The recognized violation of cultural norms
Macionis defintion of deviance
The violation of rules or norms
Sociologist James Henslin defintion of deviance
Macionis notes on page 176 that when we are talking of deviance, we are mostly talking about “negative instances of rule breaking, such as stealing from a campus bookstore, assaulting a fellow student, or driving a car while intoxicated.” However, as he notes, “we also define especially righteous people” as deviant. Understand his examples. Know that, as he points out, “what deviant actions or attitudes, whether negative or positive, have in common is some element of difference that causes us to think of another person as an ‘outsider’.”
What deviant actions or attitudes, whether negative or positive, have in common is some element of difference that causes us to think of another person as an “outsider”
Macionis notes that “not all deviance involves action or even choice.” Understand what he means by this statement.
The very existence of some categories of people can be troublesome to others.
To be considered deviant, a person does not even have to do anything. Sociologist Erving Goffman (1963) used the term stigma to refer to characteristics that discredit people. These include violations of norms of ability (blindness, deafness, mental handicaps) and norms of appearance (a facial birthmark, obesity). They also include involuntary memberships, such as being a victim of AIDS or the brother of a rapist. The stigma can become a person’s master status, defining him or her as a deviant.
James Henslin idea that deviance can involve more than action or choice.
Understand the concept of social control. What makes up the criminal justice system?
Social control attempts by society to regulate people’s thoughts and behavior
Criminal justice system the organizations—police, courts, and prison officials—that respond to alleged violations of the law.
Macionis notes on page 178 that “although we tend to view deviance as the free choice or personal failings of individuals, all behavior—deviance as well as conformity—is shaped by society.” He points out three “social foundations of deviance.” The first social foundation of deviance that Macionis mentions is that “deviance varies according to cultural norms.” These cultural norms may vary from one society to another; from one state, city, or town within a country to another; from one group within a society to another; and from one time period in history to another. Let’s give some examples of each of these to make this clearer.
1. Deviance varies according to cultural norms. No thought or action is inherently deviant; it becomes deviant only in relation to particular norms.
2. People become deviant as others define them that way. Everyone violates cultural norms at one time or another.
3. How societies set norms and how they define rule breaking both involve social power. The law, declared Karl Marx, is the means by which powerful people protect their interests. A homeless person who stands on a street corner speaking out against the government risks arrest for disturbing the peace; a mayoral candidate during an election campaign who does exactly the same thing gets police protection.
From one society to another: In some societies premarital sex is completely acceptable, and in others it is highly deviant. In most societies, women can freely drive cars, but in Saudi Arabia it is against the law for women to do so. James Henslin gives another example of this cross-cultural relativity in deviance in his sociology textbook: “Making a huge profit on a business deal is one example. Americans who do this are admired. Like Donald Trump, they may even write a book about it. In China, however, until recently this same act was a crime called profiteering. Anyone found guilty was hanged in a public square as a lesson to all.
From one state, city, or town to another: In some states in the U.S., it is acceptable and legal to smoke marijuana. In others, you can be arrested for this behavior.
From one group within a society to another: Among some religious groups in the U.S., homosexuality is seen as completely acceptable, and among other religious groups, it is considered deviant behavior.
From one time period in history to another: Two hundred years ago in the U.S. it was considered deviant in almost all areas of the country for women to wear pants instead of a dress in public places; today it is not considered deviant at all.
Understand the other two “social foundations of deviance” that Macionis identifies on page 179.
1. Deviance varies according to cultural norms. No thought or action is inherently deviant; it becomes deviant only in relation to particular norms.
2.*** People become deviant as others define them that way. Everyone violates cultural norms at one time or another.
3.*** How societies set norms and how they define rule breaking both involve social power. The law, declared Karl Marx, is the means by which powerful people protect their interests. A homeless person who stands on a street corner speaking out against the government risks arrest for disturbing the peace; a mayoral candidate during an election campaign who does exactly the same thing gets police protection.
Macionis points out on page 179 that Durkheim “made the surprising claim that there is nothing abnormal about deviance.” Understand the four functions of deviance that are discussed here
1. Deviance affirms cultural values and norms. As moral creatures, people must prefer some attitudes and behaviors to others.
