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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Week 2 Follow-up - Criminological Theory

  • Social disorganization and social control theories are both considered positivist theories of crime. Why do you think this is so? How are the ideas of these theories different from those of classical school theorists?
Social disorganization and social control theories are both considered positivist theories of crime because they are based upon empirical research of crime and what causes it; whereas Classical thought is focused on legal frameworks and the prevention of crime. There is also the issue of free will, as the Social disorganization and social control theories both seek to assign the cause of an individual's decision making on environmental conditions while the Classical school would assign the cause of the decision making to that individual's rational thought process.
  • In their article "Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas," Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay hold “too much focus upon the individual delinquent” as the reason why our large cities have undiminished queues of juvenile offenders. Do you agree with their assessment? Why?
I disagree with Shaw and McKay on this point. First of all, they list five factors which contribute to social disorganization, and thus crime. These factors are: poverty, cultural heterogeneity, physical dilapidation, high mobility, and “other” social ills ( such as high rates of disease and high infant mortality). My objection to certain of these factors causing crime would be that they share a common factor with the decision to commit crime in of itself, which is low impulse control. People with low impulse control make decisions which impact their level of economic stability, their education, their health...and whether they stay within the bounds of legal behavior. Secondly, there is no evidence that policy based on social disorganization theory has any effect on reducing crime. Despite $628 million in private grants (Perry, 2013, para 35), a federal building program worth $258 million(Detroit News, 2013, para 116), and approximately $325 million a year on social services (Nichols, 2012, para 8), Detroit remains “...plagued by violent crime, bad schools, abandoned buildings, foreclosures, and unemployment”. (Perry, 2013, para 11).
There are other criticisms of Shaw and McKay. “First of all, social disorganization as an explanation of delinquency downplays the significance of ethnic and cultural factors. ... In addition, the duplication of Shaw and McKay's work in different countries has usually supported their argument that delinquent rates are highest in areas with economic decline and instability. However, such research has not reproduced the findings of decreasing rates from the center of the city outward. In fact, in some countries the wealthy are often near the center of the city, while the poorer zones of the city are found near its fringes. Not to mention, Shaw and McKay's work does not address nondelinquency in delinquency areas. The large percentage of nondelinquents in delinquent areas should be addressed if this theory is to be considered a major explanation of delinquency. “ (Wong, 2011, para. 7)
  • What five environmental stressors most impact crime in a community and those who inhabit it? Why?
Poverty, cultural heterogeneity, physical dilapidation, high mobility, and “other” social ills ( such as high rates of disease and high infant mortality). I disagree with the premise as explained in the last paragraph.
  • Explain how your views surrounding the following have changed:
  • Causes of community decay.
I have had no changes on my views as to the causes of community decline
  • Strategies used in attempting to combat community decay.
I have had no changes on my views as to ways of combating neighborhood decay.
  • Complexities involved in community efforts to reverse cycle of decay and crime.
There are so many factors that would be involved in such efforts that it would be easy to jump on one factor as a critical element to recovery; however, my views have not changed.
  • Approaches of macrolevel and microlevel theorists toward crime.
To be honest, when I first read about symbolic interactionism theory, it sounded like academic gobbletygook to me, a multisyllabic version of Bill Clintons' “it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is'”. However, as I was attempting to explain this theory in the last paper, I ran across the following statement, “HÜTTERMANN's (2000) ethnographic study on "street corner police" has shown this for the police. Interactions between police and male juveniles of a so called "street-corner gang" are not only determined by the public assignment to control, but just as much by a culture of masculinity that is as evident within the police force as among the young men of the "street corner gang. (Meuser & Löschper, 2002, Para 15). And I “got it”. Aggressive and violent youth may not understand police as a symbol of authority of law, but they can understand the possibility of possible harm to themselves from conflict with a stronger (or better organized) males. I can see the attempts of the other schools to explain crime, but overall, it seems like they explain human behavior within a criminal framework, not the cause of crime itself. The theory that made the most sense to me was the culture conflict theory, as this fits in with my distaste for “crime” as defined and legislated on mala prohibita grounds.


Meuser, M. & Löschper, G. (2002, January). Introduction: Qualitative research in criminology. Forum:Qualitative Social Research: ?Volume 3, No. 1, Art. 12. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/876/1906

Nichols, D. (2012, January 12). Funding at risk for Detroit's social services. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/news?ContentRecord_id=d19078af-a3ef-4432-a181-3e6b9ac804da&ContentType_id=abb8889a-5962-4adb-abe8-617da340ab8e&Group_id=2b5f5ef9-5929-4863-9c07-277074394357

Perry, S. (2013, October 20). Detroit tests what foundations can do to rescue troubled cities. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from https://philanthropy.com/article/Can-Philanthropy-Rescue/142415/

The Detroit News. (2013, October 4). Six decades in Detroit: How abandonment, racial tensions and financial missteps bankrupted the city. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131004/METRO01/310040001

Wong, C. (2011). Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay: The social disorganization theory. Center for Spacially Integrated Social Science. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from http://www.csiss.org/classics/content/66

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