In every society, social differences are found which would lead to different social classes. A social class is a group of people with similar status sharing comparable the level of wealth and power. There are three major types of social class in the society, they are Upper class, Middle class and Working class. The Upper class is also known as the Elite class ( these are people who are at the top positions in every main institutions of the society). They are said to have dominance over majority of affluence and authority in many societies.
These people include the aristocratic and high society families who have been rich through out their generations. They usually live off the income from their inherited wealth. The Middle class refers to the class the Marxist call the Bourgeoisie in the society. Individuals in this class usually have a high level of educational attainment and engage themselves with non-manual ( this work deals with the use of the mind instead of physical power).
Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers are examples of individuals found in the middle class. The Middle class is also known as the White Collar Workers. Lastly, the Working class is a class in which the individuals have low or no level of educational attainment and they are participants of manual work ( this is the work that deals with physical strength). Individuals found in this class are the maids, dishwashers and waitresses. The Marxists labelled them as the Proletariats. Individuals in this class are often exploited and unpaid by the bourgeoisie. These social classes correlates with the patterns of crime in the society. Crime is said to the behaviour the breaks the dominating norms, values and the legal written laws of the society.According to the national statistics in many countries especially in England, Nigeria and Wales most crimes like theft, violence are usually committed by the working class, this does not necessarily mean that other social classes do not commit crimes. Explanations for why people commit crime in the society has been approached by many sociologists, such as, Labelling theory, Consensus theory, Functionalist theory, Marxist theory, Subculture theory and Left/Right theory. On the other hand, sociologist fail to provide appropriate explanations why both the upper class and middle class commit crimes in the society. High crime rates among the working class may be brought down to Labelling. This is where the theory of Labelling comes in. The Labelling theory is based on the ides of social construction of real life, which is primary to the field of sociology and is connected to the symbolic interactionist perspective. The basic ideas of the labelling theory are that crime is socially constructed, the agents of social control label the working class as criminals in regards to the stereotypical presumptions and this creates room for self fulfilling prophecy for the criminal career. Interactionists argue that individuals do not commit crimes and become criminals because of their social class rather they commit crime because of labelling by authorities and society. Interactionists perceive crime as a result of micro-level interactions among certain individuals and legal authorities such as the police, rather than the product of external social forces such as socialisation. According to Howard Becker’s theory, he states that Deviancy is not a quality of the crime a person commits, but the consequences of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an offender. Deviant behaviour is the behaviour that individuals and society label. This means that what produces something deviant is not what is done but how people respond to what is done. Becker argues that those from the working class are likely to be labelled as criminals and deviants than the middle class, due to the fact that they do have the power and influence to reject such labels.Becker uses an example of a fight between two young people, if the fight is between two working class individuals , the fight is likely to be seen by the police as a proof of delinquency. But if the fight is amongst middle class, the police will see it as an evidence of high spirits. The actions are the same but the meanings placed on them are different. Becker uses an intense example in his book The Outsiders, where a youth committed suicide because he was accused and blamed for incest. Researchers on Moral Panic supports the labelling theory of crime among the working class. Moral Panic refers to public anxiety that is usually created by mass media reports. The term Moral Panic was introduced by Stanley Cohen, who was influenced by Becker’s and Labelling theory. Cohen was particularly interested in the response of the media towards the events. According to Cohen’s view, he believes that the media exaggerates the aspects of behaviour which challenges the social norms of society. The media’s reports helps to define the behaviours of individuals, which would lead to working class individuals accepting such behaviours based on the example they see on media. The moral panic portrayed by the media creates room for further deviant behaviours.Cohen introduced the concept moral panic in his book Folk devils and Moral panic. In the book, Cohen illustrates how the fight between two youth subcultures Mod’ and Rocker’ were reacted by the public. He introduced the theory of moral panic that includes five steps of process. Firstly, the working class individuals are seen as threat to the norms and interests of the society as a whole. Secondly, the media and the public report the threat in simple but symbolic way that it becomes known to every member of the public. Due to widespread, concern of the public is stimulated by the way the media represent the threat. This would lead to those in power to respond to the threats by making new laws and policies. Lastly, the moral panic would lead to social changes in the society. The general public believes that whatever is being by the published by the media happens everywhere in the society. This implies that in a society where its members see the working class crimes as more harmful and the media reports such cases, the public would believe that the crimes committed by the working class are more harmful in every society. On the other hand, many sociologists have criticised Becker and Labelling theory. According to Gibbs theory, he argued that labelling put a lot of focus on the reaction to a kind of behaviour. This implies that the deviant act is external to the actor and the behaviour. Basically, it does not matter that the individual took part in such criminal activity but there is a kind of reaction from the public. This is a problem since as matter of fact there must be a breaking of rule act for the public and legal authorities to react in most cases. The reaction of sociologists to this analysis has been just to contend that they do not deny the importance of understanding the reasons of rule breaking rather their major interest is seen to be on the role of the social reaction to the breaking of rules.Also, Gibbs theory contradicted with Becker’s theory, Gibbs stated he was unsure if Becker was after a theory of deviant behaviour or a theory about response to deviance. Provided that the reaction is crucial to deviant behaviour, the meaning is that deviance will not change across variety of societies in the world; that is, the explanations of criminal action (both social and legal) will be fixed across all countries and societies. Nevertheless, this is not the case. There are many examples in which this can be seen in comparison in different countries and societies’ legal statuses. One major example will be the fact that marijuana is illegal in Nigeria but legal in Canada. For that reason, there is a difference in the societal responses between these two countries in their meaning of marijuana use as a criminal behaviour. Lemert discovered that the labelling theory does not explain fully the methods in which the society engages when responding to behaviour; a response may label a criminal act but it does not explain why the behaviour is considered to be a crime.The labelling theory relates closely with the Marxist theory but the Interactionist failed to examine the process in the context of social, political and economic system of society. They also did not ask why some acts are labelled as deviant whereas others are not. This became a serious issue for the Marxist. It is known that anyone who commits a crime is to be punished for it. Marxists believe that statistics on crime is simply another way in which the working class are demonised. From the Marxist perspective, the cause for social differences in crime rates is because of the unequal structure in the society. The main cause of crime is Capitalism. In capitalist societies, they display the working class as criminals with the purpose of distracting the public from much serious crimes and injustices done by the middle class such as Fraud. The bourgeoisie who are in power make laws and policies that matches their own interests and the interests of the society. Due to this, the working class would feel rejected which would lead them to commit crimes such as stealing in order to put food on their tables. Karl Marx did not say much on crime, he still argued that the laws are generally the statute by which the middle class kept the working class in check. It is said that the values of a capitalist society are potentially, criminal values: the primary objective of a capitalist society is to get much money and wealth as possible, regardless of how that might hurt people. This encourages the middle class to commit crime (fraud) and the working class who are persuaded this is a suitable way to behave. Marxists say that crime changes from society to society depending on the political and economic structures of society. (Chambliss 1976) argues that acts are labelled as criminal only when it’s in the interest of the middle class in order to define them. This implies that crime and deviance is created by the middle class when they question the exploitation made by those who rule. For that reason, crime only exists because it is established by those in society whose interests are served by its presence. In Chambliss study of Seattle, he argued that individuals of the middle class were part of a crime syndicate who used their affluence and power to bribe agents and refrain from punishments. Basically, his arguments was that the criminal justice system was not there to catch criminals rather was there to protect the middle class. (Snider’s 1993) study, came to a conclusion that some laws are not imposed, laws which appear to favour the working class are more for show while those that favour the middle class are literally imposed. Basically from the perspective of the marxist, they believe that the middle class commit more crimes than the working class but the society tends to ignore such crimes.Contrary, to the Marxist theory, (Akers&Sellers, 2009) argues that the Marxist tend to put much focus on the fact that most part of the theory can be really seen as an ideological condemnation of Western democracies and a call for revolutionary action to overthrow them, and not really a criminology theory with suggestions for our criminal justice system. (Greenberg, 1993) argues that the Marxist claim that their theory improves our knowledge and understanding of crime rather their theory stands in favour of the middle class. Many other sociologists, have argued that the Marxist theory on crime may not be empirically testable. The Functionalist theory always go contrary with the Marxist theory, the Marxist are usually negative while the Functionalist are often positive. From the Functionalist perspective, they see crime as necessary and important to the society. Emile Durkheim, a well known functionalist raised three basic ideas about crime. Firstly, a definite amount of crime is essential, Crime has its own positive functions but on the other hand, too many crime is harmful for the society and can help bring about its downfall. Durkheim gave some necessary arguments why crime is important and essential to the society. He claims that not every member of the society can be equally committed to the shared values and moral beliefs of the society. He says that even in a society of saints, deviance will still be in existence. Durkheim talks about crime in every general terms. He believes that some crimes may be so damaging that they will always be dysfunctional rather than functional and he also suggest that the criminal justice system benefits the society by punishing criminals and reinforcing the acceptable boundaries of behaviour. Functionalist assumes that the society has universal norms and values that are reinforced by certain crimes being punished in public. On the contrary, the Postmodernist belief that the society is so different, there is no such thing as normal’. Also, the Interactionists claim that whether or not a crime is functional cannot be determined objectively; certainly it depends on an individual’s connection to the crime.Having considered a range of arguments, it could be concluded that it is the mixture of both individualism and relative deprivation that lead to crime in the society. Individualism refers to the view that individuals are far more important than social groups. The truth is both middle class crimes and working class are detrimental in the society, the only thing is that they are dealt differently. Crimes committed by the working class are handled by the police with rigid punishments, in order to stop the crime from being repeated. Contrarily, the middle class crime are not handled by the criminal justice system rather they are dealt by regulatory bodies, who are most likely to issue official warning. BIBLOGRAPHYUniversity of Maryland. 1975. Labelling Theory and Criminology. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 January 2019].Markedbyteachers. 2012. Sociological explanations of social class differences in crime rates. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 January 2019].Ashley Crossman. 2018. An overview of Labelling theory. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 November 2018].Revise Sociology. 2013. Social class and Crime. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 29 November 2018].David Abbott. 2009. Crime Theory Revision. 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