Outline the View That Crime Is Socially Constructed Essay

763 Words Mar 19th, 2007 4 Pages
This essay will offer different definitions of crime, suggesting that it is a social construction as it varies across culture, time and belief. It will examine the role of social construction, through interpretation and meaning, in the identification, reporting and legal consequences of criminal acts. After illustrating how fear, escalated by the media, can directly affect crime, it will conclude that crime and its consequences are socially constructed. The obvious definition of crime is the legal definition of an act which breaks the law. However, the Oxford English Dictionary extends this to include an act which is ‘injurious to the public welfare … An evil or injurious act; an offence, sin; esp. of a grave character' (Mooney et …show more content…
Evidence suggests that the meaning attached to criminal acts influence the reporting, recording and legal consequences. For example, quantitative evidence or data demonstrates a substantial increase in crime until 1995 and an apparent slight decrease since then (Maquire, 1997, p.158). Qualitative evidence questions this by suggesting that crime is greatly under-reported for reasons such as the feeling that the crime was not serious enough. In contradiction, Maguire (1997) suggests that there is an increased reporting of crimes, for example, through having greater access to a telephone. In relation to conviction, Eitzen (1986, p.427) demonstrates that white-collar crime and street crime carry different legal penalties, thus illustrating the different meanings they hold.

Today concerns are often expressed about the increasing magnitude and changing nature of crime, which can lead to the perception that life was better in the past. Geoffrey Pearson (1983) suggests that this is one example in the history of ‘respectable fears' which, it is argued, are a result of a decline in the stability of social structures, shared morality and values witnessed in, for example, the increase in single-parent families. Cohen (1973) suggests that societies do, periodically, experience these social fears or ‘moral panics' when something or someone is