By definition the word crime has been derived from the ancient Latin language which in literal sense of the word means the deviance from the normative values and norms that help in prevailing social security and stability in the society and prevents any kind of chaos and anarchy from taking hold. With the passage of time, crime and the ways through which such activities are committed have become increasingly sophisticated and complex.
This has been mainly due to the addition of multitude factors and components that have collectively contributed in augmenting the complications involved not only in the identification of the crime, but also assessing the reasons due to which a grim business like this was conducted. Instruments and features like religious resentment, ideological clashes, injustice and oppression, where on one hand, have provided a completely novel dimension to crime and criminal activities, on the other hand have also left a question mark on the performance and credibility of various law enforcing agencies and institutes.
Sociologists and criminologists, over a period of time, have formulated a number of crime theories that explain the various factors which become the cause of crime occurrence and criminal activity in the society. In any society heterogeneous distribution of wealth and discriminatory segregation of resources can provoke anti-social elements to voice their concerns to the higher authorities. Accompanied with these factors are psychological and social grievances which further catalyze the process of proliferation of violence in the society, the looming violence in the society manifests itself in the most comprehensible way in the form of crime and criminal activity in the society.
I. Contextual Understanding of Theories
A. Since the title of the paper deals with crime and criminal activity in the context of various social and psychological theories, it deals with each of these aspects individually.
B. Significance of theories in criminal context
I. In addition to this the relative significance of each of the considered theories and their subsequent shortcomings are also contemplated in terms of methods they instigate the conduction of criminal activity.
C. Loopholes in the Theories
I. Analyzing the issue through the spectacle of The Strain and The Social Learning Theories, the paper deals with the various aspects of criminal activity these theories deal with and the respective loopholes present in their field of study.
II. Voluntary and Involuntary factors of crime
A. Moreover the various voluntary and involuntary actions that contributes to social disorganization such as media influences.
i. Losing government writ on maintaining law and order situation, political and social instability, deteriorating economic situations, meltdown of conventional social institutions such as family roles and socialization agencies.
ii. Complications in employment and peer pressure influences are also considered and discussed in the paper.
III. Societal Reaction Towards Criminal activity and Crime
A. The paper also deals with the respective reactions of society members towards criminally motivated activities and also sheds light on the occasional extreme and volatile feedback that is a possible outcome when such exercises acquire appalling levels.
Historical Behavior of Criminal Study
Crime and law enforcement are two instruments that have always shared a symbiotic relationship with each. Without the presence of one, the other cannot exist also. Chronological evidence tells us that the societies, no matter to whatever civilization they belonged, have always retaliated and strikes back effectively to the committing of criminal activities. The theocratic system of law that existed during that time in these societies had a punishment for everyone if proved guilty of its crime, but many anti-law actions were attributed and dedicated in the service and will of gods that the people of the society believed in.
A study that was conducted by Sir Henry Maine declared that there are no similarities in the laws and codes that were implemented by ancient civilizations and that which exist today. A major difference between the legal functioning of civilizations and modern courts of today is that these ancient civilizations failed to devise any distinction between crime and offence. For them all such activities were accommodated in the category of offence rather than that of crime. However, in contemporary terms, this distinction is vivid enough and has been subsequently categorized as offences against state or community or that conducted at personal level. But another point to mention here is that despite of the rules and regulations that dominated the society during those times and those that are present today, both of them share a common sentiment which was taking stringent efforts to curb and abstained people from committing crime and criminally driven activities. Their study analyzed criminal behavior from different multitudes and angles that conformed to the prevalent social norms and values.
Theories of Crime and Criminal Activity
The social strain theory is one of the intrinsic theories that carefully evaluate the different psychological, social, economical and political reasons behind the intentions that ultimately frame up and beget criminal activity. Without the understanding of this theory, the different reasons that contribute to the committing of such sinister and immoral business cannot be properly comprehended.
