Sociology and Criminology

  • During the twentieth century, the sociological approach to criminology became the most influential approach

Social-Structural Criminology:

  • Examines the way in which social situations and structures influence or relate to criminal behaviour
  • It seeks to explain crime’s relationship to social and environmental change
  • It attempts to describe why certain areas of a city will have a tendency to attract crime and also have less-vigorous police enforcement
  • Researchers have found that urban areas in transition from residential to business uses are most often targeted by criminals
  • Such communities often have disorganized social networks that foster a weaker sense of social standards

Conflict School of Criminology:

  • Traces its roots to Marxist theories that saw crime as ultimately a product of conflict between different classes under the system of capitalism
  • Suggests that the laws of society emerge out of conflict rather than out of consensus
  • It holds that laws are made by the group that is in power, to control those who are not in power
  • Proposes that those who commit crimes are not fundamentally different from the rest of the population
  • They call the idea that society may be clearly divided into criminals and non-criminals a dualistic fallacy, or a misguided notion – depends on the way society reacts to those who deviate from accepted norms
  • Many conflict theorists and others argue that minorities and poor people are more quickly labeled as criminals than are members of the majority and wealthy individuals

Critical Criminology:

  • Shares with conflict criminology a debt to Marxism
  • It came into prominence in the early 1970s and attempted to explain contemporary social upheavals
  • Relies on economic explanations of behavior and argues that economic and social inequalities cause criminal behaviour
  • It focuses less on the study of individual criminals, and advances the belief that existing crime cannot be eliminated within the capitalist system
  • Asserts that law has an inherent bias in favor of the upper or ruling class, and that the state and its legal system exist to advance the interests of the ruling class
  • Critical criminologists argue that corporate, political, and environmental crime are underreported and inadequately addressed in the current criminal justice system

Feminist Criminology:

  • Emphasizes the subordinate position of women in society
  • Women remain in a position of inferiority that has not been fully rectified by changes in the law during the late twentieth century
  • Feminist criminology also explores the ways in which women’s criminal behavior is related to their objectification as commodities in the sex industry

Social-Process Criminology:

  • Attempt to explain how people become criminals
  • These theories developed through recognition of the fact that not all people who are exposed to the same social-structural conditions become criminals
  • They focus on criminal behavior as learned behaviour

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