Versus the Overclass Term Paper

Pages: 11 (3612 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

¶ … versus the Overclass

In regards to the underclass in society, there are many theories, most of which equate to poor socioeconomic conditions, lack of education and the product of a stratified society that refuses to address the issue. Instead policies are created distributing subsidy funding to try and put a plaster on the problem, but instead this simply creates a system that feeds the fire. In this case, the result is a fear and distrust of members of the underclass to the extent that they are heavily policed and monitored often far and above the need to do so. There are many psychosocial factors that come to bear on both sides of the issue. This is a complex matter that revolves around many variables. Items such as economics, race, class, religion, and other affiliations are all involved in the treatment of the underclass by the criminal justice system. Does this ameliorate or perpetuate the crime and behaviors of what has been termed this underclass of society? Are they the negative reflection of an overclass that feels it can go about unharmed by any of its misdeeds?

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As brief note on the overclass: this is a term that has come into some popular play in recent years and was adopted by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, although it has been around for longer than that. Ruling class has become a passe' term left for monarchies and others. Overclass implies a social strata that has more dominance and less population than other classes and by virtue of their status, have the ability to guide policy and decision to best suit their own class, with total and often malignant disregard for any other class, especially the underclass. For the purposes of this study, overclass seems to represent a valid concept as part of this prejudicial view of the underclass.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Versus the Overclass in Regards to the Assignment

Who are the underclass? Traditionally they have merely been considered the poor and downtrodden of society, simply suffered do exist as part of society, one feels sorry for them, but there you have it. There is often little other thought about any of the myriad conditions that have conspired to create this class. But now the problem of crime and its relation to the underclass has become a paramount issue, more data is certainly trying to be gleaned on the psychology of this cohort and the causational factors in the creation of the underclass. In his article, "The Underclass and Crime: How to Deal With an Economic, Political, and Cultural Disaster?," Blair Gibbs, an analyst for the think tank Reform has this to say:

The underclass has always been one of those issues which inherently cannot be seen alone; the problems of welfare, crime and poor education reinforce each other. As Charles Murray explained when he first wrote about the British underclass for the Sunday Times in 1989, the underclass is not a description of people who are mostly poor, or even very poor. The underclass refers to a type of poverty and a type of behaviour, whose members are defined by the values they hold -their sense of what is right - not their annual income. (Gibbs)

By no means the final word, Gibbs does present a rather pessimistic picture of the plight of the underclass. But there are certainly many other factors at play here. There have been social as well as economic upheaval in certain sectors of major cities that have seen a collapse to the inner economy of neighborhoods and specific sectors of racial and cultural groups have felt extremely pressured:

Urban minorities have also been vulnerable to structural economic changes related to the deindustrialization of central cities (e.g., shift from goods-producing to serviceproducing industries; increasing polarization of the labor market into low wage and high wage sectors; and relocation of manufacturing out of the inner city). And with the rise in segregation and income inequality by race, the social milieu of urban life has changed a great deal in the past few decades (see also Massey & Denton 1993). (Sampson, and Laub 291)

This has developed a certain subculture in society where it has become a badge of honor to belong to a gang, and often one has little choice in participating, join or die is usually the motto. The mindset is that of protection and peer group pressure to perform and function in a certain way, to be a part of the neighborhood as perceived by a collective conscious of thuggery and a knee-jerk reaction to despair.

The justice system often makes itself the enemy by imposing too harsh a sentence on first time offenders from the underclass. This, more than any other action succeeds in creating the initial disconnection between the evolving youthful offender and society. Some experts in the field of social science believe that social strain should be considered as a mitigating factor in assessing youthful offenders. This social strain theory is based on the concept that criminal maladaptions result when juveniles reaching into adulthood are unable to achieve their goals through any of the usual legitimate channels. They are forced, so to speak, to seek other often more nefarious options in their search for independence and bank notes. It is postulated that if these offenders were given more leniency and positive directional motivation at this juncture in their development, that this could help alleviate many woes down the road and change the course of their lives:

Effective assessment and intervention must be comprehensive and have the flexibility to respond both when family and psychological factors predominate in early adolescence and when community factors complicate the youth's emancipation process a year or two later. Program evaluation must therefore be conceived as part of the overall design of comprehensive intervention, and the evaluation models applied to such efforts must themselves be flexible and robust enough to examine differences and interactive effects among various program components. (Sullivan & Wilson, 1995, p. 1)

By taking into account mitigating circumstances and balancing fair justice with rehabilitation and concern, it is hoped that the youthful offender may be able to see another avenue that is available. By correcting their perception of justice at this early point, it is also believed it will make a more lasting and favorable impression that will contribute to their acceptance of conventional societal law and order.

Initially strain theory has been mostly associated with creation of the developing criminal from early childhood into adolescence and beyond. It has also been correlated primarily with cohorts that fall near or below the poverty line; in household family situations such as divorce, abuse etc.; lower class neighborhoods with problems such as vandalism, vacant buildings, high crime rate; overcrowded and substandard school systems, etc. (Rebellon, & Gundy 2006). Criminal psychologists have used this to understand criminal behavior and create modified therapies to assist the offenders in rehabilitation.

There is also a system that the government has instituted to try and combat poverty in the underclass, the Welfare system. And while certainly a necessary assistance to those in need, it may have certainly become a crutch that has hobbled its benefactors in the process. Blair Gibbs regards this as one of the primary problems when dealing with the increase of crime in the underclass:

There exists a large and increasingly violent underclass because Britain suffers from a vicious circle: the collapse of belief in values (of family, marriage, self-responsibility) has now spread from the elites (where it has done philosophical and political damage) to the working classes (where it has done real physical harm). This is what has bred the underclass and the welfare system sustains it. Through the benefits system the welfare state pays the underclass to grow; poor state schooling cannot compensate for the harm caused by broken homes and absent fathers; inadequate policing cannot suppress the symptoms of crime and disorder. The culture of Britain's media is dominated by the university-educated who despise Christianity (but have nothing to replace it), and who both despise and mis-understand markets and the role of economic incentives in social life. (Gibbs)

But why does it appear that the underclass is often more strongly sanctioned for their behavior that the overclass, or even other classes in society? In their article, "Structural Variations in Juvenile Court Processing: Inequality, the Underclass, and Social Control," Sampson and Laub certainly bring up some valid rationale behind this:

counties characterized by racial inequality and a large concentration of the "underclass" (i.e., minorities, poverty, female-headed families, welfare) are more likely than other counties to be perceived as containing offensive and threatening populations and, as a result, are subject to increased social control by the juvenile justice system. (Sampson, and Laub 293)

The perception by other classes is that the underclass needs to be controlled, or at least contained. This attitude is prevalent within the justice system and begins early through the juvenile systems as it deals, often quite harshly, with young offenders. This helps to create the mindset that the law is something to be… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Versus the Overclass" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Versus the Overclass.  (2007, December 14).  Retrieved January 16, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Versus the Overclass."  14 December 2007.  Web.  16 January 2022. <>.

Chicago Style

"Versus the Overclass."  December 14, 2007.  Accessed January 16, 2022.