Strains or stresses may be encompassed and categorized on the basis of their diversity which may be political, biological, psychological and social. It is further said by experts and professionals that the pressure developed by these strains on people is so immense that the only alternative they believe can ensure their survival is by choosing the path of crime. The occurrence of strains that dictate such behavior can be due to the presence of some groups which deprive them of their required objectives. These goals may also vary in their very own nature as they can be for acquiring material or other associated benefits. The theory accentuates on the fact that an individual of a society, who deprived from achieving his goals, will cause a strain on the social setup of the society because as a retaliatory attempt the individual in order to regain his deprived rights will express his mushrooming frustrations in the form of a violent step such as committing of crime ultimately posing a threat to the social stability by facilitating anarchy and anomie. The strain theory has been described by Philip Bean in his book in which he says that such strains that eventually contribute to the provocation of criminally oriented behavior is usually because of logical abstractions or even stereotypes that are associated with a specific group or category of people.
According to Bean, Negroes, urban-dwellers and young people that are driven towards crime share similar strains in which as it has been proved by research studies that poverty, struggling ways to make ends meet and the absence of financial capacity of fulfilling family needs are the major factors. In addition to this demoralized family structures, disputes between family members, lack of recreational facilities mainly spark such anti-social sentiments among them.
A casual and rational explanation of criminal behavior can be reached if the processes and mechanisms that the rich and the poor experience are analyzed carefully. It is said that even though upper social class people do not suffer from factors such as poverty, they are the ones that frequently violate the law and instigate criminal activities.
The strain theory as it is further explained also focuses its discussion on the fact that crime that is conducted due to social and economic strains is not conducted for the acquisition of any indirect sort of satisfaction, but criminal acts conducted under the strain theory fail to provide esteem and material needs and does not resolve underlying psychological complications which manifests its conformity to the classical crime image. People irked due to poverty and deteriorating quality of living commit crime in the lust and greed of earning money through illicit means. Extending the discussion point from poor people it further says that people belonging to the mediocre category also indulge in such illegal activities in order to maintain their existing standards of living. (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990)
There are a substantial number of shortcomings that do exist in the theory despite the concrete and reliable evidences that support it which can be explained in the context that the conditions and circumstances described by the theory under which crime is committed may also not necessarily drive a person to adopt such methods for objective acquisition. There are a number of credible researches that have been by reputable institutes clearly testify that even in appalling people do not choose the option of committing crime as their foremost priority, in this context the personality profile of the concerned individual, his socialization process, understanding of social institutions, faith and conviction of religion are some of the important factors that are brought under consideration for assessment. In addition to this, ethnic background and variations in the population composition of the area he belongs to are also factors worth considering.
The bottom line of the entire argument once again brings us to the dynamic nature of crime itself, so it is always applicable to have a thorough understanding of criminal issues by considering a combination of different theories, as many times people can also change and hence subsequently change their approach and perspectives through which they view life.
Contrary to the salient features of the Strain Theory, another prominent criminology theory is the Social Learning Theory. Social Learning theory focuses its discussion on the features that may in one or the other encourage the reinforcement of crime. Here it is not about the strains that are imposed on the individual or the male or female become the victims of the criminal activity and ultimately become a motivating factor for the committing of crime, over here it is the excessive encouragement on discouraging habits that a child or individual adopts. (Bean, 2003)
It has for long been argued that the social learning theory has not been provided its deserved share of significance that it requires for its efficacy in the society and the role that it has played for individuals. In fact, whenever the theory is discussed, it is normally interpreted or rather misinterpreted as a subsidiary of theories belonging to the category of cultural deviance.
Another important thing to mention here is that when social learning theory is applied at a macro level, the resulting characteristics would either suppress or provide impetus to cultural and political consensus, traditional relationships governed by institutions, un-intervened and non-disrupted interaction and dialogue between different peer groups are a major reason that can contribute to the resolution of disagreements and disputes of varied nature that exist on interpersonal basis.
