Good Sociology Movies #1: Minority Report

Thought I’d start bashing out the occasional Friday post on good sociology movies… starting with Minority Report – which is a great intro to the ‘surveillance and crime control‘ aspect of the AQA’s 7192 sociology syllabus, crime and deviance topic,

It’s the opening scene in Minority Report which is really the relevant bit here: the arrest of Howard Marks:

In the above scene, John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise) is the chief of police of a special Washington D.C. ‘pre-crime’ unit – in which predictions are so accurate that people are arrested before they have committed a crime.

In the movie, predictions are actually made on the basis of some ‘psychic’ beings who are biogenically networked into the police’s systems, but this aside, the above movie acts as a great starting point for the topic of surveillance and pre-crime.

You can simply show the clip, and then get students to think about where in society authorities restrain or restrict people based on ‘big data’ which is a form of surveillance.

Students should be able to think of a few examples at least, tied into the topic of ‘actuarial crime control‘.

Maybe I’ll blog about the answers another time…

Consensus Theories of Crime: An Introduction

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….

Institution

Positive Sanctions (rewards)

Negative sanctions (punishments)

Examples of Norms and Values enforced

Family

   

Education

   

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:

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