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Merton’s theory of anomie is a very important and useful foundation for explaining the idea of deviance in the society. Robert K. Merton borrows largely from Emile Durkheim who originally developed the anomie concept in his 1897 book known as Suicide. Anomie was originally used to define the absence of social regulation in contemporary societies as one ways through which rates of suicide could be raised. Thus, Robert K. Merton in his theory applied the anomie concept to contemporary industrialized societies and gave a new definition of anomie as the societal structure characterized with a very huge gap between esteemed cultural ends and lawful societal ways to these ends. The gap between the prescribed goals of the society and the available ways with which to achieve such goals is what forces people to deviate from what is unanimously accepted as societal norm. The failure of achieving the goals of the society through the normally accepted means will definitely have various effects on different people.
Merton’s theory could be used to analyze criminality in the sense that it categorizes people in a realistic way into different groups that can be recognized. Looking at Merton’s theory and considering the personality and behavior of a person, it would be quite easy to place that individual into their rightful mode of adaptation. Merton’s theory of anomie also offers a clear and logic reasoning as to why individuals show behavior typical of their specific mode. This theory by Merton emphasizes largely on the section of the larger society that is not taken as successful as the people who are successful will obviously have a little pressure from the society to accomplish anything more. Anomie does a good job specifically in giving an explanation of deviance and crime amongst the poor and the vulnerable. Due to the fact that the poor are endeavoring to achieve the goals of the society through traditional means, they will have to adapt and go by one of the adaptation modes by Merton.
Evaluate how an individual’s behavior could change after being labelled as a criminal. Answer in reference to key debates in labeling theory.
Labeling theory commonly known as “Social Reaction Theory” is basically the notion that individuals take part in crime when are branded in a negative way in the society. Such brands or labels carry stigma with them, usually amounting to acceptance of the ‘label’ by the individuals as their identity and never leaving behind their lifestyle of crime. For instance, a youth convicted of a certain crime and sent to the center of detention for juveniles to serve a given sentence rather than taking part in some kind of rehabilitation will naturally carry that ‘label’ of crime in their entire life. This is how the labeling theory changes the behavior of an individual. It changes for the worst. After serving the sentence, the teen could be found committing more crime because of taking the criminal label to be part of their life. It becomes habitual instead of ending it after serving the sentence. Such a person will be perceived differently by the society. They will also face different treatment due to this criminal label and will ultimately end up accepting it as part of life.
A very common labeling aspect is the primary and secondary deviance concept. Primary deviance includes violations that are considered to have little or short-term impact on the violator. Secondary deviance is such kind of violation that comes openly to the attention of vital others or social control personalities who make use of a negative label that has lasting consequences for the social interactions and self-identity of the violator (Downes and Rock 2007, pp. 12-34). Concerning the role of primary and secondary deviance in the advancement of deviant behavior in future, primary deviance naturally is thought to have a little bearing on the future life of the violator since they were not ostracized and labelled by the society. All the same, an individual’s behavior could be made worse than good being labelled as a criminal.
Question 3. What do radical criminologists mean by their description of crime
as a political act? Are they right?
The reference that criminologists make to crime being a political act is the fact that the state determines what is socially acceptable as crime. The state which is mainly controlled through politics comes up with measures and controls that guide the people of the land by defining a criminal. Therefore in this sense, a person becomes a criminal if he or she goes contrary to that which has been set by the state which is a result of politics. This even touches on the issue of punishment. In essence, the punishment of the crime itself is essentially defined by radical criminologists as a criminal act. The state uses physical force it controls and exercises political power over its subject. Any citizen that contravenes the law of the land is liable for the consequences that the state will enforce. The organized power of the state takes part in determining whether an act can be considered a crime or not. Thereafter, it goes ahead to state the kind of punishment that will serve for such a crime. It does not matter whether it is rehabilitation or imprisonment; all these are considered political acts.
It is therefore true according to these radical criminologists that crime is a political act. Definitely, what the government has declared a crime will be taken so and the law will be enforced accordingly. It is indeed a political process because the state is governed by political authorities who make the law. Therefore, if the state has passed laws, breaching any of them will automatically become a crime. It is therefore right and at the same time logical for radical criminologists to state that crime is a political act. The power to criminalize and effect punishment for crime is politically established. It is therefore no doubt that a crime is a political act looking it from the angle of the state’s influence in defining crime and crime punishment.
How and why did Left Realist criminologists seek to research the
“lived realities” of crime?
Left Realist criminologists sought to research the ‘lived realities’ of crime through a modern left wing approach. Issues of exclusion, instability and insecurity have been considered as factors that have promoted the rate of divorce and the emergence of new right polices that have held the welfare spending on the vulnerable back. This has further led to the increment of marginalization and at the same time the exclusion of the people who are at the bottom further creating a bigger divide between the poor and the rich. It further translates into the creation of a relative sense of deprivation. The left realists consider such things like media as promoters of cultural inclusion and presents to people the things that they should be having in life like a good house, ipad and so on. This creates a higher expectation in an individual about the blissful life whereas the poor are excluded from having any chance of attaining the appealing prizes of the section of society that is wealthy. This prompts such people to crime in order to acquire the things they think they should have.
The Left Realist criminologists endeavored to research on the ‘lived realities’ of crime to show how the society has contributed to crime amongst its people. Deprivation has affected people in a very significant way. Actually, it is not only affecting the poor but also the middle class group. There is a desire that has been created in people to achieve what they do not have but apparently they should be having. As a result such individuals employ the wrong methods of attaining what they think they deserve and this finally leads to crime. When the people of a low social class are seen as idlers while they work hard only to earn peanuts, some of them resort to crime. Marginalization and deprivation of certain groups in the society can apparently lead to crime as proposed by Left Realists criminologists. The Left Realists seemingly highlight on some issues that the society is struggling with which actually could be a consequence of its own making.
How is right-realist thought employed in crime prevention strategies?
Unlike in left-realist, right realism is slightly different in the sense that it ignores economic factors. Norman Dennis, Charles Murray and James Wilson argue that economic factors have no relationship and relevance with the explanations which are given to crime. However, they believe that cultural factors have some significant effect on crime and should be looked at. Particularly, Murray believes that many young, strong, low-income individuals opt not to work but rather end up in crime. Specifically, they end up in street crime and often abuse of drugs. Dennis and Murray think that this is as a result of the increased lot of lone parents lacking a father figure. Right realism holds on to three factors: biological differences like in aggression and personality trait; underclass and socialization as people are more certainly to offend if they are in the underclass and at the same time dependent on welfare because of poor socialization of children; and finally, rational choice theory in an instance where people have free will and can consider the consequences that will come with a crime and see whether it is worth the act. Based on this, people will choose to commit crime or not.
Therefore, having a good mastery of the three factors addressed here, right-realist thought has been employed in crime prevention strategies. Murray believes that, if young males get role models to show them how to live well in the society, they can abstain from crime. Young people should be taken a way from the welfare dependency as an effort of right realism thought in order for them to have work ethos and ultimately help them abstain from crime. Wilson stresses on the natural predisposition to crime and poor socialization which when mastered can be a good strategy of averting crime and that people will not commit crime if the benefits are less than the risk involved in offending.