Hall Elizabeth Seminar 7 Makeup Paper

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  • 1. Crime and the American Dream<br />Elizabeth Hall<br />Kaplan University<br />CJ302-01<br />May 20, 2010<br />Ana Moore<br />Crime and the American Dream<br />The United States Declaration of Independence guarantees every citizen of the United States (U.S.) the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The document states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator” with these rights (Jefferson, 1776). These rights, along with the idea that everyone in America shares the same goals and values, which includes the idea of the American Dream, means that everyone undergoes the socialization process of believing that obtaining possessions and monetary gain through competition is the right way to obtain status in this country through Capitalism. Robert Merton’s Theory of Anomie applied Emile Durkheim’s thoughts, on Anomie to the study of criminology to fit the modern U.S. society’s cultural norms, economic values, and social environment. According to Siegel (2010), Messner and Rosenfeld, applied this to the macro level, and brought forth their institutional anomie theory, which holds the standpoint that disruptive anti-constructive behavior serves a purpose in modern society due to cultural and institutional pressure. Publishing their strain theory, in a book titled Crime and the American Dream; they provide observations into our society. They observe that because our American system, based upon capitalism, leaves all other social norms and configurations present but falling below the importance of the economy, in our society, the American Dream and our capitalistic society inherently cause people to feel the need to achieve these materialistic goals by any means necessary. (Siegel, 2010)<br />Merton’s Strain Theory of Anomie<br />Robert Merton established that two fundamentals of our society interrelate to form<br />conditions of anomie, which is a lack of cultural norms due to rapidly changing cultural and economical conditions in the U. S... He also felt that every individual person had their own ideas on what the goals of society actually are, and that they used modes of adaptation, depending on what social inequality, standing, and class they are, to achieve these goals. These modes are conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. Some people, in order to relieve the strain caused by conflict between the goal, and having the means to attain the goal, resort to criminality to attain the goal, linking abnormal conduct and actions to the fact that legal means to attain success are not fairly distributed in a capitalistic society. Contemporary strain theorists such as Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld have adopted Merton’s theory on a macro-level, introducing institutional anomic theory. (Siegel, 2010)<br />Messner and Rosenfeld’s Theory of Institutional Anomie<br /> Messner and Rosenfeld contributed a significant addendum to Merton’s Theory using anomie to hold the standpoint that disruptive anti-constructive behavior serves a purpose in modern society due to cultural and institutional pressure. They concur with Merton on the analysis that the goal of success is all-encompassing to American society. They then go on to term the idea the American Dream, which can be utilized as both a process to go through, and a goal to achieve. The process engages both the socialization of people to chase monetary or material achievement, and having the people trust that affluence is actually a possible endeavor. The goal entails Americans amassing monetary and material wealth through healthy personal competition, or in broader terms, capitalism. This causes anomic circumstances to occur because the aspiration to achieve, regardless of the cost, causes any semblance of community to lessen, and causes people to have less regard for their fellow man, promotes individual ambition, and curbs the craving for any other value than material achievement. This promotes crime because the means to attain those goals is not distributed evenly. People from upper middle class and wealthy backgrounds have an advantage early in life simply because their parents have more wealth to give them additional opportunities such as better schooling, the ability to participate in activities which further chances at a better college education, and better values taught at home. The reverse is true for people coming from lower income families. Parents are forced to work longer hours for less pay, providing less supervision, and less ability to pay for extracurricular activities, and are either unavailable to teach strong moral values, or are of a criminal nature themselves, teaching the wrong values, such as stealing, cheating, and substance abuse, manufacture, and selling of substances, as being perfectly acceptable behavior. This theory supports the fact that lower income areas have a higher crime rate. (Siegel, 2010)<br />Conclusion<br />Messner and Rosenfeld’s theory does effectively explain most crime in America today. The exception to this would be crimes committed by those criminals who offend for pleasure, passion, or sexually driven needs, such as most American serial murder crimes, crimes committed out of passion, such as the husband who comes home early and catches his wife with another man. The devaluation of the morals of American Society began in the 60’s, and continues on a downward spiral today. This devaluation promotes the idea that crime for profit is ok, and allows more people to commit crimes to gain prosperity and wealth without having the moral compass to let the fact that it is illegal, and morally wrong to do so. In order to change the situation, the criminal justice system would have to enact policies that reflect moral change, which would have to be initiated by the people of our country making it known by voting or polling, that they want these changes to take place.<br /> <br /> References<br />Jefferson, T (1776). Declaration of independence: A transcript. Retrieved May 12, 2010 from<br /> http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html<br />Siegel, L. J. (n.d.) Criminology the Core. Third Edition. University of Massachusetts, Lowell: Thompson Wadsworth & Cengage Learning.<br />Siegel, L.J. (2010). Criminology: Theories, Patterns, and Typologies. Tenth Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.<br />