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Socially Constructed Phenomenon Add in library

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Discuss this statement with reference to the criminological schools of thought, the emergence of the victim in criminological thought, different definitions of crime, and measuring crime and victimisation?



Crimes like murder, assault, robbery, rape and theft are all considered as criminal offenses. Such criminal behaviors increase the crime problem of a nation and also from the general public with fear. Criminal behavior can be described as the behavior that violates the criminal law. It cannot be considered as a crime unless the behavior has been limited by the criminal law. On the other hand, traditionally, criminal law has been defined as the body of rules related with human conduct that have been promulgated by political authority and are applicable uniformly to all the members of the class to which such rules referred to and which rules are enforced by arrangement that is administered by the State (Carrabine et al., 2014). Without these laws, there shall be complete chaos and similarly there will be no social order. In this way, it can be said that these laws are invoked in order to maintain social control. But the crime problem is still a serious problem and as a result, the demand is also present for more such laws. However in order to deal with the problem of crime, it is important that the meaning of crime should be assessed. It has been argued by some criminologists that crime is socially constructed. On the other hand, there are many who believe that crime is real and therefore it should be taken seriously. In this way, in case of the social construction of crime, it is believed that crime is caused by social factors (Walklate, 2007). According to it, crime is not related with psychological and biological factors and it is a response to the state of society and also the inequality in the society.

The theories that are present in the support of social construction of crime include Labeling, New Criminology, Marxism and Gender Studies.

Crime as a socially constructed process

Labeling Theory

In case of the leading theory, it is provided that the criminals are labeled as criminals due to the purpose of social order. Their behavior is not in accordance with the social norms and the society does not tolerate such deviant behaviors. Such an impression has to be imposed by the law agents but at the same time, it has also been proposed by some criminologists that the labeling system also encourages more criminal behavior instead of decreasing it (Treadwell, 2006). The labeling theory not only accounts for the different impact that it has on certain individuals but at the same time it can also have a negative impact on the way some groups are perceived (Karmen, 2013). The exaggeration combined with labeling can result in creating a model panic among the public. Moral panics are the reaction of the public and the media towards certain events. In this way, model panic is also considered as public outcries.  Such events are considered as a threat to the social order and an example of such events can be given in the form of soccer violence or vandalism.

The public receives information regarding the crime from the media. For example, during the 1970s, the focus of the attention of media was on mugging. Images from the ghettos were used by the media and street robberies were defined into a new youth and the violent crime taking place on streets came to be known as mugging. Very soon, the moral panic that was associated with mugging started to focus on black youths. It was considered that the problem has been the result of racial inequality and social deprivation. The result was that media completely blew out of proportion the incidence of mugging. The matters were made worse when the police started to target black youths who were seen in the streets. In this way, the media has to be selective regarding the events that are going to be reported by it and also the way, the event is going to be presented to the public. For example the crimes against environment are not considered as 'spectacularly newsworthy' while the cases of violence in which injuries have been received by innocent persons generally receive the attention of the media (Walklate, 2011).

Theory of Karl Marx

According to the theory of crime proposed by Karl Marx, crime is committed by the lower class as a result of the inequality that is generally seen in case of capitalist societies. Significant social changes have taken place as a result of the industrial revolution which has produced a capitalist society. In case of a capitalist society, there is a powerful ruling class which also owns the modes of production and at the same time, there is the class that is ruled by them and this class also works for them (Muncie, 2001). Therefore while the working class produces the goods, it is up to the owners to gain huge profits by selling these goods to the other members of the society. While the members of the working class only earn low wages and at the same time, the jobs they have to do can be very unrewarding and an interesting. As a result of the low wages given to them, the workers have to live in poverty. This division results in inequality and conflict. Such a conflict is generally expressed in the form of riots and rebellion. In this way, according to this theory, crime is also an expression of the exploitation and the terrible working and living conditions that the people from the working class have to face.

In this way, according to Karl Marx crime is the struggle of an individual against the prevailing conditions. According to this theory, it is believed that crime is socially constructed. However there are certain flaws in this theory. Capitalism alone cannot be considered as the cause behind crime. Crime is still present in case of industrialized societies. In the same way, this theory only focuses on the crime committed by lower-class (Sarre, 2012). It also needs to be noted in this regard that the people from the art classes also commit a number of crimes. Particularly these people are engaged in white-collar crime.



Right Realism: In the same way, in case of the realist criminology, there can be either Right or Left Realism. In both these cases, it is believed that crime is real and it has to be taken seriously. It is also believed that the safety of the public has to be ensured with the help of crime control. However Right Realism does not support the position that crime is produced by the society if a deviant person is labeled as a criminal but it is the personal choice of an individual to become a criminal. In case of Rigth Realism, it is realized that crime can be overrepresented as a result, in this case it is proper to gain information through victim surveys. On the other hand, the critics of right realism point out that it only focuses on the way social order can be achieved and on punishing the street crime. Therefore crimes like the white collar crimes are left out of this equation.

Left Realism: On the other hand, the left realists are dissatisfied with the social construction of crime. According to them, crime is not the result of model panic that has been created by the media. It is the real expression of the public which results in moral panics. Therefore it is important to consider the fears of the public seriously and to act upon them.


While ending the discussion if crime is socially constructed or not, it can be said that crime can be said to be socially constructed as well as real. Crime can be considered as socially constructed in the form of the labeling individuals which turns the deviants into criminals. At the same time, the media can also be held responsible for the over-representation as well as the under-representation that may end up creating moral panics among the public. At the same time, crime can also be the result of the feeling of inequality and exploitation that can be created among the working class who has to face terrible living conditions, particularly in capitalist societies. Similarly, gender roles can also have an impact on the rate of crime between men and women. However it is also important to note that apart from all these, crime is also real. The victims of numerous crimes are present to tell their tales. In this way, crime represents a huge problem which has to be addressed effectively. Therefore while certain flaws are present in the radical theories, it can certainly be said that crime is a reality.


Carrabine, E, Cox, P, Fussey, P, Hobbs, D, South, N, Thiel, D, & Turton, J 2014, 'The enlightenment thinkers and early traditions', inCriminology: a sociological introduction, 3rd edn, Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, UK, pp. 49-65.

Karmen, A 2013, 'What is victimology?', in Crime victims: an introduction to victimology, 8th edn, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, Belmont, pp. 1-35.

Muncie, J 2001, 'The construction and deconstruction of crime', in J Muncie & E McLaughlin (eds), The problem of crime, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, pp. 7 70

Sarre, R 2012, 'The criminal process', in M Marmo, W De Lint & D Palmer (eds), Crime and justice: a guide to criminology, 4th edn, Thomson Reuters, Pyrmont, NSW, pp. 435-53.

Treadwell, J 2006, 'Part three: study writing and revision skills', in Criminology, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 128-168

Walklate, S 2007, 'Perspectives in criminological theory', in Understanding criminology: Current theoretical debates, 3rd edn, Open University Press, Maidenhead, UK, pp. 17-37.

Walklate, S 2011, 'Counting crime', in Criminology: the basics, 2nd edn, Routledge, Abingdon, UK, pp. 29-51.

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