Critically Discuss Three Sociological Approaches to Explaining Crime

1186 Words Jan 2nd, 2011 5 Pages
Critically discuss three sociological approaches to explaining crime?

One of the most predominant areas of study in sociology is in the explanation of crime and deviance in society. Criminal acts are those which violate established formal laws, whereas deviance refers to the breaking of social norms. Crime and deviance are a social construct as they are decided by the people in a society and can vary greatly depending on the society in question, as well as the time period being studied.
In the past research focussed on pursuing biological explanations for people committing criminal or deviant acts. The prevalence of convicted male criminals and the discovery of the XYY chromosome pattern in male prison inmates lead some scientists to
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The main criticism of functionalist approaches to crime and deviance is the assumption that society shares common values and that those values are determined by a collective social conscience. It fails to recognise the influence of those in power in a society to regulate what constitutes deviance and what our common values are, leading to the poor and powerless most often being considered the main perpetrators of crime. Functionalism views society as functioning like an organic, interdependent body, with each part functioning in unison for the benefit of the whole. This ‘big picture’ perspective fails to take into account individual human interactions and is considered the most conservative sociological approach to crime and deviance, possibly out of touch with modern sociology.
The action theory approach (also known as the symbolic interactionist perspective) to crime and deviance is based in the interactions of people within a society rather than with the ‘big picture’ functionalist point of view. Action theory places emphasis on how others react to deviant behaviour, as opposed to the behaviour itself.
One of the most significant influences in this area of study is Howard Becker’s labeling theory (also referred to as social reaction theory). Becker proposes that deviance is not intrinsic to a particular activity, but that it is the ‘label’ that those within general

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