2. Responding to deviance clarifies moral boundaries. By defining some individuals as deviant, people draw a boundary between right and wrong.
3. Responding to deviance brings people together. People typically react to serious deviance with shared outrage. In doing so, Durkheim explained, they reaffirm the moral ties that bind them.
4. Deviance encourages social change. Deviant people push a society’s moral boundaries, suggesting alternatives to the status quo and encouraging change. Today’s deviance, declared Durkheim, can become tomorrow’s morality
Understand Merton’s strain theory. What does the extent of deviance in a society and the kinds of deviance in a society depend on? What does he mean by the terms conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion?
According to Merton, the strain between our culture’s emphasis on wealth and the lack of opportunities to get rich may encourage some people, especially the poor, to engage in stealing, drug dealing, or other forms of street crime.
Specifically, the extent and type of deviance people engage in depend on whether a society provides the means (such as schooling and job opportunities) to achieve cultural goals (such as financial success).
Conformity– lies in pursuing cultural goals through approved means.
Innovation—using unconventional means (street crime) rather than conventional means (hard work at a “straight” job) to achieve a culturally approved goal (wealth).
Ritualism–rigidly stick to the rules (the conventional means) anyway in order to at least feel “respectable.”
Retreatism—-rejecting both cultural goals and conventional means so that a person in effect “drops out.” Some alcoholics, drug addicts, and street people can be described as retreatists.
Rebellion. Like retreatists, rebels such as radical “survivalists” reject both the cultural definition of success and the conventional means of achieving it, but they go one step further by forming a counterculture supporting alternatives to the existing social order.
How did Cloward and Ohlin’s differential opportunity theory (referred to in your book as one deviant subculture theory) extend Merton’s theory? What is meant by the term relative opportunity structure?
Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin (1966) extended Merton’s theory, proposing that crime results not simply from limited legitimate (legal) opportunity but also from readily accessible illegitimate (illegal) opportunity.
Relative opportunity structure—–In short, deviance or conformity arises from the relative opportunity structure that frames a person’s life.
Under what circumstances did Cloward and Ohlin predict the development of criminal subcultures? What about conflict subcultures? What about retreatist subcultures?
Where the structure of opportunity favors criminal.
But what happens when people are unable to find any opportunity, legal or illegal? Then deviance may take one of two forms. One is conflict subcultures, such as armed street gangs that engage in violence out of frustration and a desire for respect. Another possible outcome is the development of retreatist subcultures, in which deviants drop out and abuse alcohol or other drugs.
According to Walter Miller, what are the six focal concerns of deviant subcultures?
(1) trouble, arising from frequent conflict with teachers and police;
(2) toughness, the value placed on physical size and strength, especially among males;
(3) smartness, the ability to succeed on the streets, to outsmart or “con” others, and to avoid being similarly taken advantage of;
(4) a need for excitement, the search for thrills or danger;
(5) a belief in fate, a sense that people lack control over their own lives;
(6) a desire for freedom, often expressed as anger toward authority figures.
What is the “street code” that Elijah Anderson talked about?
To show that they can survive on the street, a young man displays “nerve,” a willingness to stand up to any threat. Following this street code, which is also evident in much recent rap music, the young man believes that a violent death is better than being “dissed” (disrespected) by others. Some manage to escape the dangers, but the risk of ending up in jail—or worse—is very high for these young men, who have been pushed to the margins of our society.
What has been a criticism of Durkheim’s theory of the functions of deviance?
However, there is evidence that a community does not always come together in reaction to crime; sometimes fear of crime causes people to withdraw from public life.
What are the criticisms of Merton’s strain theory?
Merton’s strain theory has been criticized for explaining some kinds of deviance (stealing, for example) better than others (such as crimes of passion or mental illness). Also, not everyone seeks success in the conventional terms of wealth, as strain theory suggests.
Macionis points out on pages 181-182 that the “general argument of Cloward and Ohlin, Cohen, Miller, and Anderson—that deviance reflects the opportunity structure of society—has been confirmed by later research.”
