3.3 How others see us

The relative nature of poverty is an old theme in social science. Adam Smith, the eighteenth century writer who is often regarded as the founding father of economics, put it this way: ‘By necessaries I understand not only the commodities that are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even the lowest orders, to be without’ (Smith, 1776, quoted in Sen, 1981).

Ideas of what it is to be poor are
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1.1.1 Summary

Identity involves:

  • a link between the personal and the social;

  • some active engagement by those who take up identities;

  • being the same as some people and different from others, as indicated by symbols and representations;

  • a tension between how much control I have in constructing my identities and how much control or constraint is exercised over me.


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4 Review: misrecognition, disrespect and the politics of fear

A recurring theme in discussions of poverty is the distinction between ‘the poor’ and ‘the non-poor’. Echoing nineteenth-century ideas of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, or 1930s notions of ‘problem estates’, such distinctions continue to permeate representations of poor populations today and also often figure prominently in policy.

Binary classifications such as those highlighted in Author(s): The Open University

3.4 Council estates: a symbol of failure?

From the earlier extract it is clear that Lynsey Hanley sees estates as a symbol of failure for everyone but particularly for those who live in them. Estate life forms a ‘wall in the head’ (Hanley, 2007, pp. 148–9), a particular state of mind producing a distinctive set of aspirations. These social psychological claims strongly parallel ideas that council estates generate their own subcultures that signal such places as different from others. This is also replicated by some journalists:
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Introduction

Some commentators argue that social justice as an idea and an ideal is interwoven with issues of inequality, poverty and social exclusion. It is a comparatively straightforward task in the era of World Wide Web access (though by no means everywhere or for everyone) to locate sources of information illustrating the extent of poverty and inequality, though much of the latter, particularly in relation to the ownership and distribution of wealth, or undocumented labour or unpaid care, remains con
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4.1 4.1 Learning from video clips

This video clip is a short feature that provides you with guidance on how to learn from video materials.

Download this video clip.
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1 1 Learning from audio visual text

You might think that learning from audio visual sources is very different from learning from written sources, yet, somewhat surprisingly, it is much the same. As you may be familiar with watching videos mainly for leisure, this section will help you to think about how you can turn the familiar, but usually passive, process of watching a video into the active process of learning. Watching the video clips will involve the skills of engaging with the material and making sense of it for yourself,
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1.4 Structures of power & inequalities

At the same time, such judgements and responses are not just personal matters: they are also embedded in all sorts of wider and interpersonal processes of power and inequality. These processes shape social policies, professional interventions, and representations in the media, as well as underpinning everyday social interactions in family lives and relationships. If we focus on family meanings, we may not always put issues of power, material inequalities, and moral evaluations at the centre o
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References

Arnett, P. et al. (1998) Flash! Associated Press Covers the World, New York, Harry N. Abrams.
Barley, N. (1983) The Innocent Anthropologist, London, Penguin.
Becker, H.S. (1985) ‘Do photographs tell the truth?’ in Cook, T.D. and Reichardt, C.S. (eds) Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Evaluation Research, London, Sage.
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Looking at the family: the 1950s

Activity 4

Family photographs may be taken as records, for advertising purposes, or indeed as mementos. Now look at an example drawn from the 1950s (Author(s): The Open University

3.2 Looking at the family

Activity 3

2.4 Looking closely at photographs for social data

Activity 2

Look at the photographs of a wedding group in Figures 2 a
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2.3 Realist and conventionalist approaches

In most modern, urban, industrial societies, still images surround people for much of their daily lives: at home, at work, during leisure, while travelling. Does the evidence they offer differ fundamentally from that which comes from facts and figures printed on a page? It may be presented differently but we can derive socially relevant information as readily from a photograph as we can from written or numerical data. In some ways, it can be argued that the information that we can acqu
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2.2 Theories, documents and knowledge

Documentary evidence is often messy and inconsistent, and even where it seems to be ‘factual’ (for example in the form of official records) its precise meaning in terms of wider social processes is far from clear. There is uncertainty about what it means, as well as the representation of uncertainty and diversity in the images. In every case, the meaning of the evidence is dependent on interpretation, that is, the part of the theory we employ to understand what is going on.
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References

Christiansen, K.O. (1977) ‘A review of studies of criminality among twins’ in Mednick, S.A. and Christiansen, K.O. (eds) Bisocial Bases of Criminal Behaviour, New York, Gardner Press, pp. 45–88.
Clarke, R.V. and Coleman, D. (1980) Designing Out Crime, London, HMSO.
Cohen, S. (1973) Folk Devils and Moral Panics, London, Paladin.
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5.2 Where can we go from here?

As this discussion has unfolded we have progressively shifted the focus from a description of crime, either through the common-sense story or through the detailing of statistical evidence, to competing explanations. But this is not the end of the story, well not quite.

Crime is an important area of social scientific inquiry in its own right. But looking at crime has allowed us to connect with many other important topics which are of concern to all social scientists.


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4.7 Summary

  • The social sciences have generated a range of explanations of criminal behaviour, running on a spectrum from overwhelmingly structural causes to overwhelmingly agency-driven causes.

  • Structural explanations locate the causes of criminality in abnormal or deviant biologies, pathological or problem families and deviant sub-cultures.

  • Agency-driven explanations, like rational choice theory, argue that crimes are an every-day exp
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4.6 Agency explanations: rational choice theory

The work of the Chicago School, despite the potential pitfalls of participant observation, does demonstrate that if you want to know why people commit crimes it makes sense to ask them. In his memoir of a criminal career in the early twentieth century entitled Jail Journey, Jim Phelan wrote:

The robber is a tradesman who, from economics or other motivation, chooses a trade with greater rewards and dangers th
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4.5 Structural explanations III: cultures

An early and influential body of research by the Chicago School of sociology explained criminal behaviour in terms of cultural structures. The school studied American male juvenile delinquents – or young offenders – in inter-war American cities (Shaw and McKay, 1969). Here we use the term culture to describe the web of meanings and values that individuals live their life within. (Recall from Section 1.1 how important every-day norms and conventions were in defining the meaning of c
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4.1 Exploring the claims about crime

The claims of the common-sense story of crime that we unearthed in Section 3 were, broadly speaking, about the start of the story (how things were then) and the end of the story (how things are now). But most stories have a middle. A middle that gets you from the beginning to the end, that explains how one state of affairs is transformed into another. The former claims are primarily descriptive. The claim in the middle would be explanatory. It would need to address questions lik
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