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"Die Ausgrenzung"

Games for Criminal Status

Justice as Order through Structured Social Inequality

The study proposes that we live in a world of social inequality where social status determines our behaviour in the perception of the observer.

Depending on the relative social position of the actor and of the observer, "saintly behaviour" of the high status actor may be phenomenologically identical to "deviant behaviour" of the social miscreant, but carries rewards for the "saint" and sanctions for the "deviant".

Such a view of social texture is sobering. Is Justice "Order through Structured Social Inequality"? The study develops a model of the processes leading to the differential distribution of immunity in society. These processes are a sequence of status degradation ceremonies. In a social psychological model based on game-theoretical conceptualizations, the status degradation ceremonies play as a series of games, of games where the grand prize is criminal status.

The study illustrates that the processes leading to criminal status have their parallel in everyday life if we understand the social life as a sequence of encounters, as games for social status. Given this understanding, the study of criminology attains a new meaning. It is no longer the study of some marginal, exotic and esoteric group, be it criminals or criminologists, but as a part of social science, the study of social differentiation in general. Whatever we learn about the dynamics of obtaining criminal status, then, not only clarifies the criminalization process, but also holds the properties for a novel understanding of the processes of reality construction in everyday life - of becoming prominent, of becoming an outsider, or simply of being a plain man.

For criminological research, the model of games for criminal status conceptualizes the labelling approach and the principle of marginality (i.e., the phenomenon of ubiquity, scarcity and relativity of marginal positions in social groupings). Based on this model, we can reach a new understanding of justice and, especially, of criminal justice, which would allow us to develop the labelling approach into a theory from which we derive hypotheses whose validity is open to empirical investigation and validation.

The author, a sociologist, uses symbolic interactionist modelling and simulations from game theory. His publications deal with the interdependence of behaviour and status. He previously published "Straßenverkehrsdelinquenz und Marginalität" (Lang: 1978), a study on the possibilities and limitations of regulating social behaviour through law and law enforcement.

Dr. Gunther Grewe - New York - München - www.WP-RA-usa.com


Grewe, Günther - Games for Criminal Status: Justice as Order through Structured Social Inequality - Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Las Vegas: Lang, 1979 - (European University Papers: Series 2, Law; Bd. 210) ISBN 3-8204-6480-8
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