Friday, January 15, 2010

Power, Theory of Crime; its Merits and Demerits

It seems obvious that power inequality affects the quality of people’s lives. The rich and powerful live better than the poor and powerless. Similarly, power inequality affects the quality of deviant activities likely to be engaged in by people. Thus the powerful are more likely to perpetrate profitable crimes such as corporate crime, while the powerless are more likely to commit unprofitable crimes, such as homicide and assault. In other words, power------or lack of it------largely determines the type of crime people are likely to commit.
Power can also be an important cause of deviance. More precisely, the likelihood of powerful people perpetrating profitable crimes is greater than the likelihood of powerless persons committing unprofitable crimes. It is, for example, ore likely for bank executives to peacefully rob customers than for jobless persons to violently rob banks. Analysis of the deviance is more common among the powerful (Thio, 1995).
First, the powerful have a stronger deviant motivation. Much of this motivation stems from relative deprivation ---- feeling unable to achieve a relatively high aspiration compared with the powerless, whose aspirations are typically low; the powerful are more likely to raise their aspirations so high that they cannot be realized. The more people experience relative deprivation, the more likely they are to commit deviant acts.
Second, the powerful enjoy greater deviant opportunity. Obviously, a rich banker enjoys more legitimate opportunities than a poor worker to make money. But suppose they both want to acquire illegitimately a large sum of money. The banker is bound to have access to more and better opportunities that make it easy to defraud customers. The banker also has a good chance of getting away with it because the kind of skills needed to pull off the crime comes from the kind required for holding the bank position in the first place. In contrast, the poor worker would find his or her illegitimate opportunity limited to crudely robbing, the banker, an illegitimate opportunity further limited by a high risk of arrest.
Third the powerful are subjected to weaker social control. Generally, the powerful have more influence in the making and enforcement of laws. The laws against higher-status criminals are therefore relatively lenient and seldom enforced, but the laws lower status criminals harsher and more often enforced. Not a single corporate criminal, for example, has even been sentenced to death for marketing some untested drug that “cleanly” kills many people. Given the lesser control imposed on them, the powerful are likely to feel freer to use some deviant means to amass their fortunes and power.

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