31 terms

Social control theory

Travis Hirschi

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The Criminological story so far
- other sociological theories tried to explain why individuals, communities or cultures engage in crime and violate the law
- Control theories on the other hand assume crime does not need a special explanation and therefore the approach to the problem of crime comes from a different perspective
Shift in criminology
- theory less about prescription and more about intervention and prediction
- shift towards practical theory
- don't need motivation: just uncomplicated factors
Travis Hirschi (1969) Causes of Delinquency
Travis Hirschi (1977) the important differences between delinquents and non-delinquents are not differences motivation; they are rather, differences in the extent to which their natural motives are controlled.
Control theory developed
- in 1950s: and variation on this perspective can be traced back to Aristotle who said the greatest crimes are caused by excess not by necessity.
- Hobbes: why do people obey the rules of society? fear, social control. You are confronted by parents about breaking the laws
- Should base social and legal controls on principle of rational calculation: pain and gain. Increase pain sufficiently then people will follow.
- Durkheim same concept: something that needs control
Crime does not need explaining:
it brings along its own attractions and rewards, such as money, possessions, excitement and power over others
Hirshi in 1969 purported
criminal acts result when an individual's bond to society is weak or broken
crime is the outcome of a weakening of ties that bind individuals
- Hirshi looks at what preceded involvement in criminal subculture
- empirical, self-report research conducted on social control theory findings:
- found social class only weakly related to delinquency: crime not necessarily a lower-class phenonemon and only vaguely related to disadvantage
- youths strongly attached to their parents were less likely to commit crime
- a commitment to conventional values such as working towards a good education and abstaining from alcohol/drugs and hanging out meant a corresponding commitment to conventional behaviour.
- Criminal delinquent's experiences weak and distant relationships with other people while non-criminal youths had strong attachment to and relationships with theor peers
Follows from
Durkheim's theory that we are moral beings to the extent we are social beings
What does that mean?
- the notion that delinquent or criminal acts are contrary to the law
- the law as an embodiment of norms and values of the community, it follows that delinquent or criminal acts are contrary to the wishes or expectations of other people and conventional and contemporary moral beliefs
- if an individual does not care for the wishes and expectations of other people
- if the individual is not bonded or attached to society which creates the rules
- if he or she does not share the mainstream view of conformity and the value of conformity
that person has severed societal bonds and is free to deviate from accepted norms and standards of society and seek his own value system
Concept of a life course
Hirschi came up with the concept there is a life course, from attachment to authority in society where you can get involvement and commitment to the belief or rules in society binding in your conduct
the controls that prevent crime
are created from a bond with society and when the bond is broken, weakened or vanished, the controls are weakinged
Control theorists ask:
why do people conform to the expectations and wishes to others?
crime is easy to commit: why don't more people commit it?
the answer according to control theory
lies in the controls society instils in individuals through a socialisation process.
- if a juvenile is inadequately socialised then delinquency can be expected.
Control theories assume
criminal acts result when an indiviudal's bond to society is broken and weak
four elements to the social bond
1. Attachment
2. involvement
3. commitment
4. belief
care for others and their beliefs. if indiviudals dont care about others they won't care about society's norms and expectation. acceptance and social norms and development of conscience depends on an attachment to and a caring for other people
the investment people make in society through business or education. having an investment means you have something to lose
involvement in social activities leaves little room for crime: school, recreation, family life insulates an individual from the temptation of crime while indifference, apathy and indolence produce the opposite effect
Belief in society and its rules, norms and so on.
Unintended purpose or latent consequence
- auhroty of organisation can turn deviant (i.e. police culture) and there is a counter-intuitive aspect to it.
Lessons from social control theory
- if society allows the exclusion of individuals and groups from the mainstream, if it permits social bonds to disintegrate, then the responsibility is on society to reconnect and encourage offenders to fore-go their selfish motivations and attach themselves to law-abiding norms
- Social control theory views society and its institutions, not the individual, as the source of the problem.
- the deficiency lies in society, not individual pathology
- Cohen argued social control theory doesn't tell us why people commit crime, only explains crime in the absence of controls
- delinquency is seen as something that was there in the first place.
- Steven Box in "Deviance and Criminality in Society argued there were problems with Hirschi's methodology:
1. based on self-report studies
2. worried why there was no connection between social class and delinquency: relationship visible in official stats
3. the answer is labelling theory
Hirschi on primary deviance
- something that was deniable: can find class and ethnicity but once according to Lemert secondary deviance occurs and when the offender becomes exposed to the institutional structure the issue of class and ethnicity is highlighted
- therefore for Box: the lower class/unemployed + absence of bonds + labelling theory explains deviance and why people continue to be deviant
For Box
1. Hirschi's theory was not enough
2. bonds had been broken but it required secondary deviance to create criminals
3. any bonds left are destroyed once secondary labelling: hard to undo stigma.
Harriet Wilson operationalisation of Social control theory
1. researched 56 socially deprived families: looked at in-tact families in deprived areas of cities
2. developed a concept of chaperonage: how you look after your kids
3. found that strict parenting and exercising control and monitoring their children tended to produce non-delinquents
BUT: be careful
tendency to say society problems are due to bad parenting.
- if parents cannot look after kids because they are working late/crap housing
- need to look at social structure that allows good parents
Problem with Social Bond theory
- Garland argued that it doesn't go far enough: not a critic of social structure: change the label and the way you behave but doesn't get to basic underlying issue in society: capitalism
How much control becomes too much control?
- informing on another
- neighbourhood watch and security industry
- where do you put the limits?
- how many individual rights can you violate?
Garland warned that maintaining a Durkheimian notion can mean that social integration in society can be extended to the point it becomes totalitarian
Self-Control theory
1980s work of Gottfredson and Hirshi
- in contrast to social control theory argues it is low-self control rather than social control which results in criminal behaviour
- self-control theorists argue a lack of self-control arises from defective or inadequate child rearing practices
- criminal/anti-social behaviour a result of failure of parents to monitor children's behaviour.
- parents failed to punish the deviant behaviour of children once discovered
- low self-control are impulsive, risk taking, short-sighted, insensitive and non-verbal
- blame pathological social institutions who do not effectively socialise
Criticisms of social control theory
1. at time of emergence, control theor failed to impact but been revived by realist criminologists
2. emphasis on control gave support to law and order approach responding to crime in disciplinary and punishment.
3. does not explain why people commit crime, while some others sharing same circumstances do not
4. neglects different motivations behind crim
5. ignores structural issues: class, nature and role of law, role of law makers and enforcers
6. can only explain trivial forms of crime and cannot explain professional crime.