There is a relationship between social class and crime and there are reasons for this based on wealth and power Essay

‘There is a relationship between social class and crime and there are reasons for this based on wealth and power’

I chose this because crime interests me greatly. My interest was sparked in class when we studied crime. I was particularly interested in class and crime and why prisons seem to be full of working class people. I live in a working class area, which most people seem to think is a ‘rough’ area. When anything happens around the area the police are always patrolling round the area in which I live. I intend to find out why. This topic gives me a chance to look at the facts for myself.

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I intend to carry out this investigation to the best of my ability, incorporating things I have learnt during Social Science and secondary sources along with my own knowledge. I will carry out in depth research and use a variety of methods to find the reasoning for my hypothesis.

I will be through in my investigation and organized in my presentation of the facts.

Methods of Investigation

I intend to use a number of different sources in order to prove or disprove my hypothesis. I will gather a wide range of information from a variety of sources. I will collect primary and secondary data to obtain a fair range of information.

Primary Methods

The first method that I have chosen to use is a questionnaire. This is a good choice because there is a wide range of questions available e.g. open and closed questions. It is also a relatively cheap way to get information and it is also easy to fill in as people can work at their own pace and not be nervous about what to say as they are anonymous. There is a major flaw with questionnaires. The people who are answering them may treat it as a joke or not bother to answer them. Some people even lie to someone who does not even know who they are. Using a questionnaire will allow me to get a stratified sample because I am using only one age group. It will also allow me to use the answers as numerical data. Another flaw with questionnaires is that the data produced is quantative, which does not allow me to get in depth detailed answers.

Pilot Questionnaire.

What age are you?

What gender are you?

How many people do you live with?

Where do you live?

Has there ever been a crime in your area?

Have you ever been the victim of crime?

Is there a police presence in your area?

Who is the main wage earner in your family?

What do you think the main cause of crime is?

I then gave this out. Afterwards I changed it to the one below. The main change was that instead of asking who is the main wage earner I asked what the job of the main wage earner was. I also made the questions more closed so that I could use the data easily.

Please complete the following questionnaire.

What age are you?

0-15

16-30

31-45

60+

What gender are you?

Male

Female

What area do you live?

Fenton Magdalen Area

Newstead Hollybush

Seddon Oakwood Road

What do you think the main cause of crime is?

Greed Peer Pressure

Alcohol Boredom

Drugs Poverty

Failure at school Parents lack of control

What is the job of the main wage earner in your family?

Have you ever been the victim of crime?

Yes No

Is there any police in your area?

No A few (Less than 5 a day)

Lots (More than 20)

Do you live in fear in your own home?

Yes No

<What age are you? >

This question was intended to help me to get a stratified sample because I am using one age group in my data.

<What gender are you? >

This was a gain intended to make sure that I got a fair range of results from both genders.

<What area do you live in? >

This was to see if people in different area have different opinions and if this is because of wealth or social class.

<What do you think the main cause of crime is? >

This was to see what most people think the main cause of crime is.

<What is the job of the main wage earner in your family? >

This was to try to see if the family was working class or middle class.

< Have you ever been the victim of crime? >

< Do you live in fear in your own home? >

These questions were intended to see just how bad crime was in the area.

<How many police patrol your area? >

This was to verify my theories about police and working class areas.

The second method that I chose was interviews.

I chose this because interviews will allow me to get in depth detailed answers and allow people to voice their opinions.

This is a sample of my interview. Interviews are good because they can examine complex issues, can compare answers to personal observations or opinions and if you are there the person will answer the questions, effectively eliminating the non-response rate. The disadvantages are that the interviewer may influence the replies of the respondent by their presence, or inadequate interviewer skill. It also tends to be expensive.

Interview

Is crime bad in your area?

Whom do you blame?

What is the most recent crime in your area?

Are visitors intimidated when they visit the area?

Why don’t you report them?

What action has the council taken?