However, these theories fall short by assuming that everyone shares the same cultural standards for judging right and wrong. In addition, if we define crime to include not only burglary and auto theft but also fraud and other crimes carried out by corporate executives and Wall Street tycoons, then more high-income people will be counted as criminals.
As Macionis notes on page 182, “all structural-functional theories suggest that everyone who breaks important rules will be labeled deviant.” But not all people who break important rules are actually labeled in this way. The interactionist theories that Macionis discusses next go into some detail into the processes that result in some people being labeled deviant while others avoid the label
Three interactionist theories
labeling theory—the idea that deviance and conformity result not so much from what people do as from how others respond to those actions. Labeling theory stresses the relativity of deviance, meaning that people may define the same behavior in any number of ways.
Differential association theory—to indicate that we learn to deviate or to conform to society’s norms mostly by rhe different groups we associate with.
Control theory—which states that social control depends on people anticipating the consequences of their behavior.
What is labeling theory, and what does it stress? Understand the difference between primary deviance and secondary deviance.
Labeling theory—the idea that deviance and conformity result not so much from what people do as from how others respond to those actions. Labeling theory stresses the relativity of deviance, meaning that people may define the same behavior in any number of ways.
Primary deviance—proveke slight reaction from others and have little effect on a person’s self-concept.
Secondary deviance—when a person begins to employ deviant behavior as a means of defense, attack, or adjustment to the problem created by societal reaction. (change of self concept)
As Macionis points out on page 182, “secondary deviance marks the start of what Erving Goffman (1963) called a deviant career. As people develop a stronger commitment to deviant behavior, they typically acquire a stigma, a powerfully negative label that greatly changes a person’s self-concept and social identity. A stigma operates as a master status …, overpowering other aspects of social identity so that a person is discredited in the minds of others and becomes socially isolated.” Macionis notes that “sometimes … an entire community formally stigmatizes an individual through what Harold Garfinkel (1956) calls a degradation ceremony.” Two examples of a degradation ceremony: a criminal trial and an insanity hearing
Macionis notes that once a person is stigmatized, people around that person may engage in retrospective labeling and projective labeling. Understand these two types of labeling
Retrospective labeling, interpreting someone’s past in light of some present deviance (Scheff, 1984). For example, after discovering that a priest has sexually molested a child, others rethink his past, perhaps musing, “He always did want to be around young children.” Retrospective labeling, which distorts a person’s biography by being highly selective, typically deepens a deviant identity.
Projective labeling of a stigmatized person, using the person’s deviant identity to predict future actions. Regarding the priest, people might say, “He’s going to keep at it until he gets caught.” The more people in someone’s social world think such things, the more these definitions affect the individual’s self-concept, increasing the chance that they will come true.
As Macionis points out on page 183, “labeling theory, particularly the ideas of Szasz and Goffman, helps explain an important shift in the way our society understands deviance. Over the past fifty or sixty years, the growing influence of psychiatry and medicine in the United States has led to the medicalization of deviance.” Understand what is meant by this term.
Medicalization of deviance, the transformation of moral and legal deviance into a medical condition.
Medicalization amounts to swapping one set of labels for another. In moral terms, we evaluate people or their behavior as “bad” or “good.” However, the scientific objectivity of medicine passes no moral judgment, instead using clinical diagnoses such as “sick” or “well.”
Go online to our Blackboard site and get the online article titled The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective. It is located under Non-Quiz Articles. This article is an excerpt from James M. Henslin’s sociology textbook. Go to the third page of the article (the section titled “Labeling Theory”). In this section of the article, Henslin points out how “most people resist the negative labels that others try to pin on them,” and “some are so successful that even though they persist in deviance, they still consider themselves conformists.” Understand the five techniques of neutralization of deviance used by the delinquent boys that sociologists Sykes and Matza studied.
Denial of Responsibility—Some boys said, ”I’m not responsible for what happened because …
Denial of Injury—They might acknowledge that what they did was illegal, but claim that they were “just having a liede fun.”
Denial of a Victim–In short, even if the boys did accept responsibility and admit that someone had gotten hurt, they protected their self concept by claiming that the people “deserved what they got.
