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Police Corruption  

Leslie Holmes

Police corruption is ubiquitous and is a serious problem for numerous reasons. One is that police officers are often armed and can therefore pose a physical threat to citizens in a way that most other state officials do not. Another is that citizens typically expect the police to uphold the law and be the “final port of call” in fighting crime, including that of other state officials: if law enforcement officers cannot be trusted, most citizens have nowhere else to turn when seeking justice. Leading on from this, if citizens do not trust the police, they are much less likely to cooperate with them, resulting in higher unsolved crime rates. Yet according to Transparency International’s 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, more people pay bribes to law enforcement officers globally than to any other public officials, rendering the police the most corrupt branch of the state in many countries. Police corruption assumes numerous forms, from relatively benign but irritating demands for bribes from motorists to improper procurement procedures and—most dangerously—collusion with organized crime gangs in the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans, and occasionally even in contract killing. One other form of miscreancy was identified in the 1980s as largely peculiar to the police, namely “noble cause corruption.” This term, also known as the “Dirty Harry problem,” is applied when police officers deliberately bend or break the law not for personal benefit but in the belief that this is ultimately for the good of society. Many factors drive police corruption, including inadequate salaries, frustration with the leniency of the courts, opportunity, envy (of wealthy criminals), and simple greed. Combating it is no easy task, but methods that have significantly lowered corruption rates in countries such as Singapore and Georgia include reducing discretionary decision-making, radical restructuring, risk assessments, greater use of psychological testing, improving working conditions, lifestyle monitoring, civilian review, and introducing anti-corruption agencies that are completely independent of the police. But police corruption is ultimately a “wicked” problem, meaning that it is so complex and changeable that it can never be completely solved; the best that can be hoped for is that it will be brought down to manageable proportions.

Article

Deviant Subcultures in European Context  

Alexandra Stupperich, Helga Ihm, and Shannon B. Harper

Since the late 1950s, criminological research has focused on the question of why particular groups are more likely to become involved in criminal and/or deviant behavior. Theories about subcultures start from the premise that smaller sub- or countercultural groupings exist within a larger society and differentiate themselves by developing their own moral precepts, values, and norms. Subcultural theories were originally developed in the United States and have a long theoretical tradition dating back to the 1930s. Structural-functionalist sociologist Albert Cohen in 1955 first used the term, “delinquent subculture.” In his book Criminal Youth, Cohen defined subculture as the sum of dominant knowledge, convictions and beliefs, conventions, preferences, and prejudices within and acquired by participation in the particular group. Deviant behavior arises when these values and norms run counter to those of the dominant culture. Cohen interpreted delinquency as a collective, practical, and quick solution to problems caused by unequal opportunities in the class system. The basic assumption of early subcultural theories was that members of the lower socioeconomic classes established their own value system and norms due to their inability to conform to middle-class values and norms and achieve middle-class goals. Later in the 1970s, subcultural theory was altered and further expanded by the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) at Birmingham University. The CCCS posits that criminal subcultures favor delinquency due to intersecting attitudes such as the rejection of authority, hedonism, or sensation-seeking. Moreover, the relationships between members within a subculture are important due to the shared nature of values, norms, and identities. Regionality is no longer a criterion for a delinquent/criminal subculture due to modern Europe’s high level of mobility and digital networks. Instead, modern delinquent/criminal subcultures utilize social media outlets not limited to region to disseminate their values and norms and establish identity. Islamic fundamentalism and the Reich Citizens and Sovereign Citizens movements are examples of subcultures that utilize the Internet to rapidly spread programs and ideologies in a targeted and simple manner. While earlier subcultural studies tended to explain the relationship between subculture and criminality as due to frustration over social and economic inequality, more recent research argues that subcultural theories need to be macro-level focused. Consequently, recent scholarship frames subcultural criminality as an expression of groups’ social and material life, which are defined by stylistic factors such as intentional communication, homology, and specific (piecemeal) solutions to problems.

Article

Frameworks of Critical Race Theory  

Lee E. Ross

Critical race theory (CRT) concerns the study and transformation of relationships among race, (ethnicity), racism, and power. For many scholars, CRT is a theoretical and interpretative lens that analyzes the appearance of race and racism within institutions and across literature, film, art, and other forms of social media. Unlike traditional civil rights approaches that embraced incrementalism and systematic progress, CRT questioned the very foundations of the legal order. Since the 1980s, various disciplines have relied on this theory—most notably the fields of education, history, legal studies, feminist studies, political science, psychology, sociology, and criminal justice—to address the dynamics and challenges of racism in American society. While earlier narratives may have exclusively characterized the plight of African Americans against institutional power structures, later research has advocated the importance of understanding and highlighting the narratives of all people of color. Moreover, the theoretical lenses of CRT have broadened its spectrum to include frameworks that capture the struggles and experiences of Latinx, Asian, and Native Americans as well. Taken collectively, these can be regarded as critical race studies. Each framework relies heavily on certain principles of CRT, exposing the easily obscured and often racialized power structures of American society. Included among these principles (and related tenets) is white supremacy, white privilege, interest convergence, legal indeterminacy, intersectionality, and storytelling, among others. An examination of each framework reveals its remarkable potential to inform and facilitate an understanding of racialized practices within and across American power structures and institutions, including education, employment, the legal system, housing, and health care.

Article

State–Corporate Crime Nexus: Development of an Integrated Theoretical Framework  

Casey James Schotter and Ronald C. Kramer

State–corporate crime research has developed significantly since William Chambliss’s presidential speech to the American Society of Criminology in 1989 calling for specific attention to corporate crimes and connections with the state. From 1992 to 2000, four foundational case studies established a working theoretical framework. Since its debut in 1998, the integrated theoretical framework has had two levels of analysis added as well as the key concepts of state-initiated, state-facilitated, corporate-initiated, and corporate-facilitated crime. However, events of the 21st century have demonstrated the importance of developing the international level of analysis of the theoretical framework. The Great Recession of 2008, the Panama Papers and tax evasion by those people and corporations named, Peruvian lawsuits against German fossil fuel industries regarding climate change, the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal, and the global Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 elucidate the international connections between states and businesses and the need for extensive research uncovering these connections and the mechanisms used by states and corporations to maintain and reproduce these criminal partnerships.

Article

Critical Criminologies  

Walter S. DeKeseredy

There is no single critical criminology. Rather, there are critical criminologies with different histories, methods, theories, and political perspectives. However, critical criminology is often defined as a perspective that views the major sources of crime as the unequal class, race/ethnic, and gender relations that control our society. Critical criminologists oppose prisons and other draconian means of social control. Their main goal is major radical and cultural change, but they recognize that these transitions will not occur in the current neoliberal era. Hence, most critical criminologists propose short-term anticrime policies and practices and fundamental social, economic, and political transformations, such as a change from a capitalist economy to one based on more socialist principles.