Secondary Data Collection

I will use the statistics provided by my teacher from the social textbooks, which already have a number of studies in them. I will also use textbooks to for the basis of my secondary data. There are many different books and I will make a bibliography later in my coursework. I will also use the Internet and the sites I use will be listed in my bibliography. The main feature in my secondary Data collection is the Marxist view.

Primary Data

This is one of my interviews.

Is crime bad in your area?

Yes, it’s very bad.

Whom do you blame?

The parents for not bringing the parents up properly.

What is the most recent crime in your area?

My flowering basket was stolen.

Are visitors intimidated when they visit the area?

Yes, I have trouble getting people to visit me.

Why don’t you report them?

I am afraid of getting my windows smashed by the youths.

What action has the council taken?

They clamped all the cars parked wrong and put up big gates.

Secondary Data

Crime and Social Class

Hypothesis- There is a relationship between social class and crime. There are reasons for this based on wealth and power.

Secondary Sources

The Marxist View: The type of society we live in. The capitalist society, in which there is a small group of wealthy people own the means of production. Capitalist society is based on materialism, consumerism, and individual competition. The media reinforce these values through advertising, game shows, and even Hollywood movies based on the lives of the super rich. In such a society, people will try to obtain these values through any means including illegal means. Many laws protect individual properties so working class people, who are trying to get properties will be prosecuted where as the middle class people who already own all they need wont be breaking as many laws and go undetected.

Western societies place a high value on personal achievement. The successful person reaches he top of their career, lives in a large detached house etc, etc. Not many working class people are able to reach this level of achievement. They are stuck in dead end jobs with no chance of promotion. Consequently, there is a greater pressure on them to become successful. Crime offers one way. A bank robbery can give them the life they have been hoping for. This explains crimes that involve material goods, but what about crimes like vandalism.

Many crimes appear to be pointless. Some thefts also seem to be pointless, e.g. stealing light bulbs. They appear to be the subjects of status frustration. These people look towards crime as a ways of gaining status and prestige. The successful thief gains respect from his friends, as does the joy rider. The best fighter is also admired and respected by his peers.

Working class people are more likely to be arrested for crime. There are a number of explanations for this.

Poverty and unemployment.

An official report showed a link between crime and the state of their economy.

Working class people fit more into the image of the typical criminal. Therefore, there is a greater police presence around working class areas. There are also different boundaries of criminal activity between the classes. E.g., university graduates wrecking a restraunt may be dismissed by the police as high jinks but if a crowd of football supporters did the same thing, it would be classed as hooliganism.

When they are tried, middle class crimes may be seen as a temporary lapse in behavior.

White-collar crime

Middle class people in their jobs commit these types of crimes. These are mainly bribery and embezzlement. Most of these crimes go undetected. Some of them are without victims and both parties see that they are gaining something. Sometimes there is a lack of awareness about the crime so it goes undetected. If they are detected, they often go unpunished. In general the higher in society you are:

Less likely to be arrested,

If you are arrested you are less likely to be prosecuted,

If you are prosecuted, you are less likely to be found guilty

If you are found guilty, you are less likely to be given a prison sentence.

Sociological Explanations of crime and delinquency.

1. The subculture approach

This approach has a number of variations, some of which are mentioned below. However, they all share the basic belief that those who commit crime share a set of values, which is different from the values of society as a whole. That is they have a subculture Generally the explanation is that their parents bought them up, to have a set of values sympathetic to crime.

Lower working class values

Walter miller widened the scope of subculture theory. He argued that the values of working class could often lead to crime. For example, it is often central for men to exhibit their masculinity by being tough. This could easily lead to violence and fighting.

Status frustration.

Albert Cohen put forward a different theory in his study of delinquent boys. He suggested that boys who fail at school feel frustrated and lack any status. They therefore engage in delinquent acts to get back at the society that condemned them. This approach is known as the status frustration explanation.

Criticism of the sub cultural approach.

Matza has strongly criticized the sub-cultural approach. He argues that there is no clearly distinct subculture of deviance. Indeed, most delinquents and criminals are generally law abiding and support the law in general. In other words, criminals are little different from any law-abiding person. Instead, Matza says that we are all deviant at times and we usually make excuses, e.g. we were drunk or the other person deserved and so on.

