Social Theories and Laws Analysis example

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Social Theories and Laws Analysis

Chapter 7

Deviance - nonconformity to the norms accepted in a community or society. (p.141)

A sanction maks a person or group comply with a given norm. Sanctions may be positive or negative, formal or informal.

Laws are norms defined by governments. Behavior breaking a law is crime.

FUNCTIONALIST THEORIES : crime occurs when people’s aspirations do not coincide with available opportunities.

• Crime and anomie (Durkheim, Merton) : Anomie exists when there are no clear standards to guide behavior in a given situation. Introducing social challenges deviance stimulates change. Relative deprivation (one has less than others) provokes deviant behavior.(143)

•Subcultural explanations ( Cohen, Cloward,Ohlin: Contradictions are the main cause of crime, individuals develop subcultures with deviant values in response to a lack of legitimate opportunities for success.(144)

INTERACTIONIST THEORIES focus on deviance as a socially constructed phenomenon.

•Learned deviance. Differential association (Sutherland): Criminal behavior is learned through association with others who regularly engage in crime.(145)

•Labeling theory (Becker): People become “deviant” because certain labels are attached to their behavior by political authorities and others.(145)

•Conflict theory (elements of Marxist thought): deviance is deliberate and often political. Individuals choose deviant behavior in response to the inequalities of the capitalist system.(146)

•Control theory (Hirschi): crime results from an imbalance between impulses toward criminal activity and the controls that deter it. Four types of bonds link people to society and law- abiding behavior: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief.(147)

•The theory of broken windows (Wilson, Kelling): any sign of social disorder in a community encourages more serious crime.(148)


Today the US has the most punitive justice system in the world .Mass incarceration has had deleterious effect on black communities. It affects individuals even after their release from prison.(150)

The state’s relative autonomy from the national state and the political dominance of small groups explain the capital punishment in America, as the masses are generally in support of the death penalty.(151)

The extreme security measures treat everyone like potential deviants but hardly help weed out real criminals.(152)

Available firearms, the frontier tradition and the subcultures of violence in cities explain the high level of violent crime.(153)

Men more often commit crimes. Women’s offenses rarely involve violence. Rape is part of a system of male intimidation that keeps all women in fear.(154)

Gays and lesbians are often blamed for the crimes in which they are victims.(155)

Corporate , white-collar crime and cybercrime influence many people.(156)

Policing is now more about detecting and managing risks. Punitive policing created a culture of mistrust and resistance to authority. Instead community policing and shaming could be used.(158-161)

Chapter 8

Social stratification - structured inequalities between groups in society in terms of their access to material or symbolic rewards. …

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