Condemnation of the Condemners —Another technique the boys used was to deny chat others had the right to judge them.
Appeal to Higher Loyalties A final technique the boys used to justify antisocial activities was to consider loyalty to the gcig, more important than following the norms of society.
Henslin also notes in this article that “although most of us resist attempts to label us as deviant, there are those who revel in a deviant identity.” He notes that “one of the best examples of a group that embraces deviance is motorcycle gangs.” What examples of this embracing of deviance does he give?
Some teenagers, for example, make certain by their clothing, choice of music, and hairstyles that no one misses their rejection of adult norms. Their status among fellow members of a subculture, within which they are almost obsessive conformists, is vastly more important than any status outside it.
He concluded chat outlaw bikers see the world as “hostile, weak, and effeminate.” They pride themselves on looking “dirty, mean, and generally undesirable” and take pleasure in provoking shocked reactions to their appearance. Holding the conventional world in contempt, they also pride themselves on getting into trouble, laughing at death, and treating women as lesser beings whose primary value is to provide them with servicesespecially sex. Outlaw bikers also regard themselves as losers, a factor chat becomes woven into their unusual embrace of deviance.
Henslin’s discussions of differential association theory and control theory are more extensive than Macionis’ discussion, so let’s stick with the online article for now. Go to the beginning of the article, where Henslin discusses Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory. Understand the basic ideas of this theory. Please note that when people learn about deviant behavior from others, they may learn not only attitudes and rationalizations that are supportive of deviance as a way of life (for example, it’s okay to steal from large stores because the rich storeowners rip us off with their outrageous prices), but also the actual methods of committing deviant behavior (how to shoplift in groups, how to steal a car, how to run a prostitution ring, how to extort money from shopkeepers, etc.).
What we learn influences us toward or away from deviance.
Sutherland’s theory is actually more complicated than this, buc he basically said chat deviance is learned
What did a study of 25,000 delinquents find about the importance of families with regard to deviance?
They have found that ddinquents are more likely to come from families that get in trouble with the law.
In short, families that are involved in crime tend to set their children on a lawbreaking path.
What does Henslin’s example concerning Mafia norms about killing indicate about the relativity of deviance?
Members of the Mafia also intertwine ideas of manliness with violence. For them, to kill is a measure of their manhood. Not all killings are accorded the same respect, however, for “the more awesome and potent the victim, the more worthy and meritorious the kiUer” (Arlacchi 1980). Some killings are done to enforce norms. A member of th.e Mafia who gives information to the police, for example, has violated omertd (the Mafia’s vow of secrecy). Such an offense can never be tolerated, for it threatens the very existence of the group. This example further illustrates just how relative deviance is. Although killing is deviant to mainstream society, for members of the Mafia, not to kill after certain rules are broken-such as when someone “squeals” to the cops-is the deviant act.
Henslin goes on to discuss control theory in the next section. He starts out by pointing out that “inside most of us … are strong desires to do things that would get us in trouble—inner drives, temptations, urges, hostilities, and so on.” He notes that “most of us stifle these desires most of the time,” and he points out that control theory tries to answer the question of why we do this. Henslin points out that Walter Reckless, a sociologist who developed control theory, “stresses that two control systems work against our motivations to deviate.” These two control systems are inner controls and outer controls. Understand what is meant by these two terms.
Inner controls–include our internalized morality-conscience, religious principles, ideas of right and wrong. Inner controls also include fears of punishment, feelings of integrity, and the desire to be a “good” person.
Outer controls consist of people-such as family, friends, and the police-who influence us not to deviate.
Sociologist Travis Hirschi pointed out that a strong bond to society strengthens our inner controls (self-control) and inhibits deviant behavior. Understand the four elements of a social bond that are discussed here. How can parents help their children learn self-control?
Attachments (feeling affection and respect for people who conform to society’s norms).
Commitments (having a stake in society that you don’t want to risk, such as a respected place in your family, a good standing at college, a good job).
Involvements (purring time and energy into approved activities).
Belief (believing that certain actions are morally wrong).
