Critically Discuss Three Sociological Approaches to Explaining Crime

1188 Words Mar 1st, 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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Durkheim also proposed that social views to activities considered deviant could change and that those activities could eventually become part of the socially accepted norm, changing society. For example, attitudes towards homosexuality have changed significantly in the last 50 years, with decriminalisation leading to tolerance and eventual acceptance by general society. This social change occurs when a segment of society begins to support acts considered deviant, causing society as a whole to reconsider its collective position and advance its cultural boundaries, conceivably for the benefit of all.

Strain theory, proposed by Robert Merton and advanced by Albert Cohen, Richard Cloward, Lloyd Ohlin and Robert Agnew, argues that it is the structure of society that causes crime due to the pressure put on society’s members to achieve common social goals. For example, the capitalist ‘American Dream’ of financial success has lead some, who are unable to achieve this goal through conventional means (often the poor and powerless), to turn to crime as a way of gaining financial prosperity.
This can lead to the formation of criminal subcultures where different values become important such as fearlessness and resentment towards authority. This allows those who are unable to achieve success conventionally to gain status…