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In sociology, several perspectives have tried to explain either what crime and deviance is, or what causes crime and deviance. On the other hand, there is psychological and biological explanation of crime and deviance. In this essay, I intend to look at the definition of crime and deviance about a story. Also, the essay will explain biological, sociological and psychological causes and explanations of crime, by either giving the causes or what the two terms entail. Moreover, there are several perspectives in sociology that explain deviance and crime (Akers, 2011). The essay will discuss some of these theories as far as crime and deviance are concerned about a crime story of Richard Bausch, “The Man Who Knew Belle Starr.” In particular, McRae and Belle Star, who are characters, represent every aspect of crime and deviant behaviors.
The term denotes the behavior or actions of people that appear to go against social norms which may include formally-enacted rules of a state or informal ones defined by considering social norms. In this case, norms are expectations or rules which are used to guide members of society (Downes, Rock, and McLaughlin, 2016). Therefore, deviance is the absence of obedience or conformity to the stipulated norm. However, norms are never similar from one society to another. Thus, an act can appear as deviant in one society but is quite acceptable in another society (Clinard, and Meier, 2015).
On the other hand, crime refers to deviant conduct that goes against the standards practices that are prevailing in a given society or rather, social guidelines recommending how people should act ordinarily. This approach considers the perplexing substances are encompassing the idea of wrongdoing and looks to see how evolving social, political, mental, and monetary conditions may influence changing meanings of wrongdoing and the type of the lawful, law-authorization, and punitive reactions made by society (Bausch, 2012). However, the structural formation is sometimes controversial in the sense that, as they change, the definition of crime also changes. For instance, a crime may cease to be a crime if laws or societies embrace certain conduct that was previously deemed unfit (Gottfredson, and Hirschi, 2003). Thus, crime is never a constant thing as behaviors tend to change depending on the existing laws and how societies perceive what is to be treated as a crime.
The first one is functionalism theory which contends that social orders require a restricted measure of wrongdoing, because doing a crime is unavoidable, especially in a society of people regarded as holy or saints. Additionally, the perspectives suggest that crimes, in effect, generate three beneficial roles, which are; regulation, bringing about change and integration. In addition to that, there is Karl Marx’s perspective on crime and deviance, in this theory, Marx suggests that crime as emanating from classes, that is, Capitalism and the class structure (Hirshleifer, 2001). He believes that the ruling classes that are predominant in the capitalist system make laws that profit themselves. Additionally, the law aims at protecting their assets and business ventures. Thus, he argues that what they do is a crime, but due to their position and system, they are less likely to be apprehended even though their crime is more harmful than that of the low classes (Bartos, and Wehr, 2002). Specific law authorization performs ideological capacities. The working classes carry out the crime due to their 'merciless' estimations of entrepreneur framework or rather self-centeredness.
Lastly, there is Merton’s perspective and interaction theory. Interaction perspective concentrates on how crime is socially developed, on how certain demonstrations end up noticeably characterized as criminal or degenerate, and how certain individuals will probably be described as a freak than others. It is comprised of two major concepts that are, ideas of labeling and moral panic (Aseltine, Gore, and Gordon, 2000). On the other hand, Merton’s perspective stipulates that crime and deviance happen in times of anomie when there is a "strain" between societies socially endorsed 'achievement objectives' and the open doors accessible to accomplish these goals. In addition to that, crime happens when people still need to make the progress objectives of society yet desert the socially endorsed methods for getting those objectives.
Biology has also tried to explain deviant and crime is elaborating that it has genetic leanings. In the sense that, a few people are hereditarily inclined to criminal conduct or rather, criminals are as a result of genes that make one a criminal or not. It is a theory that was proposed by Lombroso. His opinion was that offenders were a result of prior hereditary structures. The notion comes from Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Lombroso estimates that individuals are born criminals. Moreover, Gottfredson and Hirschi (2003) stipulate that poor parenting and biology are the root causes of deviant behaviors. The same as Hardwick argues that, even though poor parenting contributes to one been deviant and committing a crime, biological factors are the ones that contribute a lot to deviance ability for one to commit a crime as they influence one's self-control.