This theory can be summarized as self control, says sociologist Travis Hirschi. The key to learning high self-control is socialization, especially in childhood.
Parents help their children develop self-control by supervising them and punishing their deviant acts
Now go back to the Macionis textbook. What are the limitations of labeling theory, which are mentioned on p. 184?
First, because it takes a highly relative view of deviance, labeling theory ignores the fact that some kinds of behavior—such as murder—are condemned just about everywhere. Therefore, labeling theory is most usefully applied to less serious issues, such as sexual promiscuity or mental illness.
Second, research on the consequences of deviant labeling does not clearly show whether deviant labeling produces further deviance or discourages it (Smith & Gartin, 1989; Sherman & Smith, 1992).
Third, not everyone resists being labeled deviant; some people actively seek it out (Vold & Bernard, 1986). For example, people take part in civil disobedience and willingly subject themselves to arrest in order to call attention to social injustice.
After discussing the limitations of the various interactionist theories, Macionis moves on to a discussion of conflict theories of deviance, which link deviance to social inequality. What did Alexander Liazos point out about people who are defined as deviants? In what three ways does conflict theory explain his observation?
Alexander Liazos (1972) points out that the people we tend to define as deviants—the ones we dismiss as “nuts” and “sluts”—are typically not as bad or harmful as they are powerless.
First, all norms—especially the laws of any society— generally reflect the interests of the rich and powerful.
Second, even if their behavior is called into question, the powerful have the resources to resist deviant labels. The majority of the executives involved in recent corporate scandals have yet to be arrested; only a few have gone to jail.
Third, the widespread belief that norms and laws are natural and good masks their political character. For this reason, although we may condemn the unequal application of the law, we give little thought to whether the laws themselves are really fair or not.
According to Marxist Steven Spitzer, which four types of people are likely to have a deviant label applied to them in a capitalist country?
First, because capitalism is based on private control of wealth, people who threaten the property of others—especially the poor who steal from the rich—are prime candidates for being labeled deviant.
Second, because capitalism depends on productive labor, people who cannot or will not work risk being labeled deviant.
Third, capitalism depends on respect for authority figures, causing people who resist authority to be labeled deviant.
Fourth, anyone who directly challenges the capitalist status quo is likely to be defined as deviant.
Spitzer also argues that society celebrates or promotes or puts a positive label on whatever is supportive of the system of capitalism. Understand the examples that were given.
For example, winning athletes enjoy celebrity status because they express the values of individual achievement and competition, both vital to capitalism.
Edwin Sutherland defined the term white-collar crime. He defined it as “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” (White-collar crime is sometimes referred to as crime in the suites to contrast it to crime in the streets.)
Sociologists today typically talk about two types of white-collar crime: occupational crime and corporate crime. The first type, occupational crime, is crime that is committed by a worker at their workplace for their own financial gain. Examples of this would be a banker who embezzles money from the bank where she is employed or a supervisor of a jewelry store stealing a diamond ring from the inventory. The other type of white-collar crime, corporate crime, involves individuals working to improve the profitability of their corporation through some sort of criminal behavior, such as price fixing, false advertising, antitrust violations, knowingly putting faulty products on the market, illegally dumping toxic waste to save money, etc
Please note that white-collar crime is not rare. It is estimated to cost Americans many times the cost of street crime and ultimately causes the deaths of more people, but people who are arrested for white-collar crimes have traditionally been treated much more leniently than street criminals. White-collar offenders have often ended up in civil hearings rather than criminal ones. If they went to jail or prison, it was usually not for long. In recent years, with news of white-collar crime by many high-level executives at numerous companies, crimes that have resulted in losses of hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars, white-collar crime has begun to be treated much more seriously.
What is organized crime? What is probably the most “well-known example” of it in U.S. history? (Many more groups are involved today.) What kinds of criminal activities are involved?
Organized crime– a business supplying illegal goods or services.
The Italian Mafia is a well-known example of organized crime.
In most cases, however, organized crime involves the sale of illegal goods and services—often sex, drugs, and gambling—to willing buyers.
