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Critically discuss Walters and Bradley’s argument that ‘crime and criminals are socially constructed’. Give examples to illustrate your answer.

Social Construction of Crime

Crime refers to the various forms of misconduct which are illegal. There are several reasons which define crime as a social construction. Social problems cannot be in existence if nothing is building it. Instead, the numerous social problems are built up, both by definition, naming as well as mapping the same atrocities to certain standards out of which a sense can be made of a crime. This essay explains the understanding of social construction, offense and how an offense is a socially constructed idea. The essay also explains the three levels of causes of the behaviour of the criminals and how history plays a crucial role in the discovery of a crime. Crime and criminals are two terms that may have two perspectives in sociology. Sometimes scholars define crime based on the origin which is either internal or external in the society. But in general, crime is going against the formalities in the culture and is motivated by various factors or forces present in the community. Such forces can include the need for fulfilment of goals, or sometimes, the lack of any goal. While crimes related to the realization of goals are often organized and sometimes involves more significant benefits, crimes that result from hopelessness are careless and usually involves minor and unorganized execution.

In sociology, social construction means an idea or norms that have been developed by certain people to guard against some behaviours that are considered either an ethical or inappropriate (Chaffee and McLeod 2017). Walters and Bradley believe that crimes are created by the groups of people who formulate regulations that are not in harmony with certain standards made by other people (Bradley and Walters 2011). As such, criminals are those who have gone contrary to the norms that the majority of people agree with. It means that if there are no such standards or regulations, then crime would not exist. In fact, without the laws, no one would be termed a criminal. When the society creates laws, it also creates crime, which is going against the law.

The perspective of the constructionist on crime is that it a sociological inheritance broadly putting the society at a point of granting meaning to terms and behaviours (Miller and Holstein 2017). For instance, it gives the construction of meanings a central role in both construction, production of the circulation of the terms as used in different generations. As a result, in social construction of crime, it could be difficult to find a direct meaning of the term, rather through the mediation of meaning with reality. The naming of someone or even something or the placing of the same on a given map of social orders gives it a vital place in its sociological understanding (Downes, Rock and McLaughlin 2016)

There are three levels of causes of crime. The first is the biological view of cause of crime. This level of crime deals which the biological variations among people, and which can lead them to do particular things which may not be in harmony with the social norms. For instance, a diabetic person may be quick to get angry. However, this may not substantiate the act of crime. The second level of crime is the variations in social behaviours in the community. Everyone is different in the way they act within a specific locality. Still, this may not justify a crime. The third and the most crucial level of crime is the perception put by the society on actions or people (Thornberry 2018). For instance, a person is identified as a criminal by simple acts of innocence. The perceived criminal then in defence and control becomes either violent or does the act of crime so that what is said can be true.

Causes of Crime

It is possible for crime to be done as a result of the need of the society. Sometimes the society imposes pressures on people who find themselves pushed to the wall and the only choice they have is to do something that may not be acceptable in the community. An example is a person who has spent his or her entire life in the slums with parents and siblings spending most of their times in the prisons. Such a one is often vulnerable. He or she wants to survive in a difficult situation but at the same time having been brought up in a society where crime is accepted as a means to live.

Durkheim makes two great arguments supporting crime growth. First, based on the way most industries are growing, urban places become a place in which egoism is predominant but which is against the cohesion of the society. Secondly, as a result of the rapid change in the social set up, a state of anomies arises, meaning that some of the norms are discarded, or some behaviours become normal. The disorder caused in the society as a result of anomies results in ineffective social control. However, Durkheim’s assertions do not effectively explain why people do crimes. However, it justifies the increase in crime in urban centres, primarily due to scramble for wealth creation and maintenance of ownership of the capital (Featherstone and Deflem 2003). The law is thus created to ensure that there is a balance between the creation and protection of wealth. In the absence of the law, people would run out of control in the bid to create wealth (DiCristina 2016).

The Marxist theory of crime attributes crime to social order. Marxist claims that although men make their history, yet that history is based on the past experiences or some social order or class that has been created way before them. In the theory, crime is attributed to the self-interest of capitalism. As such, those who engage in business are the real criminals, although they cannot directly be identified with a particular crime. Looking at the wealthy as the criminals dealing in big scandals of money-laundering may also put the society in a state of agitation where everyone else would want to be at the point of money-making to become rich. However, again, the injustice and social inequality created by the rich cannot be fought because these use the legal systems to justify their course. (Russell 2002). In most cases, the powerful and the wealthy have their criminal record entirely deleted from the systems, and are thus considered free of any past crimes (Richards, et al. 2011).