In the story of Richard Bausch, “The Man Who Knew Belle Starr,” it has characters that behave in a manner that can be used to demonstrate deviance and crime as described in sociology. In particular, McRae and Belle Star, who are characters, represent every aspect of crime and deviant behaviors. Relating the crime story to functions perceptions of sociologist Robert Merton, it is evident that one of the causes that makes McRae and Belle Star are those he describes results to crime and deviance. Merton suggests that people tend to respond in various ways to attempt to achieve their objectives on the methods that the society has imposed on them (Britt, and Gottfredson, 2011). He goes further to identify five ways which are, conformist, rebelliousness, ritualist, innovator and retreats. In the crime story, Belle Star becomes both an innovator and a ritualist while McRae behaves adopts and becomes a retreat. The reason that makes Belle to assumes a ritualist kind of personality because she refuses to follow the set out goals of the society she lives in and supports goals that put to herself which she considers success. In addition to that, she appears to be an innovator as well in the sense that she adopts her new way of achieving her goals, which is, shooting the people that offend her. It makes her become a criminal and deviant. On the other hand, McRae goes against the norms that the society sets out for him. In particular, he demonstrates that he is a vagrant and is devoid of any specific direction as far as his life is concerned (Rimal, and Real, 2003). He goes westwards and does not seem to care about the standards that are set by the society.
In addition to that, Emile Durkheim’s theory of functionalism can rightly be used in this crime story to explain causes of crime and deviance in people. For instance, both McRae and Belle are in a position that they are unable to find the society to be fitting for them, which according to the sociologist suggest is a result of “anomie.” To start with McRae, he receives inadequate social guidance in his life, a conclusion coming from the fact that his father was ill since the time McRae was a child (Andrews, and Bonta, 2010). Thus, the reason that he turns out to be a criminal is a result of poor parenting. It explains one of the causes that sociologists believe causes crime. However, the theory does not consider a person’s character as a result of genes, making it one of the short coming. Also, Belle suffers from sexual abuse and inadequate family support which leads her to resort to committing crimes, thus explaining the causes of crimes as noted by sociologists.
Crime and deviance are two words that sociologists have tried to explain not only their meanings but also what causes them. In sociology, deviance denotes behaving in a manner that does not conform to the societal standard way of behaving while crime is the violation of set out rules and regulation either by the society or the state. In addition to that, some theories or perspectives have been used to explain crime or deviance, especially, in regards to what causes them. These perspectives are Marx’s, functionalism, biological, Merton’s and psychological one. Lastly, the crime story “The Man Who Knew Belle Starr,” rightly is used to explain some of the causes of crime and deviance about sociological perspectives, even though the perspectives contain some weaknesses.
Akers, R.L., 2011. Social learning and social structure: A general theory of crime and deviance. Transaction Publishers.
Akers, R.L., 2013. Criminological theories: Introduction and evaluation. Routledge.
Andrews, D.A. and Bonta, J., 2010. The psychology of criminal conduct. Routledge.
Aseltine Jr, R.H., Gore, S. and Gordon, J., 2000. Life stress, anger and anxiety, and delinquency: An empirical test of general strain theory. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, pp.256-275.
Bartos, O.J. and Wehr, P., 2002. Using conflict theory. Cambridge University Press.
Bausch, R., 2012. The Selected Stories of Richard Bausch. Modern Library.
Britt, C.L. and Gottfredson, M.R. eds., 2011. Control theories of crime and delinquency (Vol. 1). Transaction Publishers.
Clinard, M.B. and Meier, R.F., 2015. Sociology of deviant behavior. Nelson Education.
Downes, D., Rock, P. and McLaughlin, E., 2016. Understanding deviance: a guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking. Oxford University Press.
Gottfredson, M.R. and Hirschi, T., 2003. A general theory of crime. Criminological theory: Past to present, pp.240-251.
Hirshleifer, J., 2001. The dark side of the force: Economic foundations of conflict theory. Cambridge University Press.
Rimal, R.N. and Real, K., 2003. Understanding the influence of perceived norms on behaviors. Communication Theory, 13(2), pp.184-203.
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