Understanding Crime through Cultural Criminology

Subject: Law
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 2045
Topics: Crime, Criminology

Longstanding conflicts regarding scientific theories and the humanistic perspectives that explain deviance have existed for an extended period. The concept of culture seeks ways of developing meanings and the motive behind trying to understand the meaning itself (Ferrell, 2013). In essence, culture reveals the ability of people that act together over a specified period to animate the most insignificant objects with implication and importance. Accordingly, human culture may be conceptualized as not only a product of ethnicity, social class, or occupation but also a concept that can be reduced to a residue of social structure. In this regard, one may conceptualize cultural criminology as the different ways in which cultural dynamics interweave with crime practices and crime control in the contemporary society (Bevier, 2015). In other words, an individual may view cultural criminology as an idea that emphasizes the importance of representation and meaning in the construction of crime as a sub-cultural endeavor, momentary event, and a social issue (Matthews, 2014). The following discussion offers an in-depth appreciation of cultural criminology and how it improves people’s understanding of deviance and crime.  

Cultural criminology conceptualizes crime as a notion that transcends the conventional denotations of deviant behaviour and its causes. The concept of cultural criminology necessitates the development of a societal perception of crime that goes beyond understanding crime and its causation. It encourages individuals to include illustrations of unlawful behaviours and symbolic exhibitions of law enforcement in the definition of crime and its causes (Raymen and Smith, 2015). Furthermore, cultural criminology focuses on how popular culture conceptualizes crime and deviant action and the shared feelings that animate criminal developments, public efforts to control crime, and the widespread understanding of the criminal threat concept. This broader cultural focus enables scholars and the members of the public to understand crime and an essential human activity and to permeate into the crime control politics that are contested. Accordingly, criminologists affirm that cultural criminology brings together the insights that sociological criminology forwards with the understanding that style and image emphasize in cultural studies. This broad convergence of the cultural and criminological underpinnings lead scholars to believe that cultural criminology is a product of criminology, sociology, and cultural analysis. 

The works of different scholars reveal that the concept of cultural criminology embodies various aspects of society. The writings of scholars in the National Deviancy Conference, the Birmingham school of cultural studies, and the 1970s “new Criminology” in Great Britain are a fundamental starting point in the depiction of cultural criminology as a meaningful human activity. These researchers redefine the nature of modern power by exploring the cultural and ideological underpinnings of social class. They also viewed illicit subcultures and leisure worlds as places of stylized resistance and different connotations (Young, 2012). Finally, these individuals study the mediated ideologies that drive legal and social control. Around the same time, American sociology offered a second starting position, which came to be understood as cultural criminology – the Americans developed a symbolic interactionist conceptualization of deviance and crime. The naturalistic case study and the labelling theory, the interactionist perspective highlights the contested creation of meaning regarding issues like crime and deviance. This view investigated the manner in which politics plays out even in the most common criminal acts. 

The above school of thoughts led to the development of cultural criminology, as it is known in the contemporary world. The evolution of the American interactionist perspective and British cultural theorists’ conceptualization of cultural criminology led to the sharing of ideas. The American interactionists provided the British scholars with phenomenological insights while the British cultural theorists provided the Americans with sophisticated critiques of ideological and legal control. In the end, the modern day’s cultural criminological foundations were laid. The rapid expansion of punitive criminal justice systems in Great Britain and America during subsequent decades prevented the implementation of policies that were cantered on these underpinnings (Xu, 2014). However, the publication of Ferell and Sander’s book, Cultural Criminology, led to the development of a distinct understanding of cultural criminology. The authors drew on the suppositions that the American and British ideas to encourage criminologists to perceive crime in the context of symbolic interaction and deconstruction and post-modernism. Accordingly, cultural criminologists began to study the looping distribution of illustrations and the representative hall of mirrors that define the modern world’s reality of justice and crime (Spencer, 2011). In the same way, the trans-Atlantic conversations crept into the works of contemporary cultural criminology. The modern criminologists used the ideas that the American and British authors had proposed in the 1970s. 

With the above presumptions considered, the theoretical framework of cultural criminology has expanded over the years. Cultural criminology can be contextualized within its critical, cultural, and interactionist underpinnings (Ferrell, Hayward and Young, 2015). The methods used to research cultural criminology can be derived from the naturalistic case study. Cultural criminology brings together methods like semiotic, textual, and visual analysis; however, the more well-known works in cultural criminology have been characterized by different forms of extreme ethnography. These researchers try to understand illicit subcultures by immersing themselves in these cultures. Eventually, these individuals attempt to become the subject matter and construct different auto-ethnographies of their lives. In this regard, the ethnographic method may be viewed as the preferred avenue that cultural criminologists use to develop meaning and subtle symbolism within the criminal subcultures and the associated events. To a certain extent, this approach has been defined by cultural criminology’s understanding of illicit subcultures as collections of shared perception and meaning, which links elaborate symbolic codes and calculated criminal activities. However, a specific etiology of crime posits that the origins of crime may originate from the immediacy of criminal events and shared experiences and emotions that may be derived from different moments of crime control and criminality (Hayward, 2015). Accordingly, cultural criminologists hold the notion that criminal events, the primacy of criminal subcultures, and the emotions and meanings that these developments spawn confirm the centrality of these methods on moving criminologists’ understanding of the world. 

