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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Week 3 Discussion 1 - Criminological Theory.

***Note for Blog*** Discussion was based on Martha Stewart's insider trading***
  • Can differential association theory be used to explain Stewart's criminal behavior? Why or why not?
I think the primary factor in Stewart's criminal behavior was her rational decsion to commit a crime; however, apects of differential association theory can be used to decribe the environment she was in. In Sutherland's final version of differential association theory, there are 4 major points. First, that crime is a learned behavior; second, that it is learned from interaction  with participants who hold shared values; third, that participants are members of intimate personal groups ; and finally, that two things are learned, techniques of crime and values/rationales for criminal decsion-making (or as Sutherland terms them, definitions). (Williams & McShane, 2014) From the abnormally high rate of insider scandals at the time, we can see that the potential for such associates to exist in her environment. To counter, though, it must be stressed that Sutherland viewed cultural conflict as a primary factor in his concept of differential association theory. Williams and McShane assert that “ Sutherland viewed cultural conflict as producing social disorganization (the 'inconsistencies and lack of harmony') and, thus, crime” and further that “Sutherland viewed crime as a consequence of conflicting values; that is, the individual followed culturally approved behavior that was disapproved (and set in law) by the larger American society.” (2014, p69). The Martha Stewarts and other insider trading criminals of Wall Street were members of the subculture that SET cultural values for society, and couldn't be interpeted as being in conflict with them...except perhaps as we look at them from the view of strain/anomie theory.
  • Can anomie or the different variants of strain theory be used to explain Stewart's criminal behavior? Why or why not?
Again, I think that Stewart made a rational decision to break the law, but that her case can be described in terms of anomie/strain theory. The “strain” in this theiry results from conflicts between cultural goals (such as wealth and societal standing) and institutional guidelines. Merton states that “To say that these two elements, culture goals and institutional norms, operate jointly is not to say that the ranges of alternative behaviors and aims bear some constant relation to one another. The emphasis upon certain goals may vary independently of the degree of emphasis upon institutional means” (Williams & McShane, 1998, p.124). Merton then goes on to clarify that “when the aim of victory is shorn of its institutional trappings and success in contests becomes construed as 'winning the game' rather than 'winning through circumscribed modes of activity,' a premium is implicitly set upon the use, of illegitimate but technically efficient means.” (Williams & McShane, 1998, p.124). This can be decribed as Adoption II, or innovation. And yet again, I must assert that it was Stewarts decision set the value of her cultural goals ahead of the institutional guidelines to legitimately attain them.
  • Can other sociological theories, such as focal concern, differential opportunity, and subculture theories, potentially explain Stewart's behavior? How?
Cloward, Ohlin, and Miller seemed to focus on specifically on lower-class environments, which do not apply to Stewart.
For a disturbing perspective on Cloward's views, research the “Cloward-Piven Strategy” for destroying a capitalist republic, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloward-Piven_Strategy
  • Can some white-collar crimes be more appropriately explained through sociological theories of crime? If yes, what types and how? If no, why?
White-collar crime can be more appropriately be explained through Classical rationales than through Positivist rationales. Indeed, the prevalence of “wealthy” criminals can be seen as a counter-example to many Positivist schools in which poverty is THE cause of crime. There are other potential factors as well; America is subject to the guiding myth of the “outlaw hero”, and popular culture has a long list of Hollywood movies in which the bad guy is the hero of the movie. Not all of these movies have a machine gun wielding gangster as the hero, either; the hero of 1987's Wall Street was a white-collar criminal who famously decried “Greed is good!”
I also wanted to note that Stewart was convicted of making false statements to the federal government, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to make false statements and obstruct justice. Although these crimes were based on her insider trading deviancy, they are crimes against the state, and in a state that is acting in good faith, these are more serious offenses then insider trading. It is also likely that Stewart was a scapegoat for the finacial industry during a time when the market had crashed, and people were looking for heads. Following this idea, it is possible that Stewart would not have been investigated in a "business-as-usual" environment. .

Williams, F. & McShane, M. (1998) Criminology Theory: Selected Classic Readingss (2nd edition). Anderson Publishing Co.
Williams, F. & McShane, M. (2014) Criminology Theory (6th edition). Pearson

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