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Thursday, 17 March 2011






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Sociological aspects of crime

The crimes are events and actions that are proscribed by the criminal law of a particular country (Wilkins 1968). In general, the society and its existing laws define crime. Sometimes crime in one society may not be seen as an offence in another society. Sometimes acts of crime depend on the socio-cultural values, religious belief systems and political ideology.


* Born: 384 BC
* Died: 322 BC (age 61 or 62)
* Era: Ancient philosophy
* Region: Western philosophy
* School: Peripatetic school Aristotelianism
* Main interests: physics, metaphysics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, Biology, Zoology

Sir Francis Bacon

* English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, author
* Father of scientific method
* Born: January 22, 1561
* Died: April 9, 1626 (aged 65)
* Era: The Scientific Revolution
* Region: Western philosophy School Empiricism


Mikhail Baryshnikov

* Born: January 27, 1948
* Profession: Russian dancer, choreographer and actor
* Received Oscar nomination for film The Turning Point’


At times crimes vary to society-to-society. Therefore, crime in one society may not be regarded as a crime in another society. For instance, homosexuality is a punishable offence in Iran and gay people are viewed as criminals. Under the Iranian law, if they are found guilty they can be sent to jail.

In the Western society, gay people have rights and any action that discriminate them can be challenged in the Court of law.

Bigamy is an offence in the Western world and those who violate marital law can be prosecuted.

However, in some countries bigamy or polygamy is not an offence and on most occasions treated as a social norm.

In countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen etc under the Islamic law polygamy is permitted but under specific conditions. Paedophilia is rejected by most of the contemporary societies and it is considered as a crime.

But in the ancient Sparta sexual acts with children were considered as norm and it was widely practised.

When the prohibition laws were in action in the USA (from 1919 to 1933) the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol were banned nationally. Any people involved in such action were prosecuted.

During the Soviet era any person tried to defect to the West were treated as criminals, those who tried to defect were prosecuted under the Soviet law.

For instance, Mikhail Baryshnikov the famous Soviet ballet dancer defected to Canada in 1974 requesting political asylum. Soon after his defection, the Soviet authorities pronounced him as a criminal.

Similarly, any Soviet citizen who had American Dollars in their possession without an official document were arrested and prosecuted under the Soviet criminal law.

But after the Perestroika these laws became ineffective.

Although crime can vary from society to society and time to time some crimes such as murder, rape, theft etc often remain constant and in many societies and these acts are condemned by the people.

various scholars

The Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) postulated that poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. The English Philosopher and the Statesman Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626) stated that “Opportunity makes a thief” Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) believed that man is naturally good and crime is created by social injustice.

The great writer Leo Tolstoy believed that roots of crime closely connected with private ownership of property.

Vladimir Lenin was on the view that crime is a product of social excess.

The Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud highlighted the innate instincts of criminality hidden in the human psyche. The French sociologist Emile Durkheim defined crime as a legal construct resulting from the social obloquy directed at certain forms of behavior (Durkheim 1958).

Sociological aspects

Sociological aspects of crime can be divided into broad categories in relation to social determinants. Crime and criminal behavior can be analyzed through functionalist, conflict, feminist and postmodern perspectives. Sociological aspects view crime and criminal behaviour as socially acquired and hence focus on the ways in which cultural and/or social structural factors are crime producing.

functionalist perspective

Functionalists focus on the individual, usually with the intent to show how broader social forces mold individual behaviour. They underline social cohesion as the key factor of social order. Functionalists like Talcott Parsons attempted to integrate all the social sciences into a science of human action.

He believed that social system is made up of the actions of individuals. According to Talcott Parsons equilibrium model society consists of network of connected parts.

He viewed crime as a disintegrative factor that could affect the homeostasis of the society.

Based on Talcott model an individual committing homicide has domino affect and his action reverberates within the society. For instance the murder of Tori Stafford in 2009 brought horror to her family and created a nationwide anxiety. To be continued



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