Conflict theory of crime and delinquency

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Conflict theory of crime and delinquency

Create an AI-powered research feed to stay up to date with new papers like this posted to ArXiv. Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: This review examines the most frequently cited sociological theories of crime and delinquency. The major theoretical perspectives are presented, beginning with anomie theory and the theories associated with the Chicago School of Sociology.

They are followed by theories of strain, social control, opportunity, conflict, and developmental life course. The review concludes with a conceptual map featuring the inter-relationships and contexts of the major theoretical perspectives.

The conflict perspective in crime and social deviance

View via Publisher. Alternate Sources. Save to Library. Create Alert. Launch Research Feed. Share This Paper. Figures from this paper. Citations Publications citing this paper. Joel Chijioke Nwalozie Political Science Beyond wildlife crime : realist social relations crime scripts of the illegal taking of deer Orlando Goodall Sociology References Publications referenced by this paper.

Criminology, the Chicago School, and sociological theory James F. Sociology Causes of Delinquency.

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The Development of Delinquency Terence P. ThornberryM. Dennis Krohn Psychology Criminological Theory: Context and Consequences J. Robert LillyFrancis T. CullenRichard A. Ball Sociology Sutherland Engineering Theories of Crime and Delinquency chapters Two Major Types of Theories of Crime. Classical School of Criminology. Underlying Principles of the Classical School.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you? People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall" You thought they were all kiddin' you You used to laugh about Everybody that was hangin' out Now you don't talk so loud Now you don't seem so proud About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel How does it feel To be without a home Like a complete unknown Like a rolling stone? You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely But you know you only used to get juiced in it Nobody has ever taught you how to live out on the street And now you're gonna have to get used to it You said you'd never compromise With the mystery tramp, but now you realize He's not selling any alibis As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel How does it feel To be on your own With no direction home A complete unknown Like a rolling stone? You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns When they all did tricks for you You never understood that it ain't no good You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat Ain't it hard when you discover that He really wasn't where it's at After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel How does it feel To be on your own With no direction home Like a complete unknown Like a rolling stone? Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people They're all drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made Exchanging all precious gifts But you'd better take your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe You used to be so amused At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

These high rates were strongly correlated with such social problems as mental illness, unemployment, poverty, infant mortality, and many others.

Why is Crime So High the nearer you get into the inner-city? It fills a gap and affords an escape. In other words, there is a lot of discretion and a lot of tolerance for deviance from the means but not the goals. One result of such a system is high levels of crime.

An example of the importance of money is taken from an early rock and roll song called "Money" by Barrett Strong with words included here:.

The best things in life are free But you can keep 'em for the birds and bees; Now give me money, that's what I want that's what I want, That's what I want That's what I want That's what I want yeah, That's what I want.

Delinquency and Opportunity. Cultural Deviance Theories. What if you don't have anything, that you are "down and out" and have "nothing to lose"? Listen to Bob Dylan's classic song, rated the no.Conflict theory is a field of sociology that focuses on competition and the dynamics of conflicting interests between different social groups as the fundamental force underpinning culture and politics.

Conflict theories of criminal justice look at criminal laws as a means by which more prosperous and powerful social groups exercise control and containment over socially disadvantaged groups. Race-based conflict theory posits that the criminal justice system is skewed in favor of members of the socially-dominant white race, while biased against members of Hispanic, black, or indigenous racial and ethnic groups. Other types of conflict theories of criminal justice include perceiving of the conflicts underlying what constitutes a crime as arising from academic and philosophical differences as to what comprises the best course of action for society, and values conflicts regarding perceptions of private property, rights or the appropriate conditions needed for peaceful living.

Conflict theories of criminal justice provide a significant touchstone for assessing the functionality and goals of any given criminal justice system. For example, according to a policy paper by the American Society of Criminology, one-third of all black males in the United States will be incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, a number which is significantly disproportionate to the incarceration rate of white males, or of females of any race.

Racial conflict theory presents one potential explanation to be considered in evaluating this data. While crimes and punishments have been prescribed by social systems since pre-Biblical times, criminology as a social institution involving police, courts and jails, is a modern development with seeds of development in the eighteenth century and significant growth in the nineteenth century through the present day.

Writing in the mids, Karl Marx developed an economic conflict theory applicable to criminal justice as well as many other social institutions, positing that industrialization led to excess population, which was then socially and politically oppressed by those who benefited from the developing capitalist system.

