Social Class and Crime Flashcards Preview

Sociology Unit 4 > Social Class and Crime > Flashcards

Flashcards in Social Class and Crime Deck (8)
Loading flashcards...

What do official statistics say about social class and crime?

There are social class differences in the types of crimes committed; Lower social classes are more likely to commit street crimes , burglary and violent crimes, compared to offenders of higher social classes who are more likely to be convicted for financial crimes including fraud and embezzlement.


Analysis of statistics

Despite these trends in official statistics, self reports, which are valid if anonymous, indicate less difference in offending between social classes. The types of crime associated with working class is also more visible than those of the higher class, which may suggest that working class crime rate is overstated.


Reasons for working class offending
MERTON'S STRAIN THEORY argues that deviance is the result of strain between which two things:

- the goals that a culture encourages individuals to achieve (cultural factors)
- what the institutional structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately (structural factors)


Merton- ideology of the American Dream and the reality

American's are expected to pursue goals legitimately, by discipline and educational achievement. This ideology tells Americans that their society is a meritocratic one. This creates a desire to succeed however, in reality, the lack of opportunities for disadvantaged groups creates a pressure to adopt illegitimate means.


The strain to anomie

1. Conformity
2. Innovation
3. Ritualism
4. Retreatism
5. Rebellion
(those at the lower end of the class structure are under greater pressure to deviate)


Evaluation of strain theory

- It takes official crime statistics at face value. These over represent working class crime, so Merton sees this as a WC phenomenon
- Deterministic, although WC experience the most strain they don't all deviate
- Ignores the role of group deviance- such as subcultures.


Cohen criticises Merton on two grounds

- he sees deviance as an individual response, ignoring the fact that much deviance is committed by groups
- he focuses on utilitarian crime but ignores crimes such as vandalism which have no economic motive


'Deviance is a lower class phenomenon'

Cohen believes deviance results from the inability of working class boys to achieve mainstream goals in the middle class dominated school system.