Today, organized crime involves a wide range of activities, from selling illegal drugs to prostitution to credit card fraud to selling false identification papers to illegal immigrants.
What does the term hate crimes refer to? Which group of people does Macionis identify on page 187 as being “especially likely to be victims” of hate-motivated violence?
Hate crime is a criminal act against a person or a person’s property by an offender motivated by racial or other bias.
People who contend with multiple stigmas, such as gay men of color, are especially likely to be victims.
Macionis notes on page 188 that “gender also figures in the theories about deviance.” Understand how it figures into strain theory, labeling theory, and conflict theory.
Robert Merton’s strain theory, for example, defines cultural goals in terms of financial success. Traditionally, at least, this goal has had more to do with the lives of men because women have been taught to define success in terms of relationships, particularly marriage and motherhood (Leonard, 1982). A more woman-focused theory might recognize the “strain” that results from the cultural ideal of equality clashing with the reality of gender-based inequality.
According to labeling theory, gender influences how we define deviance because people commonly use different
standards to judge the behavior of females and males. Further, because society puts men in positions of power over women, men often escape direct responsibility for actions that victimize women. In the past, at least, men who sexually harassed or assaulted women were labeled only mildly deviant and sometimes escaped punishment entirely. By contrast, women who are victimized may have to convince others—even members of a jury—that they were not to blame for their own sexual harassment or assault. Research confirms an important truth: Whether people define a situation as deviance—and, if so, who the deviant is—depends on the sex of both the audience and the actors (King & Clayson, 1988). Finally, despite its focus on social inequality, much social-conflict analysis does not address the issue of gender.
Understand the criticisms of the conflict theories of crime that were mentioned
First, a Marxist approach implies that laws and other cultural norms are created directly by the rich and powerful. At the very least, this is an oversimplification, as laws also protect workers, consumers, and the environment, sometimes opposing the interests of corporations and the rich. Second, social-conflict analysis argues that criminality springs up only to the extent that a society treats its members unequally. However, as Durkheim noted, deviance exists in all societies, whatever their economic system and their degree of inequality. Finally, keep in mind that, while class, race, and gender still affect the process of defining deviance, our society now treats all categories of people in a more equal manner than was true a century ago.
Macionis notes that in the U.S., the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) officially collects information on criminal offenses and then reports the results in their publication called Crime in the United States. Know that the two general types of crimes that are included in the crime index are property crimes and violent crimes
How does Macionis define victimless crimes (which are not included in the crime index)? Which three crimes fall under this category?
Victimless crimes, violations of law in which there are no obvious victims. Also called crimes without complaint.
In the section on Criminal Statistics on page 190, Macionis argues that you should “always read crime statistics with caution.” Why?
Always read crime statistics with caution, because they include only crimes known to the police.
Victimization surveys done in the U.S. indicate that most crimes are not reported to the police. Of the two major types of crime (violent crimes and property crimes), violent crimes are more likely to be reported, but even among violent crimes, most are not reported to the police.
Which age group is disproportionately arrested for both violent and property crimes?
Ages of fifteen and twenty four
Know that females are much less likely to be arrested than males. What explanation was suggested on page 191 for this difference in arrest rates? In which types of societies do the “greatest gender differences in crime rates occur”?
It may be that some law enforcement officials are reluctant to define women as criminals. In fact, all over the world, the greatest gender differences in crime rates occur in societies that most severely limit the opportunities of women.
Macionis points out on page 191 that “research has long indicated that street crime is more widespread among people of lower social position.” But he adds that “the link between class and crime is more complicated than it appears on the surface.” Understand the points he makes in this section.
Although crime—especially violent crime—is a serious problem in the poorest inner-city communities, most of these crimes are committed by a few repeat offenders. The majority of the people who live in poor communities have no criminal record at all.
The connection between social standing and criminality also depends on the type of crime. If we expand our definition of crime beyond street offenses to include whitecollar crime and corporate crime, the “common criminal” suddenly looks much more affluent and may live in a $100 million home.
Macionis notes on page 192 that over 2/3 of arrests for index crimes in 2013 involved white people, but he points out that “the African American arrest rate was higher than the rate for whites in proportion to their representation in the general population.” He notes that there are “several reasons for the disproportionate numbers of arrests among African Americans.” Understand the four reasons he mentions.