Max Weber, writing at the turn of the 20th century, viewed human culture as more beneficent than Marx did, viewing the conflicts underlying criminal justice as competing values rather than intentional oppression.

conflict theory of crime and delinquency

George Simmel, at around the same time as Weber, looked at concepts of crime arising from clashes in cultural groups newly brought into contact with one another by increasing immigration patterns. Conflict theories function as one means of explaining the overarching philosophies behind different criminal justice policies and systems.

As a branch of social philosophy, criminal justice conflict theories do not dictate what is right or wrong, or declare which system of criminal justice is superior. Rather, conflict theories are one mode of describing and analyzing the intentions and impacts of different criminal justice systems and events.

For example, a normative analysis of the death penalty might look at costs, deterrence effects and systemic safeguards against improper convictions to describe whether the death penalty works to stop crime.

Conflict criminology

A racial conflict theory analysis would examine the racial composition of defendants, victims, jurors and judges to determine if the death penalty works as a means for Caucasians to oppress black Americans. Popularization of conflict theories of criminal justice has various effects. One effect amongst the general public may be, ironically, to exacerbate racial tensions. Publication of reports pointing out the disproportionality of incarceration of certain races can result in public and media backlash asserting that the data is due to certain races having a greater proclivity for taking part in criminal activities, rather than due to other races' use of criminal laws to affect racial oppression.

Another effect may be to encourage policy makers to change laws with obviously skewed impacts. For example, the U. Congress is presently under pressure to change onerous sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine, a less expensive drug favored by youths of lower socio-economic status, to be equivalent to the more lenient punishment for powdered cocaine, a more expensive drug favored by wealthy youth, college students and business persons.

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A freelance writer since and attorney sinceCindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening.The conflict perspective, like the functionalist and symbolic interactions perspectives, is a concept or theoretical framework that seeks to establish the foundations of crime and social deviance in an effort to rationalize actions, behaviors, thinking processes, and such that lead to crime and social deviance and determine ways on how they shall prevented and their impacts to society downplayed.

Hawkins, The remainder of this text will define the conflict perspective and how its dimensions relate to crime and social deviance. The conflict perspective in crime and social deviance was based on the conflict theory introduced by Karl Marx which divides society into the capitalist and the worker classes. It takes crime and social deviance under the context of social and economic situations, labeling them as features or elements of society that determine the kind and level of crime and social deviance that occur within it.

The capitalist class is more commanding with its authority, power, and influence supported by its advantageous position, while the worker class is less fortunate on matters strongly influences by the capitalist class for its benefit.

Aside from this main idea or concept, the conflict theory also establishes the thought that the differences between the capitalist and the worker classes also determine the kind of crimes and socially deviant behavior that individuals are likely to commit and exhibit.

In other words, conflict theory suggests that individuals who belong to the capitalist class and the worker class differ in the kinds of crimes and socially deviant behavior that they commit or exhibit. For instance, capitalists are more likely to commit white-collar crimes ex.

In addition, socially deviant behavior is more likely attributed to the worker class due to the kind of behaviors or manners exhibited by homeless people.

However, for those who are members of the elite class will never be regarded as deviant individuals despite the crimes that they will commit.

The implications of the conflict perspective are not mainly rooted on the distinction between the criminal patterns and socially deviant behaviors exhibited by individuals belonging to the capitalist class and the worker class. Street crimes are gravely punishable by law. On the other hand, white-collar or corporate crimes receive more complaint punishments of judgments. In general, the conflict perspective presents crime and social deviance as flexible concepts relative to the structure and dimensions of various situations.

In this case, the relativity is established by the socio-economic distinction between the capitalist and worker classes that sets the idea which takes authority, power, and influence above the law and the criminal justice system. Apparently, the conflict that exists identified by the this particular theory or perspective is the conflict of interest between the capitalist and worker groups which promotes inequality rather than fair and punitive justice in terms of the notions and implications labeled to crimes and socially deviant behavior as well as the kind of punishments granted and deserved to individuals who belong to either the capitalist and worker classes.

Hawkins, D. Turk, A. NCJ Search for: Search. Conflict theory Conflict resolution. Hi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one? Check it out. Unique Academic Content.Conflict theory looks to social and economic factors as the causes of crime and deviance.

They see them as evidence of inequality in the system. They also challenge social disorganization theory and control theory and argue that both ignore racial and socioeconomic issues and oversimplify social trends Akers Conflict theorists also look for answers to the correlation of gender and race with wealth and crime.

Conflict theory was greatly influenced by the work of German philosopher, economist, and social scientist Karl Marx. Marx believed that the general population was divided into two groups. He labeled the wealthy, who controlled the means of production and business, the bourgeois.