Cultural criminology also places emphasis daily experiences in a bid to seek ways of controlling crime. Cultural criminology emphasizes the importance of pleasure, excitement, and risk-taking in animating everyday life (O’Brien, 2005). However, the concept also includes the different developments that underpin daily life in developing a comprehensive understanding of experiential events. In fact, cultural criminologists contend that this intention is responsible for defining the contemporary convergence of culture and crime (Hayward and Yar, 2006). Furthermore, cultural criminology indicates that everyday life may be used to understand the hard-line policing of alternative subcultures. Moreover, cultural criminology reconciles the understanding of crime as commodified entertainment and titillation and the changing and contested barriers that exist between pornography and art, entertainment and aggression, political provocation, and crime and resistance (Presdee, n.d). In all these circumstances, cultural criminologists seek ways of accounting for the political economy of crime by situating it within the dynamics of daily existence, amidst the vicissitudes of day-to-day control and transgression. 

Cultural criminologists also find ways of fixing the various situated meanings of crime within larger historical patterns. Different symbols and images shape the modern world; for example, the traditional dualities of the “representations” and the “real” appear to be making less sense over time (Young, 2003). Accordingly, cultural criminology emphasizes the infusion of illustrations as they move between criminal sub-cultures, the mass media, and crime control agencies. In the same vein, the primary roles of ideology and image have gained prominence in developing crime control practices and policies (Ferrell, 2011). This line of analysis indicates that cultural criminology points to the fact that everyday criminal justice has orchestrated public display in different ways. In addition, a continuing regulation of public perceptions about issues that concern threat and crime reveals the desire to understand crime in a more diverse manner. 

Dimensions of modern life like the materialization of an integrated reflect the representation and image of criminal arrangements. The pressure between the contemporary patterns of exclusion and social inclusion and the uncertainty that surrounds the dynamics and cultural and personal identity within these organizations define the manner in which different issues surround threat and crime (Ferrell, 2011). In this regard, cultural criminologists affirm that the importance of the global city cannot be dispensed when it comes to addressing issues concerning transgression and crime control. The city usually appears to be a critical quintessence of the modern and social-cultural trends; this assertion is typically premised on the idea that such regions have contested cultural areas of consumption, illicit subcultural dynamics, and symbolic and spatial practices of daily policing (Young, 2003). These developments have led the cultural criminologists to presume that the traditional underpinning of criminal justice and criminology lacked the desired foundation. 

The theoretical and substantive work that the modern cultural criminologists advance indicates that these individuals are challenging the traditional practices of criminal justice and criminology. This point of view is pegged on the style of application and the sphere of theory and method (Ferrell, 2011). To begin with, cultural criminologists contend that the conservative writers’ style of writing is not authoritative in engagement and elegance. These individuals also argue that the traditional criminologists advance a social science discipline that is confusing to maintain a façade that appears to be neutral. Nonetheless, the cultural criminologists have indicated that slippery issues like the politics of representational codes (which have functioned in both the historical development of criminology and the current ascendance of criminal justice) mask intellectual association with economic and political powers. Furthermore, cultural criminologists affirm that the position of this barren and criminological tradition sanitizes the most engaging subject matters (Ferrell, 2011). Such topics include crime, guilt, violence, and transgression.

Accordingly, cultural criminologists have found ways of revitalizing criminology and restoring a component of its humanistic orientation through the approaches of presentation and research, which have been designed to lead to the realization of effect and engagement. Along with the texture and tone that ethnographic research offers, the development of biographical and autobiographical writing styles, the use of evocative vignettes that have been drawn from popular cultures, and the inclusion of visual analysis and materials enable cultural criminologists to study crime and its causes effectively (Ferrell, 2011). As a result, cultural criminologists contend that these approaches offer not only a better means of communicating crime and control but also an honest account of the involvement of criminologists with the politics of crime control.

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The second challenge of cultural criminology arises in the areas of theory and method. Cultural criminologists contend that quantitative data analysis and survey research methods are famous because they can generate data that can be used to understand the criminal justice and administration system (Hayward, 2015). In fact, cultural criminologists affirm that such methods of research are useful in this context because they drain the situated meaning of crime and have seductive symbolism; accordingly, these approaches do not incorporate the desired statistical analysis that is required to make the desired judgment call. Moreover, the rational choice theory fails to address the critical aspects of common criminality; these elements are pleasure, risk, excitement, and anger (Ferrell, 2011). Such factors have been documented to buttress explanations for punitive justice and individual responsibility, and, as a result, may fall in line with the modern criminal justice. However, these approaches are not likely to offer an adequate explanation of ambiguity, inherent sensuality, and the irrationality of crime.

In a recap of the above discussion, cultural criminology may be perceived as the different ways in which cultural dynamics interweave with crime practices and crime control in the contemporary society. This field of study offers various insights into the manner in which crime manifests itself; as a result, it improves individuals’ understanding of deviance and crime. Culture reveals people’s capability to act together with the intention of animating the most insignificant objects regarding implication and importance. For that reason, human culture may be understood as a product of ethnicity, social class, or occupation. Furthermore, human culture may be perceived as a concept that can be reduced to a small portion of the social structure. As a result, a person may conceptualize cultural criminology as the different ways in which cultural dynamics work together to reveal crime practices and crime control in the modern society, as discussed above.  

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