohlin: Illegitimate Opportunity Structure(IOS)
A combination of strain theory and subcultural theory
The type of subculture an individual joins depends on existing subcultures (which form an IOS)
There are three types of subculture: Criminal (working class areas/ organised petit crime), Conflict (less table populations), and Retreatist (e.g. drug subcultures) which C and O saw as being formed by people who lacked the skills to join the former two).
Walter Miller: Focal Concerns
Saw the lower working class as a subculture with its own set of unique values
Working class culture emphasised six focal concerns (or core values) which encouraged criminal behaviour amongst working class youth.
Three examples of these focal concerns where toughness (physical prowess), excitement (risk-taking) and smartness (being street-smart)
Charles Murray: Underclass Theory
By the 1980s an Underclass had emerged in Britain.
Key features = long term unemployment, high rates of teen pregnancies and single parent households
Means children are not socialised into mainstream norms and values and have become NEETS
The underclass is 20 times more criminal than the rest of society.
Overall Evaluations of Subcultural Theories of Crime
Unlike Bonds of Attachment Theory recognises that much crime is done in groups, not lone individuals
Unlike Functionalism does not see crime as functional.
X – Contemporary research shows gang (subculture) membership is more fluid than the above research stuggests
X – Recent research shows that the underclass doesn’t really exist and working class culture is more complex
X – There is a much wider variety of subcultures today
X – Ignores the role of agents of social control labelling in subculture formation
X – Underclass Theory is ideological – based on moral panics
Consensus theories generally see crime as unusual, dysfunctional and believe something has ‘gone wrong’ for the people who commit crime.
Consensus theories include functionalism, strain theory and subcultural theory.
Consensus Theory: the Basics
According to consensus theories, for the most part society works because most people are successfully socialised into shared values through the family and education. Socialisation produces agreement or consensus between people about appropriate behaviour and beliefs without which no human could survive.
According to consensus theorists this process starts from a young age in the family and education. These institutions enforce what are known as positive and negative sanctions, or rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad behaviour. Both of these institutions perform the function of social control, and this is a good thing for both the individual and society.
Students might like to think about HOW the family and education control individuals….
Positive Sanctions (rewards)
Negative sanctions (punishments)
Examples of Norms and Values enforced
Consensus Theories argue that a ‘healthy society’ is one characterised by a high degree of value consensus – or general agreement around shared values. They see stable institutions such as the nuclear family and education as crucial for socialisation children into these shared norms and values. True, individual freedom is reduced in such a situation, but this is seen as a good thing for society in general, and also for the individual.
From this perspective, crime is generally seen as dysfunctional (bad for society): Crime is a result of a family, or a part of society failing in its duty to effectively socialise the young and individuals or groups becoming detached from society in some way.
There are several different theories within Consensus Theory you need to know about, but the main ones are as follows: