Just Stop Oil – A Sociological Analysis

Just stop oil are challenging people to rethink what their values are in global context, but are coming up against governmental and corporate power structures which are pro fossil fuel.

Just Stop Oil is a UK based coalition of groups with the aim of getting the government to stop all new licences for exploring and developing fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

Just Stop Oil draws on evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which suggests if the global community doesn’t take action to radically and rapidly reducing its fossil fuel use within the next few years then climate change could be irreversible, meaning today’s children will face a calamitous future of global warming, sea level rise and extreme weather events.

The group has an overtly political focus, and a very specific focus – to get the government to disallow companies to exploit new fossil fuel reserves, and their tactics are very radical involving non violent direct action.

Just Stop Oil’s Tactics

Just Sop Oil uses Non Violent Direction Action to disrupt social activity in England and other countries, in order to draw attention to the urgent need to address the climate crisis.

The group made headlines in the UK in early November by climbing motorway gantries and stopping traffic for hours on end around the M25 and other places – if people enter gantries the police are legally obliged to remove them for their own safety, which requires traffic to be stopped.

The video below gives you an insight into the rational behind these tactics from the words of one of the activists

Just Stop Oil also made headline news back in October 2022 when activists threw soup over Van Gogh’s sunflowers.

The reason for choosing to attack art is to make people question what they value – if people are getting angry over vandalising a work of art, why aren’t they getting angry over governments allowing corporations and lazy individuals to vandalise the ecosystem which art depends on too?

Applying sociology to Just Stop Oil

There are lots of concepts you can apply to the Just Stop Oil campaigns, especially value consensus (or lack of it), indivdualisation, the Marxist perspective on global power structures, and Durkheim’s ideas about deviance and social change.

Value Consensus (or lack of it)

Just stop oil explicitly call on people to rethink what they value, as you can see from the FAQ on their site about ‘why soup over art’ – the whole point of that is to get people to think about why they care more about art than the climate, if they are getting angry about just the art rather than the climate.

You can also see it in this twitter exchange – the person replying to the individualised mother is challenging her to change her values and act on them, like she has done and like the U.N. is calling on people to do.

However the fact that so few people seem to care about the climate crisis and just go on doing their own thing and polluting suggests we are a long way off value consensus over the need to reduce our fossil fuel usage.

In short, Functionalist theory just doesn’t seem to apply here!

Individualisation

The tweet above reminds me of Bauman’s concept of individualisation – we live in a society where individuals are increasingly tasked with finding solutions to their own problems, rather than relying on society to do it for them.

In the above case we see a woman ‘managing’ her ordinary life in a very individualised way – she has a car to transport her kids around and is trying to plan to avoid disruption – which in itself is very efficient and organised.

However any sense of her using the train to care about the environment clearly isn’t on her agenda – and it isn’t on most people’s agendas either as they are too busy trying to just survive on a day to day basis.

There’s a strong possibility that governmental action may well be needed to reduce global emissions – if people aren’t forced to use less fossil fuels most of them will choose to carry on using them for the sake of convenience as any sense of ‘care for society’ has largely disappeared in our individualised age.

Marxist theories of global power structures

The fact that insufficient government action has been taken over climate change to prevent catastrophe by 2050 (according to climate scientists) suggests that they are on the side of the oil and gas companies.

In the case of the UK this is very much obvious – two of our largest companies are Shell and BP and the government isn’t even prepared to tax the current enormous profits they are making on high energy prices.

It seems to be that it’s very much the climate coalition versus the governments plus the oil corporations, and the later two are still putting short term profits before long term sustainability, which suggests that Marxism may well still be relevant today!

The Social Construction of Crime

Just a quick one – the High Court put out an injunction against anyone blockading motorways and other roads in certain parts of the UK.

This means that instead of just being charged with public nuisance offences which only really carry minor punishments anyone blockading a motorway as part of Just Stop Oil’s campaign can now be charged with contempt of court which carries longer jail sentences and unlimited fines!

It’s a great example of how an act can be made ‘more criminal’ by the simple act of a court.

Durkheims’ theory of social change

If you read through Just Stop Oil’s website and listen to the voices in these videos it’s clear that Just Stop Oil activists position themselves as being at the moral forefront of positive social change, in the same vein as civil rights activists in the 1960s.

Durkheim said that deviance in society is necessary in order for social change to take place and that ‘today’s deviance may well be tomorrow’s norm’.

Perhaps these committed activists have the value-system of the future – perhaps in 40 years time we will look back and think these were pioneers of a greener future when it is the norm to live more sustainably?

Another way Durkheim’s theory may be relevant in the future depends on how these activists are punished – if they are given very harsh punishments this could be an attempt by the courts to enforce social regulation through sending out a message.

Just Stop Oil – Relevance to A-level Sociology conclusions

This case study is most relevant to the Power and Politics option, but few students study that module, but this material is still a good example of deviance and so for most people will be relevant to the crime and deviance module.

also relevant to the global development module as this is clearly a global movement!

What are the Impacts of Crime on Victims?

Students of A-level sociology are required to study Victimology as part of the Crime and Deviance compulsory module, which means examiners can legitimately ask them this question!

What are the impacts of crime on Victims?

Victim Support notes the following ways in which crime can affect victims in the short and long term:

  • Feeling upset or angry (strong emotional reactions)
  • A victim may feel as if they have lost control of their life, things may spiral downwards (this kind of links to Anomie)
  • Victims may blame themselves.
  • Victims may develop physical symptoms linked to the stress of being a victim
  • Victims may develop longer term anxiety related disorders.

The site notes that the way an individual responds to a crime will depend on a number of variables such as the type of crime, whether they know the victim, the support they get from friends and family and their past experiences of crime.

NB – If you’ve been a Victim of Crime, Victim Support UK is a safe space to go get support and advice.

Personal Stories may be the best way to understand the impact on Victims….

The Cumbria police have put together a video series in which one Domestic Violence Survivor talks through how she got out of an abusive relationship…

Impacts on Victims’ families

NB – it’s not necessarily just the victim who is affected, all of the above can have negative affects on relationships and children if one member of a family is the victim of crime.

One of the most heart breaking crimes where this is felt in the UK is among the families of victims of knife crime, as outlined in this article here.

Secondary Victimisation

Secondary victimisation is when victims relive the trauma of their crime, which may occur when they are cross-examined by the prosecution team in court, or through harassment by agents of the media.

It is most commonly associated with Feminist perspectives on Crime and Deviance – historically victims of rape have also been subject to secondary victimisation when they are ‘put on trial’ by being accused of lying ny the prosecution, for example.

This report from the BBC provides stories from Victims who say they have been ‘re-traumatised by the system’.

Help for Victims of Crime

The Ministry of Justice is another place Victims can go to in order to find out more about whether they are actually victims of crime, and to seek further support as necessary.

Citizens Advice is another place offering advice about getting legal support as a victim of crime.

What is the Cost of Cybercrime?

Cybercrime is one of the most harmful types in terms its economic costs to individuals and businesses.

This reason alone suggests that students of A-level sociology studying the crime and deviance module should pay special attention to to this type of crime.

What are the economic costs of cybercrime?

A recent McAFee report estimated the global cost of Cybercrime in 2019 to be over $1 Trillion.

Accenture does an annual survey on the costs of Cybercrime to business and that revealed that the average cost of malicious attacks is just over $1 million to a company, with several days of downtime as a result.

In the United Kingdom, this report estimates the costs of Cbyercrime to be £27 billion every year.

This compares to the following:

  • The overall size of the global economy in 2020 was around $84 trillion, meaning global cybercrime accounts for 1% of global economic output.
  • Tax dodging by mainly corporations but also wealthy individuals costs the global economy just over $400 billion annually. (Source: The Conversation)
  • In 2015/ 16 the UK government estimated the total cost of ALL crime to be around £50 billion – besides cybercrime, fraud and theft were very high cost crimes, both made much easier with the growth of online networks.

The projected costs of Cybercrime are much greater. according to Cyber Security Ventures the global cost of Cybercrime is set to reach $10.5 trillion dollars by 2025

Analysis/ Evaluation – what to make of these figures?

These statistics suggest that the costs of Cybercrime are growing rapidly, and if you believe the projections, then Cybercrime is by far the most damaging type of crime in terms of financial cost.

However, you need to question the validity of data published by Cybersecurity companies – it is in their interests to exaggerate the extent of cybercrime so they can sell more security software!

Having said that, official statistics themselves show a HUGE increase in the amount of cybercrime in the last five years, and so it’s likely that the costs of cybercrime would have increased too.

I haven’t here distinguished between cyber dependent crime and cyber-enabled crime – I think a lot of the increasing costs are due to old types of crime (fraud and especially theft) becoming more common online (as opposed to face to face) – I guess the internent just makes it easier to attempt to commit these types of crime, en masse (as through phishing) rather than the slower and more risky physical thefts.

The depressing thing is that I find none of this surprising – we live in more networked world, and one unfortunate consequence is that it’s now easier to attempt to commit fraud and theft against faraway victims online – it’s simple rational choice theory – computer networks make it more convenient to attempt crimes such as phishing and identity theft with less risk.

And while I’m sceptical about Cyber Security companies exaggerating the extent of online crime, I’m inclined to agree with them that this is on an uptrend as that’s what official statistics from all around the world suggest, not to mention the increasing amount of anecdotal evidence from people who have been scammed, and TBH I only need compare the amount of phishing emails in my inbox today compared to five years ago to realise the increase in attempted crimes against me, and presumably millions of other people receiving such mail in their Spam folders every day!

It seems it’s more important than ever to take your online security and safety very very seriously.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – The Most Common Crimes in the UK

Fraud and computer misuse now account for half of all crimes in England and Wales, but 80% of victims no NOTHING about the criminals who acted against them!

Fraud and Computer Misuse now Account for Half of all Crime in England and Wales (1) , this means that in order to fully understand crime today, students of A-level Sociology REALLY need to know something about these two types of crime.

This is not only an important update relevant to the crime and deviance aspect of the AQA A-level sociology specification, it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that students educate themselves about the risks of being a victim of fraud and computer misuse and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and stay safe online.

Defining Fraud and Computer Misuse

The Office for National Statistics defines these crimes as below:

Fraud

Fraud involves a person dishonestly and deliberately deceiving a victim for personal gain of property or money or causing loss or risk of loss to another.

While Fraud can happen offline, most fraud today occurs online and the most common types known to include:

  • banking and payment card frauds
  • consumer and retail frauds
  • advance fee payment frauds

Computer misuse

Computer misuse covers computer viruses and any unauthorised access to computer material, as set out in the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

This can include any device using software accessible online, for example: computers smartphones, games consoles and even smart TVs. It includes offences such as:

  • the spreading of viruses.
  • hacking – gaining unauthorised access to information
  • denial-of-service (DoS) attacks – the flooding of internet servers to disrupt or take down a network or website.

Both of these types of crime are types of Cyber Crime (most fraud and all computer misuse).

How much Fraud and Computer Misuse are there in England and Wales?

The latest data from the TCSEW show that Fraud and Computer misuse have been increasing rapidly in recent years, and now account for more than half of all crime in England and Wales.

Fraud and Computer Misuse were only added to the Crime Survey of England and Wales recently, and there are so many incidents that the Office for National Statistics records records two totals – one with these crimes and one without, so we can make a fair comparison of all other crimes over a longer time scale.

This bar chart gives you an idea of just how much Fraud and Computer misuse there is compared to all other types of crime:

The above chart shows incidents, and the ONS estimates there were nearly 10 million adult victims of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 month period to December 2020, that’s more than 1 in 5 adults.

The increase has been so rapid that the UK government has recently declared that there is a ‘new battle front‘ against these types of crimes.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – Key statistics

To get a more in-depth analysis of Fraud and Computer Misuse we need to go back to this 2019 report: The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse (March 2019). This report notes the following:

Fraud

  • The amount of Fraud has increased in the last two years.
  • 76% of victims lost money, but around half lost less than £250.
  • Only 15% of fraud crimes were reported to the police
  • The likelihood of being a victim was generally lower in older age groups and greater in higher income households, there was little variation across gender and ethnicity.
  • In 63% of fraud incidents, there had been no contact between the victim and the offender.
  • Less than 15% of people could say ‘anything’ about the person who committed the Fraud against them – it’s a very ‘anonymous’ crime where the criminals are concerned!

Computer Misuse

  • Computer Misuse incidents have actually decreased in the last two years overall – especially crimes involving viruses being put on devices.
  • 21% of computer virus incidents resulted in data being accessed or lost.
  • As with fraud, older people aged over 75 were less likely to be victims of computer misuse
  • Over 90% of people reported taking security measures to keep themselves safe online, which could explain the decrease in this type of crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Students really need to pay attention to Fraud especially as it is the crime with the highest VICTIM count in England and Wales, so very relevant to victimology – and there is little variation by class, gender and ethnicity, only age it seems.

This material is also relevant to the media and crime topic, because more than half of all fraud is committed online, as are ALL crimes of computer misuse.

From a methods perspective, it’s worth noting that around 80% of victims of these crimes can say NOTHING about the people who committed crimes against them – these are truly faceless crimes, very possibly committed by criminals outside of the UK, so this is also relevant to the topic of globalisation and crime.

Find out More….

This Power Point Presentation from the Office for National Statistics outlines some of the problems with measuring these crimes.

If you want to find out more about how to stay safe online and protect yourself from these types of crime – there is a section at the end of The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse.

Students might like to do independent research on these types of cyber crime in Scotland and Northern Ireland to get a fuller picture covering the whole of the United Kingdom!

Qualifications

(1) Please forgive the slightly misleading title! The data on fraud and computer misuse are from England and Wales only, but for the sake of having a short, visible and digestible title I shortened this to the UK.

Examples of State Crimes 2020-2021

Some examples of State Crimes committed by developed and developing countries and an analysis of the problems of researching the nature and extent of state crime

This post provides several examples of Contemporary State Crimes and links to sources of information students can use to explore State Crimes further.

Before reading this post, you might like to read these two posts:

Studying State Crime is an explicit requirement for students studying A-level Sociology, as part of the compulsory Crime and Deviance Module.

Below I have highlighted five countries who are responsible for some of the worst state crimes in recent years….

I’ve tried to select examples of mainly developed countries committing state crimes, to demonstrate that it’s not all impoverished, war torn countries or ‘rogue states’ who are state-criminal actors.

It is, however, important to realise that I have been selective (so there is some selection bias here and these examples will lack representativeness) but I think it has to be this way to make this topic manageable. I have included links below where you can search for further examples of State Crimes.

NB – this post is a work in progress!

Countries Committing State Crimes in 2020-2021

I’ve listed these in rough order of the number of victims. The United Nations and Israel deserve their places at the top given the fact that, following Noam Chomsky, they are the two worst terrorist organisations/ rogue states of modern times, even if in the last couple of years their crimes against humanity may have been out of the spotlight!

1. The United States of America

Historically, there’s only one real contender for the the worst state criminal in all of all of human history – the USA.

Below is a useful summary video which takes a trip through some of the War Crimes committed by the United States of America since the end of World War Two.

2. The State of Israel

Israel has been committing crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories for several decades now – there are presently almost 7 million Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid policies which forbids Palestinians from having equal access to regions across Israel. This 2021 report from Human Rights watch explores this. A more accessible report might be this one from Amnesty international .

Some of the crimes the state of Israel commits against Palestinian civilians include:

  • Unlawful killing
  • Prevention of freedom of movement
  • Forced displacement
  • Discrimination

3. China

The Human Right’s Watch Global Report 2020 singles out China has being increasingly repressive in recent years. It notes that ‘….the detention of more than one million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to pressure them to abandon Islam and their culture, the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms, ongoing repression in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and the crackdown on independent voices throughout the country. This has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.’

4. The Russian Federation

Amnesty International outlines the criminal case against the state of Russia here.

Even in its post-communist years the Russian State has a long history of not allowing freedom of assembly to protest, and the censoring of journalists who criticise the state, and even the murdering of those who oppose the State.

5. Syria and Turkey

War Crimes are still being committed by Syria and Turkey in Syria – including the arbitrary killing of civilians, forced detention, which can lead to the death penalty, looting of property and displacement of peoples – there are now 6 million refugees from the region.

Interestingly the report also labels neighbouring countries as committing crimes by blocking access to these refugees!

6. War Crimes in War Torn Countries (Special Note)

NB – you will find plenty of examples of many state crimes in war torn countries such as Yemen for example, but it seemed a little bit too easy to focus on those, I’m trying to be critical here!

Three organisations which monitor state crimes:

  • Amnesty International has a useful hub page here which will allow you to explore contemporary case studies of States involved in various crimes – such as disappearances, political violence, torture and states denying citizens freedom of expression.
  • Human Rights Watch – monitors all sorts of State crimes – they cover some of the same ground as Amnesty but also focus more extensively on issues such as women’s’ rights, and reproductive rights and lots more. Their reports page is well worth a browse!
  • Transparency International – monitors global political corruption – they’ve developed an index based on surveys which asks people questions such as ‘have you paid a bribe to access a public service in the last year’ – they rank countries according to how corrupt they are and do research into corruption in several countries. You can access the latest world corruption report here.
  • You might also be interested in this rare academic source – The State Crime Journal .

What is Deviance?

Deviance is norm-breaking behaviour. Sociologists argue that deviance is context dependent – what is deviant depends on the situation you are in, such as the country and the historical period.

Deviance refers to rule-breaking behaviour of some kind which fails to conform to the norms and expectations of a particular society or social group.   

Deviance is closely related to the concept of crime, which is law breaking behaviour. Criminal behaviour is usually deviant, but not all deviant behaviour is criminal.

The concept of deviance is more difficult to define than crime. Deviance includes both criminal and non-criminal acts, but it is quite difficult to pin down what members of any society or groups actually regard as deviant behaviour. Downes and Rock (2007) suggest that ambiguity is a key feature of rule-breaking, as people are frequently unsure whether a particular episode is truly deviant or what deviance is. Their judgement will depend on the context in which it occurs, who the person is, what they know about them and what their motives might be.

Societal and Situational Deviance

Plummer (1979) discusses two aspects of defining deviance, using the concepts of societal deviance and situational deviance.

Societal deviance refers to forms of deviance that most members of a society regard as deviant because they share similar ideas about approved and unapproved behaviour – murder, rape, child abuse and driving over the alcohol limit in the UK generally fall into this category.

Situational deviance refers to the way in which an act being seen as deviant or not depends on the context or location in which it takes place. These two conceptions of deviance suggest that, while there may be some acts that many people agree are deviant in one society, those acts defined as deviant will vary between groups within a society. Whether or not an act is seen as deviant often depends on:

The historical period – definitions of deviance change over time in the same society as standards of normal behaviour change. For example, cigarette smoking used to be very popular, now it is illegal to smoke in restaurants or buses.

The place or context – nudity is often seen as deviant in public (though in itself it is never criminal), but rarely in private; playing loud music is deviant on public transport, but not at music festivals, and drinking to excess is deviant almost anywhere, but not necessarily in pubs or clubs.

The social group – What may be regarded as unacceptable at a societal level may be regarded as acceptable in small groups or even whole age cohorts – binge drinking and sexual promiscuity are two such examples. 

The context dependency of deviance

The context dependency of deviance simply refers to the idea that deviance is socially constructed – whether or not an act is seen as deviant depends on the historical period, the place, and the group witnessing the act.

The context dependency of deviance can be illustrated by a simple example:

Wearing a mini skirt is Deviant in Saudi Arabia:

But its clearly not on Tik Tok in Western Culture…

Task: Try to come up with your own examples which illustrate the Context Dependency of Deviance.

Discussion Question: Is there any act which is inherently deviant (deviant in every context)?

This material forms part of the introduction to the Crime and Deviance option within A-level Sociology

Please click here to return to the homepage – ReviseSociology.com

How Coronavirus is changing crime and deviance

The societal reaction to Coronavirus is certainly a very stark illustration of the context dependency of crime and deviance…..

The recent emergency legislation which put the country into lockdown has made a whole swath of previously ‘normal activities’ deviant, if not criminal, and it’s changing the nature of what we think of as both criminal and deviant.

The Emergency Legislation in the UK: Grey Areas

The ‘government advice’ is that no one is allowed to go out of doors without good excuse, which includes:

  • Buying essential food and medical supplies for you own household and vulnerable people
  • Getting money, to exercise and for essential work
  • To avoid injury, illness or risk of harm. 

Social gatherings of more than two people are also banned except from within the same household.

Emergency legislation gives police the powers to enforce lockdown laws, by insisting people go home and by issuing fines of up to £60, arrest, or dispersal using reasonable force.

However, it’s unclear about what actually constitutes deviance with the above advice and legislation: the law doesn’t state how many times people are allowed out, what constitutes food, and while advice says stay local when doing exercise, it doesn’t specify what local means!

As a result, there is room for interpretation over what constitutes ‘deviant behaviour’, and the police in some areas have been more rigorous in enforcing the lockdown than in others.

So what counts as deviant in the age of the lockdown?

There is some uncertainty, but clarity seems to be emerging as the agents of social control offer more explicit guidelines on what people can and cannot do, hence why this bizarre situation is such a wonderful example of the context dependency of deviance…..

Deviant: Sunbathing, picnicking and playing sports

For example Liverpool Council have made it clear that you can go outside if you keep moving (the ticks below) but not to stop or play sports…..

The police’s reaction to various people flouting lockdown rules also gives further clarification:

Deviant: Not social distancing

People are now being fined for getting too close to other people.

The first example of this I know of was Steve Mackie, who was fined £500 for ‘repeatedly approaching people queuing‘ outside a certain branch of Tesco.

The police have also allegedly fined some runners for ‘running to close to people‘.

Deviant: letting your kids outside four times in one day

A father in the West Midlands was recently fined £680 because his son had been spotted outside by the police four times in one day. I feel sorry for this guy, I can imagine it’s tough to have to keep your teenage kids indoors at this time.

Deviant: taking a 240 mile round trip to buy bread

One guy was recently stopped by the police doing 110 MPH on the motorway, he tried to explain his driving-jolly as buying bread, but he didn’t get away with it.

Here at least is some clarity on what counts as local – not 120 miles away!

Deviant: running for more than 30 minutes?

Michael Gove recently suggested that people shouldn’t be running for more than 30 minutes….

So am I a criminal?

Upgraded to assault: spitting at key workers

Spitting or coughing at key workers may now be prosecuted as ‘common assault’. One man has already been jailed for 26 weeks for spitting at a police officer, saying he wanted to give her Covid-19.

Fair enough I say, just being a thoroughly unpleasant individual.

Coronavirus: making it easier for some ‘normal’ criminals

Meanwhile there is one criminal activity you’re less likely to be prosecuted for – watching your T.V. without a licence because enforcement letters and visits have been stopped. I guess it makes sense keeping in mind how crucial TV is for social control!

Finally, trials for all non serious crimes have been put on hold, so I guess some criminals are actually getting some extra free time to enjoy their ‘softer’ variety of lockdown (rather than jail)

What is Social Control?

Social control refers to the mechanisms a society uses to get individuals to conform. This post covers sociological perspectives on social control such as Functionalism, Marxism and Interactionism

A broad definition of social control is ‘all of the formal and informal mechanisms and internal and external controls that operate to produce conformity’*

Social control is the opposite of deviance. Sociologists of deviance ask ‘why do people break social norms and values’? Social control theorists ask ‘why do people conform to social norms and values’?

NB for students studying the crime and deviance component of A-level sociology, most resources tend to focus on the ‘crime and deviance‘ aspect, NOT the social control aspect, but the question of why people conform is just as important as the question of why people break the rules!

Origins of the Concept of Social Control

The concept is often traced back to the seventeenth century Philosopher Thomas Hobbes who argued that in a society of self-interested individuals a great power (the State) was needed to prevent things deteriorating into a war of all against all.

Individuals agreed to give up some of their individual freedoms by promising to obey the laws of the State, and in return the State promised to protect individuals.

Talcottt Parsons (1937) developed one of the earliest sociological perspectives on social control. He argued that conformity was not just produced by external agencies coercing individuals to obey rules through the threat of punishment, but also through individuals internalizing norms and values through socialization.

Travis Hirschi (1969) developed this idea further when he argued that juvenile delinquency was the result of an individual’s bonds to society were weakened. His theory emphasized the importance of ties to family, peers and other social institutions such as education and work as important in maintaining social control.

Types of social control theory

One way of dividing up theories of social control is to separate them into conformity producing and deviance repressing approaches (Hudson 1997) suggested there were

Conformity producing theories tend to focus on how people learn to conform by internalising social norms and taking on social roles (like with the Functionalist view of the family or education)

Deviance repressing theories tend to look at the relationship between deviance behaviour and the measures used to reduce it (like with right and left realist approaches to deviance).

Better methods combine both types of approach

Parsons’ approach to social control

Parsons was interested in the question of how societies produce enough conformity to reproduce themselves (or carry on) across several generations.

He pointed out that the majority of people to do not seem to mind conforming to most of society’s norms and values for most of the time during most of their lives. In other words most people willingly conform.

Parsons argued that socialization was central to this ‘willing conformity’. Socialization within institutions such as the family and education helped individuals to internalize the norms and values of a society and convince people that a ‘good-person’ was one who willingly conformed to society’s rules.

Matza’s Techniques of Neutralisation

David Matza’s work on ‘techniques of neutralisation’ supported this view. He pointed out that even people who broke the laws of society still shared the general values of that society.

Matza argued that when people committed deviant acts, they employed ‘techniques of neutralisation’ to explain why they had broken social norms and/ or values.

Techniques of neutralization may include such things as ‘I was drunk, so I was out of control’ or ‘that person is nasty, they deserved it’, and they are used by individuals to justify why they were temporarily deviance on that particular occasion.

Matza argued that ‘techniques of neutralisation’ enabled people to convince themselves that there were exceptional circumstances which explained their occasional acts of deviance, while at the same time allowing them to maintain their self-concept as someone who generally conforms to social norms most of the time.

Hirschi’s Control Theory

Hirschi’s theory of social control emphasized the importance of attachments and social bonds. The more bonds an individual has to society, the more time he or she spends involved with other people and social institutions, then the less likely that individual is to commit deviance.

In Hirschi’s theory, deviance doesn’t really need explaining: it happens whenever an individual is cut free from social bonds and has the opportunity to be deviant.

Marxist Approaches to Social Control

Unlike the three consensus approaches above, Marxists tend to see social control as being consciously or unconsciously ‘engineered’ by the capitalist class and the state.

In terms of ‘conformity producing’ approaches – Marxists see the norms and values of education as working to produce a docile and passive workforce – as outlined in Bowles and Gintis’ Correspondence Theory.

The media is also seen as an important agent of social control – processes such as agenda setting and gatekeeping mean the elite’s view of the world is presented as normal, thus producing ideological control.

Marxists are also critical of how ‘deviance is reduced’ – seeing the police as working with the elite and the state – working class street crime is, for example, over-policed and prosecuted, while Corporate Crime is relatively under-policed and prosecuted.

Interactionist Approaches to Social Control

The labelling perspective sees social control and deviance as having an ironic relationship.

The more the agencies of social control try to prevent deviance, by labelling and policing certain behaviours as deviant, then the more deviance will be created.

A lot of research from the interactionist perspective has focused on how it is certain types of people (rather than behaviours) who tend to get labelled as deviant, and thus are more likely to become deviant.

Sources

(*) Giddens and Sutton (2017) Essential Concepts in Sociology

Can religion lead gang members away from crime?

The short answer is yes: ex gang members who join a religious ‘support’ programme as a way out of crime have lower re-offending rates. However, the re-offending rates of those who quit such programmes have higher reoffending rates than those who never took part at all!

This is according to some recent research summarized in this interesting Thinking Allowed podcast. The research summarized is clearly relevant to both the beliefs in society module and the crime and deviance module.

The podcast starts off with a discussion of what gangs are, focusing mainly on how uncritically the term is used.

There’s an especially interesting discussion on labelling as applied to gangs and how naming a gang can sometimes be enough to bring it into existence.

There is also commentary on how the gang label is typically applied to groups of young people, and how it has racial connotations, being applied more to black youth.

The podcast then moves onto routes into gangs, outlining how various ‘causal factors’ have been identified through research, such as poverty, deprivation, and childhood trauma.

However research on causes is a bit 1990s, and the focus today is more on routes out of crime, or what criminologists call desistance

Desistance: Routes out of Crime

This episode of Thinking Allowed finishes off with a summary of Professor Ross Deuchar‘s work on the routes out of gangs.

He has spent time with gang members who have served their time for gang related offenses and in a liminal phase, trying to transition away from gang life, and his research has a real global focus, he’s researched desistance in Scotland, the US and Asia.

Previous research of his highlighted the fact that traditional, or hegemonic masculinity played a big part in gang members criminality – much of the violence was about playing out a hyper masculine role.

His research shows that religious groups offering therapeutic support to ex gang members have a higher success rate than usual in helping ex gang members to desist from crime.

He suggests this might be because the focus on spirituality (rather than dogma) allows for a deepening awareness of self an others and it helps ex-gang members learn how to be men in different ways to previously.

There is a lot more to this podcast, and I suggest you check it out, click the link above to find out more!

Crime and Deviance Teaching Resource Bundle

I’ve just release a new crime and deviance teaching resource bundle as part of my A-level sociology teaching resource subscription

This teaching resource bundle contains everything teachers need to deliver 10-hour long lessons in the sociology of crime and deviance for A level sociology.  

Each lesson includes a student work-pack, supplementary resources such as PowerPoints, a detailed lesson plan and numerous lesson activities including starters, plenaries and links to some Socrative quizzes.

There is also some material on exams or formal assessment, but the main focus of these lessons is on content delivery rather than revision. If you’re interested in more assessment resources please see my you might like my various ‘revision bundles’, assessment details are contained within the relevant documents in each of these.

The resources have been designed for A-level sociology and cover the core themes on the AQA’s specification but are suitable for new 16-19 students studying any specification.

An overview of the ten introductory lessons:

  1. An introduction to Crime and Deviance
  2. An introduction to crime statistics
  3. Applying sociological perspectives to the London Riots
  4. Consensus theories of crime review lesson
  5. The Marxist perspective on crime lesson 1
  6. The Marxist perspective on crime lesson 2
  7. Research and letter- to MP writing lesson on corporate and white-collar crime
  8. The Right Realist perspective on crime lesson 1
  9. The Right Realist perspective on crime lesson 2
  10. Researching Right and Left Realist policy solutions to knife crime.

Resources in the bundle include:

  • Five student workbooks covering all of the above lessons
  • Eight Power Points covering most of the above lessons (not for riots or the corporate crime research lesson.
  • 10 lesson plans covering all of the above lessons.
  • Various supplementary hand-outs for some of the above lessons as necessary.
  • Starters and plenaries for crime and deviance
  • Extensive gap-fill crime and deviance revision grids with answers.
  • Full crime and deviance scheme of work.

Fully modifiable resources

Every teacher likes to make resources their own by adding some things in and cutting other things out – and you can do this with both the work pack and the PowerPoints because I’m selling them in Word and PPT, rather than as PDFs, so you can modify them!

NB – I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in. It’s obvious where I’ve taken them out!

%d bloggers like this: