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midterm study guide.docx - What is criminology o...

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What is criminology o Criminology – knowledge of crime; study of crime o What does it study: crime o 3 subfields/foci of criminology Crime, criminal law, and criminalization o Crime as socially constructed : built by social dynamics Varies regionally, over time, differing views/no consensus on what does and doesn’t count as a crime, we give meaning to certain actions (what media, politicians, moral entrepreneurs, private interest groups focus on) Implications of social construction (why it matters): crime is thought of as a social problem; just because it’s a social construction doesn’t mean it’s not real; the effects of socially constructed ideas of crime are real; how we define crime determines what we measure and what we go after and punish; can reproduce inequality; what we measure creates statistics that cause fear of crime; helps to reify stereotypes; helps to produce crime hysterias and increased policing; WHO gets to construct our ideas and understandings of crime – people in power o 3 dimensions of social relativity: Historical variation-what is considered a crime varies historically ex) drinking alcohol used to be a crime during prohibition cross-cultural variation – crime categories vary between cultures ex) some see use of animals in lab research as necessary step in elimination of human diseases; others see it as unjustified abuse of innocent and defenseless creatures intra-societal (aka political) ex) rich ppl don’t get in trouble as much o criminalization process – process of how something comes to be defined as criminal 3 aspects: 1) defining something as a crime 2) legally surveillance of this crime 3) response to crime 2 competing views: 1) since 18 th century criminalization process has contributed to increased rational and humane society 2) criminalization process operates more or less subtly, to defend interests of some and at the expense of others o Crime as a social problem vs crime as a sociological problem Social problem: something is a social problem only if it is perceived to cause social harm (can vary in time and place) Social problems are socially constructed: only problems if they are perceived as such o Ex) child abuse only recently seen as problem; marijuana is social issue only in some places 2 ingredients of social problems: mass media and fear (relevance: only a problem if we perceive it as such) (myths and moral panics) Factors that influence our perception of crime as social problem o -Claims of powerful moral entrepreneurs o -Pressure tactics of powerful interest groups o -Professional utterances of public officials
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o Role of media in this process: coverage has been increasing even though crime has been decreasing; bias in media (content, omission, over- representation); o Role of official statistics: supposed to provide ‘unbiased’ look on crime but biases in what we choose to record and how we interpret data
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