He labeled the workers who depended on the bourgeois for employment and survival the proletariat. Marx believed that the bourgeois centralized their power and influence through government, laws, and other authority agencies in order to maintain and expand their positions of power in society. Though Marx spoke little of deviance, his ideas created the foundation for conflict theorists who study the intersection of deviance and crime with wealth and power. In his book The Power Elitesociologist C.

Wright Mills described the existence of what he dubbed the power elitea small group of wealthy and influential people at the top of society who hold the power and resources. Wealthy executives, politicians, celebrities, and military leaders often have access to national and international power, and in some cases, their decisions affect everyone in society.

conflict theory of crime and delinquency

Because of this, the rules of society are stacked in favor of a privileged few who manipulate them to stay on top. It is these people who decide what is criminal and what is not, and the effects are often felt most by those who have little power.

While crime is often associated with the underprivileged, crimes committed by the wealthy and powerful remain an under-punished and costly problem within society. In comparison, when former advisor and financier Bernie Madoff was arrested inthe U.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This imbalance based on class power is also found within U. Its pricier counterpart, cocaine, was associated with upscale users and was a drug of choice for the wealthy. The legal implications of being caught by authorities with crack versus cocaine were starkly different. Infederal law mandated that being caught in possession of 50 grams of crack was punishable by a ten-year prison sentence.

An equivalent prison sentence for cocaine possession, however, required possession of 5, grams. This inequality in the severity of punishment for crack versus cocaine paralleled the unequal social class of respective users.

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A conflict theorist would note that those in society who hold the power are also the ones who make the laws concerning crime. In doing so, they make laws that will benefit them, while the powerless classes who lack the resources to make such decisions suffer the consequences.

1.4 Conflict vs. Consensus

The crack-cocaine punishment disparity remained untilwhen President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which decreased the disparity to 1 to 18 The Sentencing Project For example, in the late 19th century, kleptomania was a diagnosis used in legal defences that linked an extreme desire for department store commodities with various forms of female physiological or psychiatric illness.

Feminist analysis focuses on the way gender inequality influences the opportunities to commit crime and the definition, detection, and prosecution of crime. In part the gender difference revolves around patriarchal attitudes toward women and the disregard for matters considered to be of a private or domestic nature. For example, untilabortion was illegal in Canada, meaning that hundreds of women died or were injured each year when they received illegal abortions McLaren and McLaren It was not until the Supreme Court ruling in that struck down the law that it was acknowledged that women are capable of making their own choice, in consultation with a doctor, about the procedure.

Similarly, until the s, two major types of criminal deviance were largely ignored or were difficult to prosecute as crimes: sexual assault and spousal assault. In the Criminal Code was amended to replace the crimes of rape and indecent assault with a three-tier structure of sexual assault ranging from unwanted sexual touching that violates the integrity of the victim to sexual assault with a weapon or threats or causing bodily harm to aggravated sexual assault that results in wounding, maiming, disfiguring, or endangering the life of the victim Kong et al.

Johnson reported that in the mids, when violence against women began to be surveyed systematically in Canada, 51 percent of Canadian women had been the subject to at least one sexual or physical assault since the age of The goal of the amendments was to emphasize that sexual assault is an act of violence, not a sexual act.Conflict theories emphasize the social, political, or material inequality of a social group, that critique the broad socio-political system. Deviance, in a sociological context, describes actions or behaviors that violate social norms, including formally-enacted rules, as well as informal violations of social norms.

In sociology, conflict theories are perspectives that emphasize the social, political, or material inequality of a social group, that critique the broad socio-political system, or that otherwise detract from structural functionalism and ideological conservativism.

Conflict theories draw attention to power differentials, such as class conflict, and generally contrast historically dominant ideologies. It is therefore a macro level analysis of society. Karl Marx is the father of the social conflict theory, which is a component of the four paradigms of sociology. In conflict theory, deviant behaviors are actions that do not comply with social institutions. The legal rights of poor folks might be ignored, while the middle class side with the elites rather than the poor.

Conflict theory is based upon the view that the fundamental causes of crime are the social and economic forces operating within society. Marx himself did not write about deviant behavior specifically, but he wrote about alienation amongst the proletariat, as well as between the proletariat and the finished product, which causes conflict, and thus deviant behavior.

Alienation is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society, because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his or her humanity. However, Marx used the term lumpenproletariat to describe that layer of the working class, unlikely to ever achieve class consciousness, lost to socially useful production, and, therefore, of no use in revolutionary struggle or an actual impediment to the realization of a classless society.

