Social control, discipline and regulation

Topics: Crime, Sociology, Criminal justice Pages: 5 (2002 words) Published: June 5, 2014
Social Control, Discipline and Regulation
Crime is defined as a deviant act which goes against the norms and values of society which can be culturally and historically determined. The term crime really has no reality beyond the application of the term to particular acts. The acts themselves are not always classed as criminal, for example to kill a person during peacetime would be classed as criminal (murder), but to kill them on a battlefield would not. Criminal acts consist of many petty acts which cause little or no harm or financial loss to anybody, and often there is no victim. Many more serious crimes such as large scale tax evasion which costs the government a lot of money, are often overlooked and are seldom prosecuted. Over time some laws which are no longer relevant are decriminalised and other acts become criminalised. These change with new governments and societal and culture changes. In 1967 the Sexual Offences Act was introduced which made it illegal in Britain for men of any age to have consensual sex together. Over time society has come to accept gay relationships and so in turn the law surrounding gay couples has also relaxed. In 2005 civil partnerships were introduced to give gay couples similar rights to married couples and the current government is looking at making gay marriages legal. If deviant behaviour seems to becoming more common, such as people carrying weapons then new legislations are put in place or existing legislations are updated and more harsh penalties are put in place to deter criminals and reduce crimes and victimisation. Travis Hirshi (1969) through his social bond theory tries to explain why some people don’t commit crime. He argues the question ‘Why do they do it?’ is not a question the control theory is designed to answer. The important question he says is ‘Why don’t we do it?’ [1]. Hirshi identified four main characteristics or social bonds which explain conformity. The more a person features these characteristics the less likely they are to become deviant or criminal. Attachment to family and friends he seen as the most important factor in his social bond theory, this influence supports our norms, values and conscience. If we did not care about how we were perceived by our family and friends then we would be free to act deviant. Commitment to achievement is another factor, this refers to how much effort, time and money a person puts into a particular activity. A person such as a doctor who has spent a lot of time, effort and money on educating themselves is less likely to become deviant because a criminal record could result in them losing their job. Involvement in conventional activities leaves a person with less time to think about or get involved in deviant activities. Belief refers to the strength of our commitment to a particular belief. There are variations in our beliefs; the less a person believes he should follow the rules the more likely he is to violate them. A criticism of Hirshi’s work would be to ask why people commit crime. This assumes that law abiding behaviour is normal and that the majority of people do not commit crimes. In some sub cultures deviant behaviour is the norm, children born into this kind of culture and grow up breaking the law because it is normal to them. Hirshi does not explain this kind of behaviour. When crimes are committed the judicial system uses different forms of punishment or social control. This is used to deter the offender from re-offending and as an example to others not to break the law. Harsh forms of social control are imprisonment or even death in some countries. A softer form of social control is things like fines and community service. In Michel Foucault’s book, Discipline and Punishment, he looks at the birth of the prison and how the penal system has changed from. In the 17th century the forms of punishment were brutal public tortures, humiliations, hangings and executions which focused on hurting the physical body. This...

References: 1. Tim Newburn (2007). Criminology. Devon: Willan Publishing. 34.
2. Foucault, M (1975) Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan (1977) New York: Pantheon Books. Page 264
4. Sandra Walklate (2009). Criminology, The Basics. New York: Routledge. 187.
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