A further outstanding feature of this theory which also accounts for its difference with the strain theory is that social learning theory considers the reasons of crime conduction at an institutional level rather than on societal shortcomings and other allied economic reasons. It argues that individuals that have been trained by their respective institutions and are familiar with the ways the society moves and follows its norms and values show less susceptibility towards activities that encourage criminal behavior.
Additionally authors have also been successful in linking the salient features of social learning theory with that of homicide incidents. In different studies that were carried out by Rosemary Gartner, it was found out that cultural heterogeneity, prolonged exposure to violence, deteriorating family relationships and availability of unguarded targets are some of the factors that account for the variation in the homicide proportions in up to eighteen countries all over the world. (Akers and Jensen 2007)
Furthermore, the theory also says that there are certain environments in which the susceptibility of an individual is more likely to occur and is mainly attributed through periodic and strong reinforcement which is at more than one occasion deliberate. A prominent example to manifest this can be in the form of parents, who encourage their child to maintain an aggressive attitude in school so that he is always able to pressurize and influence other students through aggression, similarly the parents of an adolescent many reinforce the use of drugs by their child as it is considered a social norm to smoke or drink in the surroundings of the house. Due to such attitudes and deliberate reinforcements the socialization process of the individual is disrupted and the habits of childhood cement with the passage of time as these attitudes are not confronted. Sometimes even a subtle form of such reinforcement is also observable which may not be completely premeditated in nature. An example of this is the response shown by a parent to give her bawling child the ice cream by disturbing the entire arrangement of the queue. In such a situation the parent has in an unintentional way reinforced the aggression demonstrated by the child.
Societal Reaction towards Crime
As stated earlier no matter whatever is the nature or reason for which any crime is committed, social norms and values that govern a society and encourage the promotion of social security and stability discourage such activities and their conduction at all levels by all people. This said, a major argument that emerges from it that sometimes it is the society itself that creates criminals, when it opts a silent approach and response on the happening of a criminal activity that takes place within their vicinity or propinquity, when they develop a trust deficit with the law enforcing agencies who have been employed to guarantee the security and livelihood of people. Sometimes such feelings are also motivated by media institutions, who try to sensationalize a small issue and interpret it in synonym with the meltdown of the law and order situation and the crumbling writ of the state.
In addition to that there are many adverse impacts that crime and criminally motivated activities develop on the society. First and foremost the occurrence of crime results in depopulation especially in the urban areas of the city.
It is also said that the periodic reoccurrence of such activities of crime may devastate the social unity and faith that binds the different constituents of the society into a single entity. People may feel harassed and would prefer living in isolation rather than prioritizing socialization with other people dwelling in the same area. (Siegel, 2008)
Outlook like this also smoothes the progress of fostering of trust deficit between people living in the same place and may also cultivate a feeling of vehement and noxious frustration against the anti-social elements that encourage the prevalence of anarchy in the society. Hence in some places it was seen that when people got hold of a criminal, they refused to handle him to police or other law enforcing agencies but instead implemented upon the principles of brutal justice by burning them alive in front of everyone.
At the other side of the issue and argument we also have such extreme cases of militant kind justice which has been motivated by factors like economic and social frustrations and the subsequent methods that people take to manifest such reactions. The fact in such situations remains that when human resilience surpasses its limits, when the credibility of law enforcing agencies becomes negligible, then in such circumstances people are coerced to take extreme measures as they did in this situation, not only to release their frustrations but simultaneously send a signal to the criminals that they are still united as far as killing or burning criminals is concerned. (Garland, 2001)
In conclusion it would be appropriate to say that crime and criminal activity is not allowed permissible by any law of any state or society, but apart from declaring such actions and activities as illegitimate or illicit it is also important to find the deep entrenchments through which these crimes are taking place and destroying the very social fabric whose foundation has been constructed on peace, harmony and cognizance. (Garland, 2001)