First, race in the United States closely relates to social standing, which, as already explained, affects the likelihood of engaging in street crimes. Many poor people living in the midst of wealth come to perceive society as unjust and are therefore more likely to turn to crime to get their share.
Second, black and white family patterns differ: 71.5 percent of non-Hispanic black children (compared to 53.2 percent of Hispanic children and 29.3 percent of non-Hispanic white children) are born to
single mothers. Single parenting carries two risks: Children receive less supervision and are at greater risk of living in poverty. With about 38 percent of African American children growing up poor (compared to about 11 percent of non-Hispanic white children), no one should be surprised at the proportionately higher crime rates for African Americans.
Third, prejudice prompts white police to arrest black people more readily and leads citizens to report African Americans more willingly, so people of color are overly criminalized.
Fourth, remember that the official crime index does not include arrests for offenses ranging from drunk driving to white-collar violations. This omission contributes to the view of the typical criminal as a person of color.
Which racial category in the U.S. has a disproportionately low rate of arrest? What reasons for this underrepresentation were offered?
Asian American culture emphasizes family solidarity and discipline, both of which keep criminality down.
Please note that the following categories of people are disproportionately likely to be victims of crimes: African Americans and Latinos, males, young people, and poor people.
Macionis points out on page 193 that “by world standards, the crime rate in the U.S. is high.” This is especially true of violent crime. Which factors contribute to crime and violence in the U.S.? (I am not looking for any statistical data here.)
Elliott Currie (1985) suggests that crime stems from our culture’s emphasis on individual economic success, frequently at the expense of strong families and neighborhoods. The United States also has extraordinary cultural diversity—a result of centuries of immigration—that can lead to conflict. In addition, economic inequality is higher in this country than in most other high-income nations. Thus our society’s relatively weak social fabric, combined with considerable frustration among the poor, increases the level of criminal behavior.
Another factor contributing to violence in the United States is extensive private ownership of guns.
Macionis points out on page 194 that “different countries have different strategies for dealing with crime.” One of these strategies is the use of capital punishment. Is the global trend toward abolishing or expanding capital punishment?
The global trend is toward abolishing the death penalty:
Know that approximately 97% of criminal cases in the U.S. are resolved through plea bargaining rather than through a trial. What is plea bargaining, and why is it so widespread?
Plea bargaining, a legal negotiation in which a prosecutor reduces a charge in exchange for a defendant’s guilty plea.
Plea bargaining is widespread because it spares the system the time and expense of trials..
Understand the four justifications for punishment of criminals.
Retribution The oldest justification for punishment is to satisfy people’s need for retribution, an act of moral vengeance by which society makes the offender suffer as much as the suffering caused by the crime.
Deterrence A second justification for punishment is deterrence, the attempt to discourage criminality through the use of punishment.
Rehabilitation The third justification for punishment is rehabilitation, a program for reforming the offender to prevent later offenses.
Societal Protection A final justification for punishment is societal protection, rendering an offender incapable of further offenses temporarily through imprisonment or permanently by execution.
In December 2015, the most recent year for which we have data, there were over 2.1 million people incarcerated in the United States in state prisons, federal prisons, and local jails. If we include people who were incarcerated in juvenile correctional facilities, military prisons, Indian Country jails, immigration detention centers, civil commitment centers, or prisons in the U.S. territories, the total goes up to close to 2.2 million.
Macionis notes on page 197 that “although the crime rate has gone down in recent years, the number of offenders locked up across the country has gone up, more than quadrupling since 1980.” Know that, as he points out, “the United States now incarcerates … a larger share of its population than all but one other nation (the tiny island nation of Seychelles).” What does the rise in our prison population reflect?
This rise in the prison population reflects tougher public attitudes toward crime and punishing offenders and stiffer sentences handed down by courts. The trend also reflects an increasing number of drug-related arrests—half of all federal inmates are serving time for drug offenses.
What is criminal recidivism? Know that the U.S. has a very high rate of it.