All that happens is that criminals extend the excuses that are normally made. Matza goes on to point out that most crimes are committed by young people who are that their most uncertain as to their own personality and might be therefore less restrictive of the use of their excuses.

Research

David Downes studied a group of youths in London. He could find no evidence of a distinctive set of values, which could be called a sub culture. Instead, he found no that the youths spent heir time trying to get as much out of life as possible. Sometimes this bought them into conflict with the law. Most working class people who fail at school have boring lives. This means that they try to have fun and take risks, which can bring them into contact with the police.

2. Anomie

Robert Merton has suggested that all societies, in order to motivate people provide them with some aim, which they can achieve through hard work. However, in certain times the aim (which is usually to be financially well off) becomes impossible for a majority of the people, and especially for the working class, to attain e.g. in periods of high unemployment. Merton argues that this leads to an increase in crime as people turn to illegal means to achieve financial success. Merton calls this situation anomie. This graph shows that four times as many crimes are committed that are reported as unreported

This graph shows that nearly twice as many working class crimes are reported than middle class.

Some people say that working class people are over represented in prisons. Everybody desires success but working class people have fewer opportunities to succeed legally. Working class also may stress deviant behavior.

Sociologists

There are many sociologists who have done studies on crime and put forward theories about why crime is committed.

Merton says that there is an anomie. This means that people are encouraged to think that they are successful if they have a high standard of material goods. Therefore you can have these if you have a good education and job. For people who fail at school and therefore don’t have a good job the only way for them to succeed is to turn to crime. A bank robbery could give them the money to acquire a high standard of material goods and therefore ‘make it’.

Sutherland says that there is a differential association. He says that most people don’t commit crime but associate with people which are criminals. If the people see the criminals committing crime and living a fairly good life they will be tempted. They may also be put under pressure by their ‘gang’ to commit a crime and don’t want to be seen as weak or scared. To prove their masculinity they will commit a crime to be ‘one of the boys’.

Another sociologist says that a certain type of person is labeled as a criminal. If someone commits a crime and the person labeled as a criminal is seen near the event the police will hunt the down because he looks ‘shifty’ and must have done the crime.

A typical criminal has been said to have

* A low income

* Come from a broken home

* A bad attitude towards authority

* A poor school performance

* Belongs to an ethnic group

Karl Marx says that middle class people don’t need to steal.

Paul Wells (1927) and Parker (1992) say that the main cause of crime is peer pressure.

The idea the some people being scapegoat was taken up by a number of sociologists who argue that once a person has been labeled as a criminal other people such as employers will refuse them to employ them on the grounds of ‘looking like trouble’. This could force the person into crime because they are unable to get paid work so cannot succeed.

If a person commits a minor crime and goes to prison for a short while, this will also affect them later in life because employers will not trust them for fear of being tarred with the same brush. This will alienate them from society and employment so they will have to turn back to crime. This makes the criminal type a reality, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is a belief (often incorrect), which causes the person to behave in a way that makes the belief reality.

Labellists are saying that the cause of deviancy is not the action but the reaction. Therefore it can be said that social control is not the cure for crime but can help cause it.

However this is not true for everybody. Other reasons need to be taken into account.

The New Right View says that parental upbringing is the only cause of crime. If parents continually reinforce that stealing is bad, warn their children of the consequences of stealing, and never steal themselves, their children will never steal.

Moral Panics

In his book on the mods and rockers of the 1960s, Folk Devils and Moral Panics, Stan Cohen suggests that mass media stereotypes of young people particularly where unusual or exceptional behavior is involved, provide exciting stories and sensational headlines, and helps to sell newspapers. He argues that young people have been used as a scapegoat to create a sense of unity in society, by uniting all people against a common enemy.

Young people are relatively powerless and easily identifiable group to blame for all of society’s ills. Some young people who get involved in relatively minor acts of delinquency, such as vandalism are labeled as folk devils or groups that pose a threat to society. This causes a moral panic- an over reaction suggesting that society itself is under threat. Most people then pull together to overcome this threat. Therefore, young people become increasingly persecuted. In this example young people were treated much the same as witches in the past.

SOCIAL CLASS, CLASSISM, & COMMUNITY ANALYSIS

The American class structure, for all the social mobility (moving up) that’s supposed to be going on, has really been fairly rigid and fixed. For example, throughout most of the late 20th Century, the following has been what it has looked like:

This particular view of the class structure is typically referred to as Warner’s model (from a sociologist by the name of Lloyd Warner). You’ll note that it’s a six-class model; that is, there are six (6) social classes. Be advised that there are other models named after other people. There are 4-class models, 3-class models, and the famous 2-class model by Karl Marx. Use of the Warner model tends to pin someone down as a traditionalist, or worse, a conservative functionalist. Anyway…

UPPER-UPPER is a class that we know little about. One of the most common things you hear about them is the phrase “Less than 2% of the population controls over 65% of the wealth” (or some variation of this phrase). Unfortunately, these figures have never been proven as it’s remarkably difficult to even count the very rich as it is to figure out from their various tax havens how much wealth they have. They have low visibility, luxurious living, and a lot of inherited wealth (which they usually keep within their own social class). Since there’s no easy way to measure their wealth (I wonder how Forbes does it?), many researchers turn to other methods: reputational (they ask others who the super-wealthy are); educational (they look at certain prep schools & associations attended); or city social registers.

LOWER-UPPER is a class of the new rich (nouveau riche), consisting of lottery winners, self-made billionaires, savvy investors, people who have benefited from one type of economic windfall or another. This is a small group, but instead of being carted around in company limousines, they usually drive their own automobiles, so you might have contact with one of them. They tend to seek out visibility and high-prestige occupations, often in politics or higher education (they like honorary degrees). Not much is known about them either, especially in the way of lifestyle.

UPPER-MIDDLE is the class, which always answers “well off”, or “comfortable” on those surveys about how you think you’re doing economically these days. They are living the American Dream, and they spend most of their time worrying about how “good” their possessions are; their house, their neighborhood, their city. They tend to be active professionals, working long hours, and relatively silent on most social issues except the family.

LOWER-MIDDLE is the class, which always answers “getting by” or “living paycheck to paycheck” to those surveys. They are suburbanites or soon-to-be suburbanites because they’re always looking for some faraway subdivision to “flight” to. They tend to be active in churches and some civic affairs, but generally are not interested in politics except for taxation issues.

UPPER-LOWER or the Working Class is the largest class in America. They make up the bulk of the labor force in both skilled, semi-skilled, and service professions. Apartment or mobile home dwellers, usually, this group is living in so much debt nowadays that it’s almost like economic slavery. Interestingly, they tend to concentrate much of their attention on the so-called “classes beneath them”, and they have extremely strong pride and a lot of contact with the criminal justice system.

LOWER-LOWER or the Underclass is a fairly permanent class that is so dependent on government services, subsidies, and assistance that they might even starve if not for some kind of intervention that always seems to be needed. Lower-lower class membership is not the same as poverty or welfare, however, because we’re talking about measuring class by lifestyle, reputation, or other means. Poor health and lots of contact with the criminal justice system occur regularly with this class.

One of the more controversial and under researched areas of study is the Sociology of Values. Everyone realizes the importance of values, especially as they relate to an understanding of class structures, but few people actually try to improve on what follows below, which sounds awfully stereotypical given what we know about stereotypes:

MIDDLE CLASS VALUES

LOWER CLASS VALUES

Deferred gratification

Verbal skills

Rationality

Asceticism

Ambition

Individual Responsibility & Talent

Courtesy & Chivalry

Instant gratification

Motor skills

Spontaneity-Expressiveness

Sociability

Generosity

Childhood-like approach to Responsibility

Sensuality & Sexuality

Now, some of this may be outdated and deserving of criticism as myths, but a whole bunch of criminological literature (strain theory, subculture theory, learning theory, drift theory, etc.) is premised on social class value differences like these

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