There is no single or one cause of different forms of crimes witnessed in society. According to Hang (2010), crime remains one of a highly complex phenomenon, which tends to change regularly across time, as well as cultures. In particular, activities deemed legal in a given country is most likely to be criminalized in another. A typical case in point is the stringent anti-alcohol consumption rules in Muslim nations instead of the freedom to drink liquor in the West. On the same note, as cultures experience significant and gradual changes, a given behavior can undergo the decriminalization-criminalization-decriminalization process, such as the Prohibition Act, with the law criminalizing production and distribution of alcohol in the United States in the 1920s. In this respect, when asked to answer what a crime is, people from across the globe would provide different and conflicting answers because crimes have different or distinct causes. To explain what causes a particular crime, scholars, including sociologists, biologists, and economists have developed a wide range of theoretical frameworks. Therefore, this essay briefly discusses the various sociological theories for crime and their application in criminal behaviors in my community.
Sociological Theories: Analysis
Sociological theoretical approaches for criminology provides that crime results from external or environmental factors, such as their experiences with family members, people in their neighborhoods, and groups or peers. Arranged in order of their effectiveness and applicability in my community’s struggle with alcoholism among and gangs, five of the main sociological theories include anomie or strain theory, subcultural learning theory, elite dominance theory, social control theory, and rational choice theory. Anomie theory argues that the gap between the society’s educational goals and the structural means necessary for achieving these goals cause crime. In other words, the strain witnessed between the intended goals and means for attaining the same results in resentment and frustration, which, in turn, encourages a person to secure success illegitimately. Subcultural learning theory is based on the assumption that status frustration compels the lower-class people to resort to deviant behaviors, such as acting up, smoking, drinking, and truanting as a way of gaining the desired respect and status. Through these means, they meet their peers’ expectations.
Besides anomie and subcultural learning theories, elite dominance theory provides that people in power are most likely to engage in deviant acts because their goals are considerably challenging to attain through legitimate means (Jordan, King, & Yang, n.d.). Moreover, this theory assumes that the elite engages in crime because they not only presented with more opportunities to cheat on but also encounter weaker social controls. In this respect, social control theory does not necessarily on addressing the root cause of a crime but instead explains reasons why an individual obeys the law by avoiding deviant behaviors. In other words, people conform to healthy socio-cultural norms, with weaker social bonds playing a role in perpetuating criminal activities in society. The rational choice theory revolves around the belief that individuals are born rational actors, which means a person enjoys the free will when it comes to decision-making. Very simply, a society member can choose to or not commit a crime.
Application of Theories
Of the five sociological theories briefly described above, the anomie theory best explains the worsening issue of alcoholism and gangs in the community. A recent local survey revealed that one in 10 teenagers in my area drop out of school because they hail from low-income families. According to Hang (2010), the anomie theory seeks to explain the relationship between status or material wealth and the various means or methods to attain these in the already unbalanced or unequal society, including employment and education. Given these youth lack education that could help with securing employment opportunities, they often become depressed and frustrated because of the increasing pressures from cultural values and associated social structures (University of Glasgow, 2016). Consequently, this group of society members choose crime as a source of livelihood and achieving the much-needed higher socioeconomic status (SES).
In contrast, Black (2014) argues that the anomie or strain theory tends to build on the concepts, ideas, and assumptions of subcultural theories, which explain sociocultural factors for committing a crime. In the author’s view, rational choice theory overrides the strain theory because a school drop-out can choose to accept his or her SES and engage in a useful and socially desirable behavior without joining a gang or start binge drinking. Black’s assertion is echoed by McAra (2017), who firmly believes that, through strict social norms and legislations, criminologists can effectively eradicate organized and unorganized gangs and significantly reduce delinquent behaviors, such as alcoholism. Most importantly, I find the anomie theory more effective in addressing the criminal behaviors affecting my community because it goes a long away in identifying the primary cause of crimes in a given context.
Black, P. (2014). Subcultural theories of crime. The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118517383.wbeccj254
Hang, F. (2010). Introduction to criminology: Theories, method, and criminal behavior. SAGE.
Jordan, E., King, G., & Yang, L. (n.d.). Elite deviance and white-collar crime. https://haenfler.sites.grinnell.edu/elite-deviance-and-white-collar-crime/
McAra, L. (2017). Can criminologists change the world? Reflections on politics, performance, and effects of criminal justice. The British Journal of Criminology, 57(4), 767-788.
University of Glasgow (2016). Theories and causes of crime. http://www.sccjr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/SCCJR-Causes-of-Crime.pdf