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Messner, S. F., & Rosenfeld, R. (2000). Crime and the American dream (Third ed.). Monterey: Wadsworth. (4th: 2007; 5th: 2013)





In addition to the questions/points below, you want to be sure you understand Figure 4-2 on p. 85 (first edition; 88: 5th) - different pages, other editions

For those pressed for time, pay more attention to the questions in bold.

  1. What is their level of analysis? More generally, what are their scope conditions?

  2. What is "The American Dream?" (TAD) What does it mean that it has both a cognitive and evaluative component? Comment on the adequacy of the evidence M&R introduce to support their claim about both the pervasiveness of TAD in the US and the derived over-emphasis of economic goals and anything goes, relative to other societies. What is the "dark side" ["Search your heart Luke. You know it is true. I am your father."] of TAD? What are the "specific value commitments" of TAD?

  3. M&R make the case that much crime is "self help" - this then fits their argument about how crime is "driven" by TAD. In light of this, do you think their theory is a "general theory" of crime?

  4. Do M&R think the gun culture is to blame for current high violent crime rates? In what ways does the presence of the gun culture underscore their analysis of American society?

  5. Do M&R think economic inequality is a big/the biggest part of the problem in terms of social structural antecedent causes?

  6. How do M&R get to the conclusion that "Crime ... can be viewed as an ordinary and predictable response to prevailing sociocultural conditions"? [This is really a very tough question and answering it would require fully explicating not only TAD but even more importantly issues of institutional imbalance and how those are connected to anomie, with the latter, of course, being very clearly defined.]

  7. How does the US compare to other "western" or "first world" countries on violent crime rates? What implications do M&R draw from this? Do they think ethnic heterogeneity explains our comparatively higher rates

  8. What is the process of "institutional engulfment"?

  9. According to M&R, is crime a social fact? Explain. How is their view different from the authors we have read so far?

  10. What is culture? What is social structure? Why must they be kept distinct?  In what ways is it "wrong" to keep them distinct?

  11. You want to understand the basic ideas behind social learning theory, social control theory, and strain theory; and why each of them is social psychological in nature; and why cultural deviance theories, social disorganization theory, and anomie theory are, respectively, the macro counterparts of each. What do M&R mean when they say the "dominant "have become "'hybrid'" theories?

  12. What is Sutherland's definition of "differential association"? (commit to memory)

  13. What do they mean when they say cultural "'deviance' theories are not theories of deviance at all"?

  14. What are their criticisms of the cultural-social learning perspective? (important)

  15. What are their criticisms of the social disorganization-control perspective? (important)

  16. What does it mean to say Shaw and McKay's model is a "mixed" model?

  17. What does it mean to say that "any explanation of crime that fully exploits the sociological paradigm will be, to one degree or another, a mixed model explanation"?

  18. In what ways according to M&R is the anomie-strain theory less "deficient" than the cultural learning or social disorganization-control perspectives?

  19. According to Merton (who was a Temple grad), in what two ways does "social organization" "produce" crime?

  20. What are the criticisms of Merton's anomie theory, and how do M&R respond?

  21. How is it that anomie indicates absence of culture, but is also a product of culture?

  22. For M&R, what is the "basic shortcoming" in Merton's explanation of crime, and how do they fix it?

  23. What is the "distinctive institutional balance of power" in American society, and why is it important?

  24. According to M&R, how have the liberal and conservative crime control agendas BOTH missed the boat? What are their solutions? Can  you see how specific components of their solution tie to their general model? Take one example and talk us through the connection. Give one example from both the conservative and liberal control perspective of initiatives that have made matters worse.

  25. What does it mean to say crime control in this country is "without limits?" What are the impacts of this?