Critically evaluate the claim that people commit crime as a result of socio-economic inequality.Critically evaluate the claim that people commit crime as a result of socio-economic inequality.
Word Count – 2,849
It is a global fact that crime is most rife in areas of extreme poverty and lower-working class, and has been for many centuries. This essay will delve into many theories to assess whether the varying rates of crime in different societies and groups of social status are a result of economic classes in society. As it is also a fact that crime is committed in all areas of society this essay first begin by looking at different models that have been constructed to explain how crime and social status is related. The first model is known as the predestined actor model and other that also helps explain is the victimised actor model. These models and the theories explaining them will be critically assessed throughout the whole essay. First the essay looks at sociological positivism and the theories within that. These include Durkheim and Merton’s ideas about crime. Psychological Positivism will also be analysed, in particular Banduras theory and studies on social-learning as a result of behavioural and cognitive influences. Then labelling theories will be examined and discussed before a conclusion will be drawn from all theories considered. Although criminal behaviour and activity is found most commonly in poorer economic societies it is also, although less common, found in middle and upper class societies too. This statement is supported by sociologist Emile Durkheim who said ‘there is no society that is not confronted with the problem of criminality’ (1938, 65-66). This is the view of a social positivist and relates to the first model of crime, the predestined actor model which looks at internal and external determinism. His book The Division of Labour in Society described how in periods of social change, in this case industrial development, consequences and differentiations can be most clearly observed in the penal area. Upon his examination of this change he identified two social formations of social solidarity which he named, ‘mechanical’ and ‘organic’. Mechanical solidarity he describes was most common in early forms of society and these groups had high levels of conformity, individuals hold similar likenesses and hold common attitudes and beliefs. Members within this mechanical society would hold similar moral opinions of right and wrong. Individuals who differentiate from the norms in this group are punished by law in order to retain the universal group of the society. Durkheim progresses to explain how in an organic society there is a higher division of labour and the social construct is encircled around difference and diversity between societies. Law is enforced in these societies to regulate interactions between groups and individuals rather than the organic model which aims to retain similarity and unity. It is recognised that today’s society is that of differentiating classes and societies, therefore making it organic. It is these inequalities between groups that differentiate people from classes such as, upper, middle and lower (working) class. Durkheim’s claims the growth of the organic society is a direct result of industrialisation and the division of labour, with different groups in society relying on each other’s different functions. The claim that people commit crime as a result of inequality is mostly directed at those of the working class, who are as a result of the organic society, the poorest and most disadvantaged group of individuals. To explain how crime had developed in modern societies Durkheim suggested two of his most important arguments. First was that the organic society, with its divisions encouraged ‘egoism’ ‘that is contrary to the maintenance of social solidarity and conformity to the law’ (Hopkins Burke 2005, 94-95). His second argument was that due to the fast modernisation,...
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