Anomie: A Sense of Alienation From Society Term Paper

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¶ … Anomie: A sense of alienation from society, popularized by Durkheim's social theories. Ex. The sociologist Durkheim suggested that modern man or woman was in a perpetual state of anomie, because of the breakdown of social institutions.

Social fact: A social fact may be contrasted with a scientific fact -- both of them strive to be based in objective data collection, such as the scientific fact that the earth rotates around the sun, or that a poorer school district has a lower graduation rate and a higher rate of juvenile offenders than a richer comparative district. These substantiated facts are used when conducting experiments. Social facts, as coined by the positivist school of criminology suggests that social pressures that are external behaviors that are greater than that of an individual, impact human behavior as external constraints and can be classified in an objective fashion. Ex. An example of a social fact, according to Emile Durkheim, might be that of a tolerant attitude towards illegal drug use within a community.

Relations of production: A term from Marxist sociology. Social relations are relationships between individuals, like an employee and employer. Relations of productions refer to the relationship of workers and owners to the methods that produce goods through market forces. Ex.: Marx believed that workers were alienated from their means of production because they did not own the factories where they produced goods for sale and merely rented their labor.

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Crime cradles": A sociological explanation for the causation of crime, namely that certain environments within cities gave rise to criminal cultures, as a result of greater opportunity, criminal networks, and a lack of social and vocational advancement for the residents of the community at a particular point in time. Ex. One of the "crime cradles" of prostitution in New York City during the 1970s was Time Square.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Anomie: A Sense of Alienation From Society, Assignment

Atavism: The theory of atavism reflects an early biological theory of criminology. It suggests that violent criminals are examples of primitive human physical and psychological types. Because the theory was based in biological theories as well, it suggested that criminals could be identified by certain physical traits they possessed that more evolved persons did not exhibit. Ex. Although atavistic attempts to identify criminals through phrenology, or reading a person's bumps on their head have fallen out of favor, some scientists today propose they can do the same thing by reading a person's genetic code.

Positivism: The positivist school suggests that the roots of crime have their beginnings in social causes and can be classified and explained in a scientific or positive manner, along the lines of the natural sciences. Ex. A positivist might suggest using the scientific method to study various groups of young persons in different types of schools in New York City, to see which types of schools had environments which predisposed such populations to crime.

Theory: An explanation for behavior tested by experimentation, after proposing a hypothesis along the methodology of the scientific method. Ex. Criminology cannot offer theorist of human behavior and reasons why persons commit or do not commit crimes with the same certainty as Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Psychological determinism: A school of criminal thought that suggests certain individuals are predisposed to criminal behavior because of their IQ, mental illness, or personality. Ex. A psychological determinist might explain the serial killer Ted Bundy's behavior as a result of an innately sociopathic personality.

Eugenics: A physiologically determinist view of human behavior designed to predict individual aberrations or excellence according to a person's genes. Ex. A person who hopes that a child will be non-violent or fears that a child will be violent based upon his or her parent's behavior alone is practicing a kind of informal rationalization based in concepts of eugenics.


State the philosophical assumptions and key theoretical positions of classical criminology (Beccaria, Bentham, de Beaumont), classical sociology (Durkheim, Marx), biological determinism (called "The Born Criminal: Biological and Physiological Theories of Crime" in Theories of Crime) and psychological determinism ("The Criminal Mind: Psychological and Psychiatric Theories of Crime" in Theories of Crime. Provide specific citations from reading assignments to illustrate the assumptions. Then, develop and defend your own philosophical position on crime. You may find it useful to take the quiz at to clarify your thinking about your philosophical and theoretical position.

The school of classical criminology, as personified in the thought of Beccaria, Bentham, and de Beaumont traditionally suggests that a social contract is necessary to contain the inevitable abuses that occur when all individuals pursue their self-interests with free reign in a state of nature. Beccaria, often called the first modern theorist of criminology, used the Enlightenment theorist Thomas Hobbes' concepts of the social contract to postulate that the reason crime was 'wrong' was that it was a break in the social contract. This is why punishments, Beccaria alleged, must be proportional to the crime -- otherwise disrespect, rather than respect, for the state and social contract will be the result of the actions of the unfair legal system.

In other words, with the right opportunity and an incorrect mode of governance, all individuals could be criminals. But despite the innate hedonism of all persons, because people are rational, with the right forms of coercion social institutions can influence human behavior. Even though not a social contract theorist, the utilitarian theorist Jeremy Bentham agreed that a better society is the goal for the greatest number, rather than a focus on the individual, and presumes the innate rationality and self-interest of all humanity.

Classical sociology, however, focuses on the innate injustices and imperfections of society, rather than upon the fallen quality of human nature. The most famous theorist of sociology is Karl Marx, of course, who argued in his writings such as "The Communist Manifesto" and Das Capital that crime was the result of the anger of the disenfranchised classes like class of the proletariat laborers against the privileged bourgeois. Emile Durkheim did not accept Marx's prescription of a classless society as the solution to crime, but shared Marx's assumption that criminality was the result of a modern sense of alienation from social institutions, rather than focusing on containment through finding the perfect punishments like classical theorists along the lines of Beccaria and Bentham.

In contrast to the focus on political and social institutions of the classical and sociological orientations of the past, modern 20th and 21st century criminology has turned towards a focus on the physiology and psychology of the individual criminal. Biological determinism, as discussed in Theories of Crime in Chapter 2 entitled "The Born Criminal: Biological and Physiological Theories of Crime" chronicles how once so-called experts used techniques such as studying the configuration of an individual's skull, or phrenology, predict whether the person possessed a tendency to commit crimes. While phrenology may seem like a parlor game today, like reading palms or astrology, it may also be 'read' (no pun intended) as leading up to modern genetic theories of crime. These theories suggest that persons who share the genetic makeup (twins) are more likely to share a criminal background, that certain genetic defects (syndrome XYY) predispose men towards more violent reactions under normal societal stresses, and even that one's diet or reproductive cycle can hormonally cause one to be more likely to commit crimes, along the lines of the Twinkie defense of the killer of San Francisco Mayor Milk or women using PMS to excuse illegal behavior.

In contrast to biologically determined theories of crime, psychological determinism, as noted in Chapter 3 entitled "The Criminal Mind: Psychological and Psychiatric Theories of Crime" of Theories of Crime chronicles links between low intelligence, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse and other supposedly predisposing psychological profiles that predispose a person to commit crimes, like a sociopathic personality.

However, all of these more recent theories highlight the difficulties in finding a single cause of crime. A person may be born with a predisposition to be mentally ill or even to abuse drugs, but there is often an environmental availability or trigger that gives the person the means and opportunity to abuse drugs and commit crimes, or exacerbates his or her genetic tendencies towards violence or insanity. Sociological conditions, such as gangs in poor neighborhoods or a lack of social mobility that normalize violence can further stimulate individuals with lesser, but still present predispositions towards violence.


This involves Chapters 2 and 3 again in the book Theories of Crime and the web site: Draw on "The Rebirth of Forensic Psychiatry in Light of Recent Historical Trends in Criminal Responsibility" (which can be found on the website given above) as well as on discussions in the texts Chapters 2 and 3 to describe psychological determinism in criminal cases. To what extent does research evidence substantiate the practices of forensic psychiatry? What philosophical and analytical issues are involved?

The Rebirth of Forensic Psychiatry in Light of Recent Historical Trends in Criminal Responsibility" examines the shift in contemporary criminology back to older methods of conceptualizing crime the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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