Mr Jamie Burns

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Drawing upon sociological theories of crime and disorder, evaluate two theories in relation to how they have contributed to our understanding of why people commit crime.

Crime is a product of a socially construed bounding of social interactions. Its a general term applied to certain acts or omissions defined by criminal and civil law (Newburn 2007), however the very fact that we have different criminal laws in different countries, contradicts that crime is not as easy to define. Edwin Schur (1969: 10) noted 'once we recognise that crime is defined by criminal law and as a variable in content, we see quite clearly that no explanation of crime that limits itself to the motivation and behavior of individuals can ever be a complete one'.

Sociological theories linked to crime and disorder, stem from a long and invasive approach to many independent theories. Many of these distinct approaches manipulate crime and disorder, to resist rival compelling arguments in understanding patterns of criminological behavior.

The term criminalisation is commonly referred to throughout criminological textbooks as a defining principle of how we as a society, define the acts of a criminal (Newburn 2007 pp 9). This exemplifies the roots of the widely accepted labeling theory, that encapsulates the idea of social construction, and how we as a society, tend to allow justification from the 'elite' to defy ones 'self'. Christie (2004: 3) suggests that crime does not exist, and that only acts exist. . “Our challenge is to follow the destiny of acts through the university of meanings”.

Radical criminology will draw upon aspects of oppression, and the need for a capitalist society, and that deviancy is just a form of conformity. ‘Classical Theories’ will draw upon the mutual agreement that ‘all men. . are liable to commit crime’, that there is a consensus that we all enter a contract with the state, to preserve the peace (Taylor, I. 1973. et al pp 1-4).

Crime becomes a regression of a wilder state of man (Downes & Rock, 2007 pp 1-6), and conformity achieves a great sense of admiration and purpose. For instance the work of ‘prostitutes’ is undertaken to uphold marriage (Davis 1937), organised crime defuses rebelliousness and undermines social inequalities, and that social order is simply a derivative of biological attributes, that can not be defined with, social processing and impulse management (Merton 1949).

Non-conformity is assumed to be rooted in original nature, and conformity is described as a utilitarian calculus of unreasoned conditioning (Merton 1949). On the contrary you can already see that the very definition of crime, is embedded in opposed metaphysical beliefs that cannot be ‘proven’ or ‘disproven’. Theories like these obstruct the belief that we were once born perfect, and that society plays a vital part in the aspects of becoming deviant, as a result of socialistic commodities and beliefs. Other theories use individual transgressions, as a collective means of action for conformity (Newburn 2007).

Ambiguity is a crucial facet of crime and disorder, and that the true meaning of crime solely depends on the situation, the context, and purpose of the act. The legal system imposes a categorical belief that the element of crime is committed with prohibited conduct known as ‘actus reus’ and the ‘mens rea’ which is commonly defined as the mental element. The legal system also encapsulates the idea of recklessness and reasonable belief (Metropolitan Police Commissioner v. Caldwell).

Similar to that of our own legal system, theorists rely on the assumption of reasonable belief, and that we set our own philosophical standards of acceptance. It also relies on the classification of the crime: being an act (Christie 2004).

For many people the situation plays a vital role in our response to defining a criminal act or a crime. For example people are prepared to accept some form of pilfering (Ditton 1977) and some form of...
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