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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 72119 Find in a Library
Title: Legal Systems and Rates of Deviance
Author(s): M A Bernstein
Date Published: 1976
Page Count: 171
Sponsoring Agency: UMI Dissertation Services
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346
Sale Source: UMI Dissertation Services
300 North Zeeb Road
P.O. Box 1346
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346
United States of America
Type: Thesis/Dissertation
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Durkheim's and Weber's ideas concerning the sociology of law are employed to construct a theory that predicts the legal conditions under which outbursts of deviance are likely to occur.
Abstract: It is suggested that modern social theorists can retain their emphasis on logical structure and testability while fruitfully employing the ideas of the classical theorists. In addition, historical materials can be useful for testing sociological theory. This study is interested in how the punishment or the societal reaction to deviance varies as a function of two variables: the nature of deviance (pertaining to Durkheim's concern with the solidarity of societies) and the nature of the legal system (relating to Weber's examination of adjudicatory systems). The interrelationship of the two variables (and of the two bodies of thought) are emphasized. It is hypothesized that societal reaction will be most severe when crime has a sacred or collective quality, and when it is mediated by a nonrational or highly discretionary legal system. Evaluation of information regarding deviant behavior in 17th century Rhode Island and information from the Massachusetts Bay Company of the same period did not support the hypotheses. Data refute the prediction that convictions for offenses against Rhode Island as a sovereign group would be higher than convictions for other offenses. In Massachusetts, however, data support the hypothesis. The crucial variable that appears to explain the differential responses of communities to threats is the solidarity of the community. Religious and economic bonds provided solidarity in Massachusetts at that time. It is suggested that future research involve evaluation of data while simultaneously developing theories to make them empirically relevant. Footnotes, tables, about 30 references and appendixes presenting the methodology used are included.
Index Term(s): Deviance; Massachusetts; Rhode Island; Situational theory; Social psychology; Sociology
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