Portrait of Karl Marx : The nineteeth-century German intellectual Karl Marx identified and described the alienation that afflict the worker under capitalism. Michel Foucault believed that torture had been phased out from modern society due to the dispersion of power; so there was no need any more for the wrath of the state on a deviant individual. Rather, the modern state receives praise for its fairness and dispersion of power that, instead of controlling each individual, controls the mass.

He also theorized that institutions control people through the use of discipline. The modern prison is a template for these institutions, because it controls its inmates by the perfect use of discipline. Foucault theorizes that, in a sense, the contemporary society is characterized by the lack of free will on the part of individuals. Institutions of knowledge, norms, and values, are in place to categorize and control humans.

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Drawing of Michel Foucault : The French philosopher Michel Foucault theorized that institutions control people through the use of discipline.

Class structure within the criminal justice system helps determine the types of crimes individuals will commit. Of the classical founders of social science, conflict theory is most commonly associated with Karl Marx. Based on a dialectical materialist account of history, Marxism posited that capitalism, like previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions leading to its own destruction. Marx ushered in radical change, advocating proletarian revolution and freedom from the ruling classes.

In Marxist theory, the class structure of the capitalist mode of production is characterized by the conflict between two main classes: the bourgeoisie, the capitalists who own the means of production, and the much larger proletariat who must sell their own labor power.

Clifford Shaw and Henry D. McKay theorized that social disorganization was a root cause of deviancy and crime, especially for minority youth. They discussed the fact that inner city kids tended to be more involved in a criminal lifestyle than kids who lived in the suburbs. Being able to afford to live in better parts of the city and thus having wealth afforded certain kids better opportunities in terms of lifestyle and education, leading to less crime and criminal involvement.Largely based on the writings of Karl Marxconflict criminology holds that crime in capitalist societies cannot be adequately understood without a recognition that such societies are dominated by a wealthy elite whose continuing dominance requires the economic exploitation of others, and that the ideas, institutions and practices of such societies are designed and managed in order to ensure that such groups remain marginalised, oppressed and vulnerable.

Members of marginalised and oppressed groups may sometimes turn to crime in order to gain the material wealth that apparently brings equality in capitalist societies, or simply in order to survive. Conflict criminology derives its name from the fact that theorists within the area believe that there is no consensual social contract between state and citizen. Conflict theory assumes that every society is subjected to a process of continuous change and that this process creates social conflicts.

Hence, social change and social conflict are ubiquitous. Individuals and social classeseach with distinctive interests, represent the constituent elements of a society. As such, they are individually and collectively participants in this process but there is no guarantee that the interests of each class will coincide.

Indeed, the lack of common ground is likely to bring them into conflict with each other. From time to time, each element's contribution may be positive or negative, constructive or destructive. To that extent, therefore, the progress made by each society as a whole is limited by the acts and omissions of some of its members by others. This limitation may promote a struggle for greater progress but, if the less progressive group has access to the coercive power of lawit may entrench inequality and oppress those deemed less equal.

In turn, this inequality will become a significant source of conflict.

conflict theory of crime and delinquency

The theory identifies the state and the law as instruments of oppression used by the ruling class for their own benefit. There are various strands of conflict theory, with many heavily critiquing the others. Structural Marxist criminology, which is essentially the most 'pure' version of the above, has been frequently accused of idealismand many critics point to the fact that the Soviet Union and such states had as high crime rates as the capitalist West.

Furthermore, some highly capitalist states such as Switzerland have very low crime rates, thus making structural theory seem improbable. Instrumental Marxism partly holds to the above, but claims that capitalism in itself cannot be blamed for all crimes.

A seminal book on the subject, The New Criminologyby Taylor, Walton, and Young, was considered groundbreaking and ahead of its time at the point of its publication in However, 11 years later, co-author Jock Young turned against the work, claiming it too was overly idealistic, and began to form yet another line of criminological thought, now commonly known as Left realism.

Sellin was a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the pioneers of scientific criminology. His method involved a comprehensive view of the subject, incorporating historicalsociologicalpsychologicaland legal factors into the analysis. He applied both Marxism and Conflict Theory to an examination of the cultural diversity of modern industrial society. In a homogenous society, norms or codes of behaviour will emerge and become laws where enforcement is necessary to preserve the unitary culture.

But where separate cultures diverge from the mainstream, those minority groups will establish their own norms. Socialization will therefore be to the subgroup and to the mainstream norms. When laws are enacted, they will represent the norms, values and interests of the dominant cultural or ethnic group which may produce border culture conflict. When the two cultures interact and one seeks to extend its influence into the other, each side is likely to react protectively.

If the balance of power is relatively equal, an accommodation will usually be reached.


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