March 02, 2005

Class Essay 2 *"The Media" *

‘The media invents rather than simply misrepresents the real nature of crime.’ Discuss

There have long been claims that the media, in one form or another, has had an overarching effect upon society, and especially so in regards to the portrayal of crime. Still, whilst this claim is not in dispute, what is of interest to us is not only the presentation of crime per se, but how and why it is created. Moreover, this approach will then enable us to consider the consequences such processes have on the public at large. To help us with this task we shall consider Stanley Cohen’s, Folk Devils & Moral Panics, (1980) and Stuart Hall et al, Policing the Crisis, (1978). What is more, we shall situate both studies within a theoretical framework of moral panics as proposed by Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda (1994). The rationale behind this consideration is to establish the extent to which the media is seen to not only simply misrepresent the real nature of crime, but may actually construct false realties of crime.

Crime consumes an enormous amount of media space as both entertainment and news. Whether it be TV cop shows, crime novels, docudramas, newspaper articles, comics, documentaries, or ‘real-life’ reconstructions, crime criminality and criminal justice appear to have an endless capacity to tap not only into public fear but also public fascination…’ (Muncie, 1996:44)

The portrayal, and distribution of crime via the media, whether it has been by pamphlet, newspaper, or television has a relatively long and polemical heritage. Nonetheless, whilst it may true to say that media activity in earlier periods was moderately contained, the advent of the automated printing press and later, electronic mediums (television, internet, etc) have significantly extended the reach, and influence of the media. Yet whilst this development has heightened the awareness of the general public in regards to crime, such awareness can only be measured in proportion to coverage. That is to say, if media coverage of crime is distorted, then this will ultimately be reflected in the mind-set of society. For instance, both police, and the British Crime Survey (BCS) figures reveal that ‘Property crime accounts for the majority (78%) [of all] recorded crime.’ Furthermore, ‘Violent crime represented 23 per cent of all BCS crime and 19 per cent of police recorded crimes in 2003/04.’ Nevertheless, press coverage of the latter far exceeds that for the former. What is more, if we were to flick through the majority of broadsheet, tabloid, and local press then we find an over reporting of violent crime, and especially so in regards to homicide, and sexual offences, yet in reality these offences constitute less than 1% of the above figures for violent crime. (HO, 2004) What this illustrates then is not only is media coverage of particular crimes unbalanced and may lead to a “fear of crime”, but it is because the actual presentation of crime has to conform to formulas of newsworthiness. According to Chibnall (1977) ‘presentation’ and ‘selection’ are key processes in the formulation of newsworthiness: ‘selection – aspects of events to report, and which to omit; and presentation – choosing what sort of headline, language, imagery, photograph and typology to use.’ (Muncie, 1996:45)

The above serves to give us some idea of how the dynamics of media interpretation of crime works, and more significantly, how this may actually lead to misrepresentation. We shall now endeavour to add a little flesh to the bones of this statement and develop this theme further as we consider two formative studies involving the media, the portrayal of crime, and the link to moral panics. What is more, we will contrast both accounts with three distinctive theories of moral panics developed by Goode and Ben-Yehuda, (1994) these are known as: interest-group model, elite-engineered model, and grassroots model.

The publication of Stanley Cohen’s, Folk Devils & Moral Panics, in 1972 was seen as a seminal work, highlighting the role of the media in creating moral panics, and has influenced subsequent studies and debates. Specifically, the study examines the media, and public reaction to a series of what seemed to be superficial disturbances across a number of English seaside towns involving Mods and Rockers, on bank holidays between 1964 and 1966. The initial disturbance in Clacton, compromised of scattered fights, stone throwing, smashed windows, somebody letting off a starting pistol, and the like. Now, Cohen’s approach to his study was to adopt a reaction sequence/ disaster analogue model, ‘…this means starting off with the inventory, moving on to other phases of the reaction and then returning to the warning and impact.’ (Cohen’ 1980:25) Firstly, in Cohen’s inventory, as you would expect to find in the aftermath of a disaster, was a lot of exaggeration and distortion of the actual facts. Cohen states: ‘The major type of distortion in the inventory lay in the exaggerating grossly the seriousness of the events, in terms of criteria such as the number taking part, the number involved in violence and the amount and effects of any damage or violence.’ Such distortion was shown to emanate from the media, and particularly so from the emotive language used in newspaper headlines. For example, ‘screaming mob’, ‘orgy of destruction’, and ‘beat up the town’. (Cohen’ 1980:31)

The second reaction phase of opinion and attitudes was intended to show how distortion in the inventory, briefly described above, was ‘…crystallised into more organised opinions and attitudes.’ (Cohen’ 1980:49) Again, as with any disaster people try to make sense of what they have experienced, moreover, with the expansion of time individual sentiment is replaced by that of the group. Here we can see how the interaction of the two phases, fuelled by media distortion, and over reporting, generates the illusion of a perceived threat from the Mods and Rockers ( folk devils) to societal values, and indeed to society itself (moral panic). So much so that society and corresponding interest-groups seek to restore the moral balance of society. For Cohen this can be seen in the third rescue and remedy phase, and adopting the language of Becker (1963) told how ‘moral entrepreneurs’ such as the ‘Safeguard Committee’ felt that ‘something should be done’. (Cohen’ 1980:124)

What is interesting to us here, and will aid our understanding of moral panics, is the justification for moral panics. For Cohen and Becker alike, moral panics are generated by interest-groups. ‘Another influential aspect of Cohen’s thesis is the argument that moral panics are generated by the media, or by particular interest groups using the media to publicize their concerns.’ (Hunt, 1997:631) In fact we can say that the media itself is an interest group as it is the first to pass a moral judgement, and almost inevitably offers a solution. Still, in general, interest groups may be the police, charities, religious groups, or public associations (Safeguard Committee, for instance) etc, and their interest in moral panics acts a vehicle to forward preconceived notions of morality, and/ or ideology. ‘Advancing a moral and ideological cause almost inevitably entails advancing the status and material interests of a group who believes in it…’ (Goode and Ben-Yehuda, 1994:166) We shall now go on to consider Stuart Hall et al, Policing the Crisis, and the link to the elite engineered model of moral panics.

‘The second theory of moral panic is described by Goode and Ben-Yehuda as the ‘elite-engineered model’ and is developed at length by Stuart Hall and others in Policing the crisis: Mugging, the state, and law and order (1978)’ (Hunt, 1997:634) Hall, who was at that time the director of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University, was part of the emerging critical/ radical criminology. Although it should be stated that according to (Downes and Rock 1995:275) ‘Policing the Crisis is by no means the complete expression of the kind of ‘critical’ criminology urged by Taylor, Walton, and Young…’ Still, the beginning of the study included compiling 13 months of press coverage on the “new” crime of “mugging”, and examining the dynamics behind the introduction of the term “mugging” into Britain’s popular press. In America the term was used to describe street crime, and was mainly associated with those living in the black, urban, and decaying ghettos. Thus it was through this kind of association that the British press, ‘reproduced the idea of American mugging for British consumption.’ (Hall et al, 1978:21) Moreover, as “mugging” seemed to reach moral panic proportions in Britain (it has been shown that other street crime was conflated into “mugging”) so there appeared to be a consensus between the media, police, and judiciary. That is, on the one hand the media is seen to stand for the judiciary, thus being a voice for the public, and on the other, the judiciary used the media as ‘evidence’ of public opinion. It was to these ends that Hall et al. conceived the media as being part of the state apparatus.

What was to bring all the above processes together in regards to Hall’s et al. study was the arrest, and imprisonment of Paul Storey (half W-Indian) and two accomplices (one Cypriot), for the “mugging” of an elderly man in Handsworth. ‘The case made for saturation media coverage, in part because the boys returned to inflict further injuries on the victim two hours after the original attack.’ (Downes and Rock 1995:278) And also because it confirmed the stereotype the media, both local and national, had projected in much of its coverage. That is, “mugging” was a “race”, as much as a moral issue. Nonetheless, while Cohen’s and Hall’s studies both sound similar in content up to this point; societal disunity, amplification and distortion of media coverage, and the resulting moral panic, supposedly created by folk devils (Mods and Rockers and “muggers”) we can however, relate Hall’s et al. study to a elite-engineered model of moral panic.

The theory that moral panics are elite engineered argues that a small and powerful group or a set of groups deliberately and consciously undertakes a campaign to generate and sustain fear, concern, and panic on the part of the public over an issue they recognise not to be terribly harmful to the society as a whole. (Goode and Ben-Yehuda, 1994:164)

So, although Hall et al. would agree with Cohen that the media was a powerful agent in shaping the public consciousness, it was not however, central to the generation of the moral panic, they were merely a pawn in a much larger game. Specifically, Hall et al. ‘went on to argue that moral panics about law and order typically originated in statements by members of the police and the judiciary, which were then amplified by the media.’ (Hunt, 1997:634) The significance of this to critical criminology, and another divergence from Cohen, is that moral panics do not relate to a societal crisis, and rising crime per se, but was a tool to be used to disguise the crisis within capitalism. ‘To use Marxist (more precisely, Gramscian) terminology, that process is the ‘crisis of hegemony’, the breakdown of consensus which forces the ruling class to resort to new techniques of exercising control and repressing dissent.’ (Hunt, 1997:635)

We turn now briefly to Goode and Ben-Yehuda’s final theory of moral panics; the grassroots model. This model deals less with the impact that the media and/ or other groups have on moral panics, but specifically identifies moral panics as emerging from the public, or from the grassroots, and as an approach has been likened to the position held by left realism. The Left realist perspective was an offshoot that emerged from the divisions of critical criminology in the 1980s. Such divisions were born out of the ‘…discrediting of orthodox Marxist theories of the state and its conception of power.’ (Matthews and Young, 1992:7) Moreover, an adoption of Michel Foucault’s theories led to evaluation that power was not in essence a discriminatory force used by elite groups for class domination, a position held by critical criminologists. Instead left realists, through such enterprises as the Islington Crime Survey sought to reveal the true nature of crime and victimisation, and especially so in regards to working class crime. For it is at the grassroots level, left realists believe, that the fear of crime really exists, and not from the media distortion of crime, which only succeeds in creating a moral panic.

The same forces which make for the increase in crime fuel a moral panic about crime. That is, the real fear about crime is intimately related to the moral hysteria about crime. It not only provides a rational kernel for alarm, but its genesis lies at the same source; and the mass media serve and exaggerate such public fears. (Lea and Young, 1993:49,263)

On reflection, the portrayal of crime via the media is seen to conform to formulas of newsworthiness. This is particularly the case with violent crime which on the one hand only represents a minor proportion of recorded crime, yet on the other, is a permanent fixture on the media quota. We continued this thread as we considered Stanley Cohen’s, and Stuart Hall’s et al. seminal studies into the media formulation and presentation of crime, and the link to moral panics, respectably. This approach, and by way of adopting a theoretical framework, enabled us to illustrate how the media, either as an interest group, or as a lesser, but willing party, distorted the realities of crime, thus was party to creating moral panics. It is to these ends that we can say that the media invents rather than simply misrepresents the real nature of crime. That is, the media not only misrepresents an unbalanced portrayal of crime, but in so doing invents a distorted reality of crime that only stokes the fear of crime at grassroots level.


Becker, H. 1963. Outsiders Chicago:Free Press.

Chibnall, S. 1977. Law and Order News. London: Tavistock.

Cohen, S. 1980. Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The creation of the Mods and Rockers Oxford: Blackwell.

Downes, D. and Rock, P. 1995. Understanding Deviance. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Goode, E. and Ben-Yehuda, N. 1994. ‘Moral Panics: Culture, politics, and Social Construction.’ Annual Review of Sociology. 20 (1994): 149–171.

Hall, S. Critcher, C. Jefferson, T. Clarke, J. Roberts, B. 1978. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order. London: Macmillan.

Home Office. 2004. Crime in England and Wales 2003/2004. London: Home Office.

Hunt, A. 1997. ‘‘Moral Panic’ and Moral Language in the media’ The British Journal of Sociology 48 (4): 629–648.

Kidd-Hewitt, D. and Osborne, R. 1995. (eds.) Crime and the Media: The Post-Modern Spectacle London: Pluto Press.

Lea, J. and Young, J. 1993. What Is To Be Done About Law and Order? London: Pluto Press.

Matthews, R. and Young, J. 1992. ‘Reflections on Realism’ In. R. Matthews, J. Young. (eds.) Rethinking Criminology: The Realist Debate. London: Sage. 1–23.

Muncie, J. 1996. ‘The Construction and Deconstruction of Crime’ In. J. Muncie, E. McLaughlin. (eds.) The Problem of Crime. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. 5–64.

November 19, 2004

Class Essay 1 ANOMIE

*The sociology of Crime and Deviance*

*Is anomie a useful concept to explain and understand criminal and
deviant behaviour?*

The concept of anomie was first posited by the French social theorist Emile Durkheim in his 1893 publication, The division of Labour in society. For Durkheim anomie was a condition in which society was unregulated, lacking coherent moral norms, which could be seen to lead to deviant behaviour. In particular, Durkheim was concerned that the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity, an evolutionary shift from traditional to modern industrial was an anomic process. Moreover, central to this anomic process was the complex nature of the division of labour. Still, Durkheim held that crime, and deviant behaviour actually performed a crucial function within society in that it set moral boundaries, and brought people together. Whilst we shall expand upon the above assumptions, our task will also involve the consideration of how these assumptions have influenced subsequent theories of deviancy. It is to these ends that we shall focus our attention on Robert K. Merton’s Strain Theory, and other comparable theories of deviant behaviour, in order to critically assess the concept of anomie, as an explanation of criminal and deviant behaviour.

‘Durkheim’s conception of anomie must be set in the context of his theory of social evolution.’ (Downes & Rock, 1995:118) Specifically, Durkheim set out his theory of social evolution in his initial major work, The Division of Labour in Society, whereby he distinguishes between two very different types of social organisation. That is, mechanical solidarity, which was representative of an earlier, more traditional form of social organisation, and organic solidarity, the form by which modern, industrialised societies take. On the one hand, mechanical solidarity does not have a developed structure that we would call society, in the modern sense of the word. It is primarily ‘…based upon the similarity of individuals who share a uniform way of life and have an identical belief system.’ And on the other, organic solidarity is brought about by a wide-ranging social differentiation whereby individuals are interdependent on one another for the ‘exchange of services’. Nonetheless, to develop Durkheim’s concept of anomie we need to illuminate the link between the division of labour and the collective conscience, in the ‘transition’ from mechanical to organic solidarity. (Pearce, 1989:60)

For Durkheim, the lack of complexity and structure within mechanical solidarity justified its primitive status. What is more, and key to understanding Durkheim’s concept is the thought that the division of labour was also at a primitive status, after all this was social evolution. Still, Durkheim held the division of labour to have a functional quality in that people attained their roles/ positions by way of natural ability, this in turn was vital to both system and social integration. Moreover, social integration was part of what Durkheim referred to as the collective conscience, a social fact that explained the unifying essence of society. ‘In a society held together by mechanical solidarity, the conscious collective exists over and above individuals and becomes implanted in them.’ (Craib, 1997:65) Before we go any further, it will be a useful exercise to expand upon what is actually meant by collective conscience.

We have hitherto explained that the basis for mechanical solidarity was built upon shared social existence and underpinned by a single belief system, religion for instance. However, such a belief system not only influenced the division of labour, but would have been the key to social integration, and the collective conscience. In so being, it holds sway not only over the morality of mechanical solidarity, but actually forges it, and to an extent that any behaviour that deviates from it may be seen as deviant and/or criminal. ‘We can, then…say that an act is criminal when it offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience.’ (Durkheim, 1968:80) Nonetheless, for Durkheim deviancy was not only a universal phenomenon, but performed a vital social function in that it strengthened solidarity by defining moral boundaries through the punishment of offenders. (This is a position that was to later influence proponents of labelling theory, as it draws a clear distinction between the act of deviancy, and the reaction to it.) In turn this would lead to creation of law which he thought would have a stabilising effect on society. Having defined what is meant by the collective conscience, we shall now link it to Durkheim’s concept of anomie.

We first see the use of Durkheim’s concept of anomie in the transition of mechanical to organic solidarity. That is, transition from a primitive solidarity, governed by moral regulators such as religion, and with a primitive division of labour, to a rapidly expanding industrialised society. ‘…its purpose was to signify a lack of integration and adjustment that threatens the cohesiveness of contemporary industrialised societies…’ (McCaghy, 1976:53) For Durkheim thought that such a rapid expansion was not accompanied with appropriate regulation, either economically, or morally, and could not be regulated within, or by, the traditional collective conscience. This led to people having aspirations that exceeded the opportunities available to them, and that would ultimately manifest in deviant behaviour such as greed or jealousy. Moreover, the division of labour that was based on natural ability had now no means of being legitimized. ‘In short, labor is divided spontaneously only if society is constituted in such a way that social inequalities exactly express natural inequalities.’ (Durkheim, 1968:377) Instead we find in the transition to organic society, a ‘forced’ division of labour whereby external inequalities suppress people from attaining the positions that best suit their natural abilities. In particular this is the case with the stratification of individuals whereby it ‘…inhibits the chances of large numbers of people attaining positions that fit their abilities.’ (Downes & Rock, 1995:119) A symptom of this would be class conflict.

Durkheim’s concept of anomie then, was a state of normlessness that allows for the disorganisation of society. Furthermore, Durkheim held that these anomic processes clogged the arteries of a healthy and natural division of labour, which if not corrected, would inevitably situate society in a pathological condition – excessive deviance. The basic criticisms that we can apply to Durkheim’s concept of anomie, in terms of deviancy, is that firstly Durkheim thought that a healthy division of labour was beneficial to both society and individual. However, it may also be suggested that the division of labour could equally result in anomie. That is, a developed division of labour is detriment to the worker and to society because it removes skill, thus motivation from the workforce, and may result in deviant behaviour such as refusal to work, or even strikes. And secondly, the notion that anomie was a result of people having aspirations that exceeded the opportunities available to them is also problematic. This statement suggests a certain degree of determinism about the structure of society and the causal links to deviant behaviour. Specifically, we could say that the deviant behaviour tells us more about the dynamics of the structure of society. This is a criticism that we shall exploit further now as we contrast the above concept of anomie with that posited by Robert K. Merton.

American sociologist Robert K. Merton borrowed Durkheim’s concept of anomie to form his own theory of deviancy. The Strain Theory was situated in an article entitled Social Structure and Anomie, which was published in 1938. However, it differs from Durkheim’s concept in two fundamental ways. First, Merton held that the real problem is not created by a sudden social change, as Durkheim proposed, but rather by a social structure that offers the same goals to all its members without giving them equal means to achieve them. ‘Merton attributed deviance to a contradiction in the structure of modern society.’ (Katz, 1996:148) Secondly, converse to Durkheim’s assumption that individual’s aspirations were limitless, Merton proposed that anomie results from the strains within the social structure that forces the individual towards unachievable aspirations. We shall now consider these points in question as we determine their relationship in association to Merton’s theory of deviancy.

Among the elements of social and cultural structure, two are important for our purposes…The first consists of culturally defined goals, purposes, and interests. It comprises a frame of aspirational reference…The second phase of the social structure defines, regulates, and controls the acceptable modes of achieving theses goals. (Merton, 1938:672–673)

First and foremost we need to understand that Merton’s theory is set in the context of American society, and more specifically it was concerned with the American dream. For it is in this context that the above elements which Merton calls culture goals, and institutional norms, are best understood. ‘It is the American Dream that everyone, regardless of class origin, religion, or ethnic characteristics can succeed in acquiring material wealth.’ (McCaghy, 1976:55) However, whilst the American Dream is assimilated with cultural goals, the means by which to achieve it, institutional means, are not homogeneously distributed throughout society. For instance, not everybody in society, especially individualistic societies such as America and Britain will be able to access higher standards of education because of the cost it entails. Predictably then this becomes a handicap in attaining success as one is lacking the institutional means needed. It then follows, the lack of success in a society that materially rewards success, will bring about a sense of worthlessness and despair. It is here that we can appreciate Merton’s proposal of strain between cultural goals and institutional means and the link to anomie. ‘For Durkheim, deregulation led to infinite aspirations; for Merton, infinite aspirations led to deregulation. The result, for both, was the same: high rates of deviation.’ (Downes & Rock, 1995:127)

Nonetheless, Merton then applies to his theory a typology of differing forms of behaviour in terms of conformity, or non-conformity, to cultural goals and institutionalised means. These being:

  1. 1.Innovation. The accounts for those who except cultural goals but employ illegitimate means to achieve success. For example, embezzlement, or racketeering.

  2. 2.Ritualism. This refers to those who adhere to institutional means, but ignore the goals. For example, working for an employer even though the money and prospects are poor.

  3. 3.Retreatism. Withdrawal from society’s goals and means. In this category we may place those who have opted out socially desirable behaviour. For instance, drug addicts, or alcoholics. Or people like hippies who have chosen an alternative lifestyle.

  4. 4.Rebellion. Here we find those who not only reject society’s goals and means, but who actively try to replace them. For example, political revolutionaries, or religious prophets.

Although Merton was to subsequently re-adapt his typology, what his goals-means schema offers us is an alternative perspective on how to understand deviant behaviour other than Durkheim’s regulation of the social system. That is, it illustrates how individuals adapt to the situations to which they find themselves. ‘Merton thus not only explains the source of rule-breaking behaviour, but also suggests the motivations and forms that comprise such behaviour.’ (McCaghy, 1976:57) More importantly Merton presents a concept of anomie that places the emphasis on the strain between human agency and social structure, thus adding a social dimension to Durkheim’s biological framework. Still, although Merton’s concept of anomie was for many years a major discourse regarding deviancy, and was subsequently improved by sub-cultural theorist Albert Cohen, it was nonetheless, to provoke a variety of criticisms, some of which we shall consider now.

As with Durkheim, Merton came from a positivist tradition, in that the cornerstone of his theoretical work were empirically based. Moreover, the statistics that Merton used were compiled by the police, and often pointed to the lower economical classes, as the predominant category for deviant behaviour. However we can say that such statistics are ambiguous for a number of reasons, we shall pinpoint two. Firstly, the way police statistics are compiled may not reflect neutrality, that is, given that crime is police business then some form of manipulation may occur, either for departmental reasons or political. Secondly, policing of inner city areas will take priority over suburban areas; it then follows that the compilation of crime statistics will reflect this. This is not to say that crime is more abundant in inner city areas just that it is more likely to be encountered if there are more police in the area, leaving suburban areas relatively un-policed. It is for these reasons that we can say Merton’s reliance on police statistics is problematic because it would have misguided his theory.

‘A second criticism of Merton’s theory concerns his assumptions of common culture goals and institutionalised means.’ (McCaghy, 1976:59) Lemert, (1972) points to the fact that because America is not homogenous, it is difficult to actually define what constitutes a success, or the American Dream. Specifically, America has a multitude of conflicting moral sentiments that far from represent commonly approved goals as is inferred in Merton’s anomie theory. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that America is a capitalist society, and this has an overarching effect on its members no matter how diverse they may be. For example, the Hip Hop culture has blossomed in America since the 1960–70s, and is known for its specific creative/ artistic agenda, that has taken inspiration from Afro American, Jamaican, and Puerto Rican communities. Nonetheless, increased popularity, and corporate interest in Hip Hop has drawn many of its leading proponents away from their roots in search of material gain. ‘Just as with countries, many people within hip hop forgot their history and their objectives. Hip hop had been uplifted from its community and artistic agenda and poisoned with capitalism.’ (Cavazos, 1997) What is more, we may say that this seems to fit in with Merton’s Strain theory, but it is unsure what category a Rap artist would fit into in his typology. Still, this brings us closer to our final criticism as posited by Ian Taylor, Paul Walton, and Jock Young.

In, Advances Towards a Critical Criminology, 1974, Taylor, Walton, and young confirm what they originally claimed in The new Criminology, 1973 that ‘the processes involved in crime-creation are bound up in…the material basis of contempory capitalism and its structures of law.’(Taylor, et al, 1974:441) This approach, which has its roots in traditional structural Marxism, was concerned with deconstructing the established paradigms of deviancy theory. Nonetheless, although Taylor et al accept that Merton recognised that concept of anomie results from social processes rather than biological, as held by Durkheim, for them it lacked any real concrete explanation of deviancy. Specifically, they charged Merton with not acknowledging the capitalist dynamics behind cultural goals and institutional mean. ‘The analysis of particular forms of crime, or particular types of criminal, outside of their context in history and society has been shown in our view to be meaningless activity…’ (Taylor, et al, 1974:462)

In sum, Durkheim’s concept of anomie reflected the irregular transition from mechanical to organic society. Wherein, the lack of a division of labour based on natural ability halted the functional integration of society. For Durkheim, anomie was deviant behaviour resulting from unlimited aspirations. Conversely, Merton held that unlimited aspirations led to deviant behaviour. This was particularly true of American society whereby cultural goals far outstripped the institutional means of achieving the American Dream. Whilst Both Durkheim’s and Merton’s perspectives on anomie offer us useful concepts of deviant behaviour, one that emphasises human ability, the other, social, neither offered a concrete explanation of crime and deviance. Moreover, it may be suggested that any concrete understanding of criminal and deviant behaviour would need to posit a materialistic explanation of society.


Cavazos, R. [1997] ‘The Hip-Hop Culture and a Common Challenge’, League of Revolutionaries for a New America. Online. Available from: link [accessed 14/11/04].

Craib, I. 1997. Classical Social Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Downes, D. and Rock, P. 1995. Understanding Deviance. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Durkheim, E. 1968. The Division of Labour in Society. Trans. G. Simpson. New York: The Free Press.

Katz, J. 1996. ‘Seductions and repulsions in Crime’. In J. Muncie, E. McLaughlin, M. Langan. (eds.) Criminological Perspectives: A Reader. London: Sage. 145–160.

Lemert, E,M. 1972. Human Deviance, Social Problems, and Social Control. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 26–61.

McCaghy, C,H. 1976. Deviant Behaviour: Crime, Conflict, and Interest Groups. New York: Macmillan.

Merton, R,K. 1938. ‘Social Structure and Anomie’. American Sociological Review 3 (5): 672–682.

Pearce, F. 1989. The Radical Durkheim. London: Unwin Hyman.

Taylor et al. 1974. ‘Advances Towards a Critical Criminology’. Theory and Society 1 (4): 441–476.

Taylor et al. 1973. New Criminology For a Social Theory of Deviance. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

October 04, 2004

Long Night, Early Evening…........By L Pinfold

CHAPTER 1 Long Night

"Taking drugs was not for fun, it was a means for going on…." bellowed musically from the stereo, which was stood alone in the corner of the room. Warren listened to the lyrics with an intensity that summed up the reality of his own being, not only did he take drugs but warren was also an addict! Gone had the days of care-free experimentation when there was nothing better than meeting up with the lads to light up a 'splif', or even neck a pill or two. No, though Warren longed for the conradeship that these occasions brought, they had gone. Now it was the "brown" helped by the syringe and the foil that provided him with companionship he desperately craved… and equally the nightmare, his reality, which he despised.

As he lay on his bed and the comfort of his last "fix" wore off, Warren was becoming ever aware of his surroundings again. His bedroom, one of two that was situated in his mother's 10th floor council flat, seemed dark and bleak. It was sparsely furnished, clothes strewn about the floor and although the walls were decorated with posters of the "Blues", Warren's favourite football team, these were now remnants of a happier time. In fact any belongings that Warren had had and especially those of value had long gone, these items being the currency he used to fund his addiction. The only source of income now open to Warren was flickering away in the now dark corner of the room, the stereo.

'Mom'.......'mom' shouted Warren as he lay doubled in pain on his bed, 'come ere mom I need you to do me a favour'.

Warren's mother Francis had done everything in her power to help her son with his "problem", as she preferred to call it. She had sought advice from her local GP, and once even managed to find him a place in a "detox" clinic, but this had been in vain as Warren, though he had promised her he would go, did not attend. Still, Francis loved her son and blamed herself and the break up of her marriage to Warren's father for his "problem". Moreover, it was because of this that she was prepared to go to any length to help her son.

'Mom…....come quickly I need you to see Rob'. 'Rob, whose rob?', asked Francis. 'He's my dealer….lives at No 23…..6th floor, I need you to go and see rob'. Warren's voice was trembling, his hair was wet, and his body arched in pain. 'But love I haven't got any money, you know that I would do anything to help you, but I haven't got any money' Francis replied. 'Take the stereo mom… just take it….tell Rob it's mine….please mom'. Francis felt numb, she would do anything to help Warren but this went against anything that she had ever imagined. Should she risk breaking the law? Time seemed to slow down as she contemplated her dilemma, not only was she forced to confront the reality of her son's addiction, but now she was being asked to play an active role in it. This was not the first time that Francis had felt helpless yet this was the first time she had to make a decision that could ultimately change both of their lives. Francis had no choice. As she gathered up the stereo from the corner of the room she glanced through window and noticed how black the sky was outside…...This was going to be a long night!

As Francis made her way down the cold, badly lit, and stinking stairwell she could feel her heart beating uncontrollably, 'how on earth did it come to this', she thought to herself. 'Why me? Why Warren? Are things ever going to get better again?' In the short time it took to reach Rob's flat Francis must have asked herself a million questions none of which she had the answer to. Finally Francis stopped outside No23 and braced herself as she rang the door-bell. Rob opened the door and Francis was immediately overwhelmed by the stench of tobacco, there was an uneasy silence as both parties nervously stared at each other. 'Er…. I'm Warren's mom, I need…Er…er'. 'You better come in', snorted Rob, 'I know what you need….. Warren told me last week that he had "nicked" some goods that he wanted me to fence for his gear.' Francis was in shock, little did she know that Warren had turned to crime to fund his habit. What's more, the flippancy to which Rob had attached to the situation was too much for Francis. She blurted out, 'you f**king bastard do you know what you have done to my son…do you?' 'He is lying up there half dead'. Francis was shaking uncontrollably, she wanted to do nothing more than to run as fast as she could from the flat, but knew, heartbreakingly, she was there for Warren. 'Take it easy luv, look take this and he will soon be OK, trust me.' Without looking at Rob, Francis snatched the packet and ran back up the stairwell.

Approaching the door to her flat Francis heard voices that she did not recognise. 'C'mon mate on your feet, we have information that you are in receipt of stolen goods…...Eh Bill think we better call for assistance, he ain't looking to good!' On entering the bedroom Francis was horrified to find two police officers crouching over the body of Warren. 'Sorry madam can't seem to find a pulse', said one officer. The other officer turned to face Francis, looked down and asked her what she had in her hand.

Chapter 2 Early Evening

Come on now Charlotte turn the Television off you know you've got a spelling test tomorrow morning at school, and you need to do your homework….Off!! But mother I'm watching "The Bill" this episode is really exciting, Please! Just five more minutes.

Exciting you say Charlotte, what can be more exciting than homework. Well mommy, that boy on TV has just died and the policeman thinks that his mommy has killed him…... drugs or something!! Really Charlotte!! That's not what I call early evening entertainment, now turn it off before I tell your father.


What is reality? What is entertainment? No conclusion!

I suppose the moral to this story is that there is a thin line between what is some people's reality, and some people's entertainment and both have an effect on society at large.

January 2022

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