Criminal recidivism, later offenses by people previously convicted of crimes. About threefourths of prisoners in state penitentiaries have been jailed before, and about two-thirds of people released from prison are arrested again within three years.
According to Macionis, for which three reasons may rehabilitation in prisons be an unrealistic expectation?
Sutherland’s theory of differential association,
Locking up criminals together for years probably strengthens criminal attitudes and skills.
Imprisonment also stigmatizes prisoners, making it harder for them to find legitimate employment later on (Pager, 2003).
Finally, prison breaks the social ties inmates may have in the outside world, which, following Hirschi’s control theory, makes inmates more likely to commit new crimes upon release.
What are the arguments of those who oppose the death penalty?
Opponents of capital punishment point to research suggesting that the death penalty has limited value as a crime deterrent. Countries such as Canada, where the death penalty has been abolished, have not seen a rise in the number of murders. Critics also point out that the United States is the only Western, high-income nation that routinely executes offenders.
Know that most Americans still favor the death penalty. Despite this high percentage, Macionis notes, “judges, criminal prosecutors, and members of trial juries are less and less likely to call for the death penalty.” Understand the four reasons for this decline in the use of the death penalty.
One reason is that because the crime rate has come down in recent years, the public now has less fear of crime and is less interested in applying the most severe punishment.
Second reason is public concern that the death penalty may be applied unjustly. The analysis of DNA evidence—a recent advance—from old crime scenes has shown that many people were wrongly convicted of a crime.
Third reason for the decline in the use of the death penalty is that more states now permit judges and juries to sentence serious offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Fourth and finally, many states now shy away from capital punishment because of the high cost of prosecuting capital cases.
Macionis notes that prisons are very expensive and that the evidence indicates that very little rehabilitation takes place in them. Consequently, he says, many communities are utilizing community-based corrections for people convicted of less-serious crimes. The three community-based corrections he mentions are:
(1) probation—-One form of community-based corrections is probation, a policy permitting a convicted offender to remain in the community under conditions imposed by a court, including regular supervision.
(2) shock probation—-A related strategy is shock probation, a policy by which a judge orders a convicted offender to prison for a short time but then suspends the remainder of the sentence in favor of probation.
(3) parole—-Parole is a policy of releasing inmates from prison to serve the remainder of their sentences in the local community under the supervision of a parole officer.
As noted on page 200, violent crime rates declined a lot between the early 1990s and 2000. Please note that crime rates have stayed relatively low to the current day. There is definitely some disagreement among researchers on the major causes of the declines in violent crime. Based on studies I have read, the following, not in any particular order, have most likely been of some consequence:
(1) more police hired and more effective policing methods being used, especially more community policing and the rise of more sophisticated computer capabilities and programs like CompStat
(2) decreasing lead exposure (in the 1990s)
(3) declining alcohol consumption
(4) decline of the crack cocaine epidemic (in the 1990s)
(5) reduction in the youth population
(6) more incarceration
(7) changes in the economy
There will be at least four or five questions on the Midterm covering the sociological theories of deviance. Make sure you understand the main differences between the theories. Test questions will be similar to this example:
A prison-reform report argues against incarcerating first-time offenders because in prison they are likely to be exposed to people who will teach them sophisticated methods of committing crimes in addition to being exposed to attitudes that are supportive of crime as a way of life. This argument supports
A. strain theory
B. conflict theory
C. differential association theory
D. control theory
E. opportunity theory
Merton’s strain theory explains deviance in terms of a society’s cultural goals and the means available to achieve them.
Based on Karl Marx’s ideas, social-conflict theory holds that laws and other norms operate to protect the interests of powerful members of any society. In a capitalist society, law operates to support the capitalist economy.
Hirschi’s control theory states that imagining the possible consequences of deviance often discourages such behavior. People who are well integrated into society are less likely to engage in deviant behavior.
Differential Association Theory
Learning any behavioral pattern, whether conventional or deviant, is a process that takes place in groups. According to Edwin Sutherland (1940), a person’s tendency toward conformity or deviance depends on the amount of contact with others who encourage or reject conventional behavior.