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From a Sociological Perspective

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From a sociological perspective, explanation for criminality is found in two levels which are the subculture and the structural explanations. The sociological explanations emphasize aspects of societal arrangements that are external to the actor and compelling. A sociological explanation is concerned with how the structure of a society, institutional practices or its persisting cultural themes affect the conduct of its members. Individual differences are denied or ignored, and the explanation of the overall collective behavior is sought in the patterning of social arrangements that is considered to be both outside the actor and prior to him (Sampson, 1985).

That is, the social patterns of power or of institutions which are held to be determinative of human action are also seen as having been in existence before any particular actor came on that scene. In lay language, sociological explanations of crime place the blame on something social that is prior to, external to, and compelling of any particular person.

Sociological explanations do not deny the importance of human motivation. However, they locate the source of motives outside the individual and in the cultural climate in which they live. Political philosophers, sociologists and anthropologists have long observed that a condition of social life is that not all things are allowed. Standards of behavior are both a product of our living together and a requirement if social life is to be orderly.

The concept of culture refers to the perceived generation to generation and is somewhat durable. To call such behavior cultural does not necessarily mean that it is refined, but rather means that it is cultured. Hence it has been acquired, cultivated and persistent. Social scientists have invented the notion of a subculture to describe variations, within the a society, upon its cultural themes. In such circumstances, it is assumed that some cultural prescriptions are common to all members of society, but that modifications and variations are discernible within the society.

Again, it is part of the definition of a subculture, as of a culture, that is relatively enduring. Its norms are termed a style rather than a fashion on the grounds that the former has some endurance while the latter is evanescent. The quarrel comes of course when we try to estimate how real a cultural pattern is and how persistent. The standards by which behavior is to be guided vary among men and over time. It is in this change and variety that crime is defined. An application of this principle to criminology would find the roots of the crime in the fact that groups have developed different standards of appropriate behavior. In those complex cultures, each individual is subject to competing prescriptions for action.

Another subcultural explanation of crime grows readily out of the fact that as we have seen, social classes experience different rates of arrest and conviction for serious offenses. When within a society categories are marked off by income, education and occupational prestige. Here differences are discovered among them in the amount an style of the crime. Further, differences are usually found between these social classes in their interests and morals. Its easy to describe these class-linked patterns as a culture.

This version of the subcultural explanation of crime holds that the very fact of learning the lessons of the subculture means that one acquires interests and preferences that place him in greater or lesser risk of breaking the law. Others argue that being reared on the lower-class means learning a different culture from that which creates the criminal laws. The lower class subculture is said to have its own values as many of which run counter to the majority interest that support the laws against the serious predatory crimes.

One needs to not that the indicators of class are not descriptions of class. Proponents of subcultural explanations of crime do not define a class culture by any assortment of the objective indicators or rank, such as annual income or years of schooling. Th subcultural theorist are interested in patterned ways of like which may have evolved with a division of labor and which are called class cultures. The pattern, however is not described by reference to income alone or by reference to year of schooling or occupational ski.. The pattern includes these indicators, but is not defined by them. The subcultural theorist are more intent upon the varieties of human value. These are preferred ways of living that are acted upon.

In the economists language, they are tastes. The thesis that is intimated, but not often explicated by a subcultural description of behaviors is that single or multiple signs of social position, such as occupation or education that will have a different significance for both status and cultures. Money and education do not mean the same things socially as they are more or less equitably distributed. The change in meaning is not merely a change in the prestige value of these tow, but also betokens changes in the boundaries between class cultures. Generally speaking, whether one believes tendencies to be good or bad, the point of emphasis should be simply the criteria of social class that have been generally employed.. The criteria should be limited to income and schooling with changes in the distribution taking advantage of the population.

Class cultures, like national cultures may break down. A more general subculture explanation of crime, not necessarily in disagreement with the notion of class cultures, attributes differences in crime rate to differences in ethnic patterns to be found within society. Explanations of this sort do not necessarily bear the title ethnic, although they are so designated here because they partake of the general assumption that there are group differences in learned preferences in what is rewarded and punished and that these group differences have a persistence often called tradition.

Such explanations are of a piece whether they are advanced as descriptions of regional cultures, generational differences or national characteristics (Hirschi, 1969). Their common them is the differences in ways of life out of which differences in crime rates seem to flow. Ethnic explanations are proposed under and assortment of labels, but they have in common the fact that they do not limit the notion of subculture to class culture (Hirschi). They seem particularly justified where differences in social status are not so highly correlated with differences in conduct as are other indicators of cultural difference.

Thus, many sociologist in this field argue that in the United states economics and status positions in the community cannot be shown to account for differences {in homicide rates} between whites and Negroes or between southerners and northerners (Freeman, 1983).



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