Social Class and Crime: A Biosocial Approach

Social Class and Crime: A Biosocial Approach

Social Class and Crime: A Biosocial Approach

Social Class and Crime: A Biosocial Approach

Synopsis

Social class has been at the forefront of sociological theories of crime from their inception. It is explicitly central to some theories such as anomie/strain and conflict, and nips aggressively at the periphery of others such as social control theory. Yet none of these theories engage in a systematic exploration of what social class is, how individuals come to be placed in one rung of the class ladder rather than another, or the precise nature of the class-crime relationship. This book avers that the same factors that help to determine a person's class level also help to determine that person's risk for committing criminal acts. Social class is a modern outcome of primordial status-striving and requires explanation using the modern tools of genetics, neurobiology, and evolutionary biology, and this is what this book does. Many aspects of criminal behavior can be understood by examining the shared factors that lead to the success or failure in the workplace and to pro- or antisocial activities.

A biosocial approach requires reducing sociology's "master variable" to a lower level analysis to examine its constituent parts, which is resisted by many criminologists as highly controversial. However, this book makes plain that the more we know about the nature side of behavior the more important we find the nurture side to be. It makes clear how the class/crime relationship and criminology in general, can benefit from the biosocial perspective; a perspective that many criminological luminaries expect to be the dominant paradigm for the twenty first century.

Excerpt

Social class has been at the forefront of sociological theories of crime and criminal behavior from their inception. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to think of a theory in which class is not explicitly central to the theory (anomie/strain theory) or nipping aggressively at its periphery (social control theory). However, none of these theories engage in a systematic exploration of what social class is and how individuals come to be on one rung of the class ladder rather than another. If these questions were to be explored in depth perhaps the class-crime relationship would become clear. That is, rather than simply adding class as a covariate to our causal models as if class itself required no explanation, perhaps the same factors that help to determine a person’s class level also help to determine that person’s risk for committing criminal acts. This book is about the “causal” factors shared by class attainment and criminal activities.

Of course, this requires reducing sociology’s “master variable” to a lower level analysis, which is stoutly resisted by many traditional sociologists, and by extension, criminologists, since the vast majority of them are sociologically trained (Cooper, Walsh, and Ellis 2010). While most criminologists would probably agree in the abstract that criminology is inherently interdisciplinary, in practice they tend to ignore any perspective other than the one they were trained in, and with which they have become comfortable. They are particularly likely to ignore biology because they see it as deep, mysterious, and even racist, sexist, and other infuriating names one person calls another person’s position to silence him or her. There is a growing cadre of criminologists today, however, who argue that the causes of criminal behavior should be sought at many levels as long as each level is part of a coherent and mutually reinforcing whole.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the biosocial approach, an approach that integrates insights from multiple biological and socio-cultural disciplines. It is not a biological approach to human behavior because such an approach is not possible. It is called a biosocial approach because of the realization that all human behavior is the result of the complex interaction of nature and nurture over the life course. The biosocial approach is . . .

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