Crime is a term that refers to many types of misconduct that is forbidden by law. There are a number of different reasons as to why crime can be viewed as a social construction. There cannot be ‘social problems’ that are not the product of social construction – naming, labelling, defining and mapping them into place – through which we can ‘make sense’ of them’ (Clarke, 2001). In this essay I will explain what is social construction, also what crime is, and why we think, that crime is socially constructed. Furthermore, I will explain how media construct crime and the stigma of black crime. In the last paragraph I will explore the importance of Marxist and Durkheim’s theories on the emergence of crime.
There is no doubt that crime is socially constructed. The constructionist perspective draws on a very different sociological inheritance, one that treats society as a matrix of meaning. It accords a central role to the processes of constructing, producing and circulating meanings. Within this perspective, we cannot grasp reality in a direct and unmediated way Reality is always mediated by meaning (John Clarke p.6). Indeed, some of its proponents argue that what we experience is ‘the social construction of reality’ (Berger, 1967). How something or someone is named, identified and placed within a map of the social orders has profound consequences for how we act towards it or them (Becker, 1963).
Public concern over crime relates mainly to theft and violence, which are regarded as being serious enough to warrant sustained attention from the police. This concern, reflected in periodic moral panics, tends to ensure that many of those who are involved in theft and criminal violence do so as a form of secondary deviation. As a result, many of them develop a criminal identity (Becker, H. S, 1963).
The national British crime survey (BCS) reports showed that the risk of being victims of crime is shaped by locality, lifestyle, age, gender and ethnicity. BCS confirm that the risk of being a victim of contact crime are highest for men those aged under 30, those living in intercity areas and those living in privately rented accommodation. Noon the less according to the BCS it is frequently those who are least at risk of crime who are most anxious about it, notably older people and women(May et al,2009).
The very good example of how crime can be socially constructed is ‘Black Crime’ (McLaughlin, 264). During the early 1970s indicated, that the media has continued to project an image of Britain as a white society (Hartman 1974). Crime and criminality came to be the central motif that constructed black people as a problem presence, and also signifying that they were not really British (McLaughlin, 264). Gilroy (1987) has added to this by analysing discourses on race, crime and nations. Perceptions of the ‘weakness’ of black culture and family life, sometimes explained by absence of a father or authority figure, or more crudely, by a lack of respect for the Law and British tradition of civility, served to define black people as ‘lesser breeds without the Law , as ‘the others’ who stands outside what is meant to be British(Gilroy, 1987). However the significance of the prolonged campaign that led to the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence cannot be overstated. Dominant representations of black people as a ‘problem’ for white British society have been successfully challenged (Murji, 274).
The media is the most powerful organisation which does a big impact on social construction of the crime. The importance of the news media in framing the public understanding of social problems is widely recognized (McLaughlin, 263). Research in many countries confirms that crime reports are among the most headlines catching of news commodities. It is also suggested that there is broad correspondence between the images of criminality articulated in the news media and the interpretation for this (Murji, 264). Such as media presentation of the information reinforces social construction of the crime (McLaughlin et al, 264).