Although it can be said that crime and criminals are constructed by the society, on the other, crime is caused by an individual choice to act in a certain way. A person who steals knows very well that the act of stealing may hurt the owner of the stuff that has been stolen. The rational decisional decision to do something is the main drive which motivates a person into action. Since this drive is born from the thoughts, it creates a big different between the people who choose to do something or not (Newman and Clarke 2016). In the case of curfew, for example, a person can choose to remain indoors in the odd hours and that choice will lead to keeping the law. However, the choice to defy the regulation leads to a crime whose consequences may be a severe punishment (Walters 2015).

Durkheim’s Theory of Crime

To say that the law imposes crime may be a misleading idea. Everyone has a sense of guilt or gut even in the absence of the law. The natural laws of possession or conduct is a fact that the law cannot define what crime is but reveals the extent of the crime. For example, when the law says that one belongs to a particular country, naturally, a person would be associated with a particular society, but if the person goes to another country, there is a possibility of causing unrests there. The role of the law, in this case, is to present the onset of such uneasiness caused by someone else as a result of the intrusion (Raz 2017). The American dream, for example, gives everyone an equal opportunity to be successful. However, that success may not be supported if the opportunity will involve using guns to scare people and steal from them what they have rightly earned.

The lack of social norms may not just be attributed to the people who are disadvantaged, based on Durkheim’s assertions on the development of industries.  There are some people who are successful but still commit crimes. For example, it is normally accepted that sex is between a woman and a man. However, there are very many who are successful but are either gay or lesbians. This can be a classic and contemporary example since, in the past, this particular union was forbidden yet in the present time, gay or lesbianism is a social norm that is not given much attention, in fact, legal in some countries (Latzer 2018).   

Conclusion

Functionalist theories which explain the existence and continued perpetration assume that every society has certain agreements which dictate what behaviours are considered right or wrong. On the other hand, the approach given by the interactionist does not see a distinction between people who are labelled as criminals and those who are thought to be normal an infinite number of people commit crimes in different levels making it difficult to create a distinction based on the characters and personalities. Crime cannot be attributed to a particular people no matter the status of their being, Crime can be a response to a form of frustration suffered by an individual who is not in a position to achieve the goals that the society set for them, or is a personal choice to go against the conscience of their own will. Being a rational decision, crime is restrained by imposing certain laws. The essence of the law is to safeguard the interests of the people who own something but at the same time impute punishment to the offender.

References

Bradley, T., and R. Walters. 2011. Introduction to Criminological Thought. Auckland: Pearson.

Chaffee, S. R., and J. M. McLeod. 2017. “The construction of social reality.” The social influence processes, 50-99.

DiCristina, B. 2016. “Durkheim’s theory of anomie and crime: A clarification and elaboration.” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology 49 (3): 311-331.

Downes, D., P. E. Rock, and E. McLaughlin. 2016. Understanding deviance: a guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking. Oxford University Press.

Featherstone, R., and M. Deflem. 2003. “Anomie and strain: Context and consequences of Merton's two theories.” Sociological inquiry 73 (4): 471-489.

Latzer, B. 2018. “Subcultures of violence and African American crime rates.” Journal of Criminal Justice 54: 41-49.

Miller, G., and J. A. Holstein. 2017. Constructionist controversies: Issues in social problems theory. Routledge.

Newman, G., and R. V. Clarke. 2016. Rational choice and situational crime prevention: Theoretical foundations. Routledge.

Raz, J. 2017. “The rule of law and its virtue.” The Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers, 77-94.

Richards, S. , R. S. Jones, D. S. Murphy, and B. Fuleihan. 2011. “The electronic “scarlet letter”: Criminal backgrounding and a perpetual spoiled identity.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 50 (3): 101-118.

Russell, S. 2002. “The continuing relevance of Marxism to critical criminology.” Critical Criminology 11 (2): 113-135.

Thornberry, T. 2018. Developmental theories of crime and delinquency. Routledge.

Walters, G. D. 2015. “The decision to commit crime: Rational or nonrational.” Criminology, Crim. Just. L & Soc'y 16: 1.

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