Crime and the American Dream, 5th edition, by Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld

Chapter 1: A Society Organized for Crime

  1. What is the premise of this book?

  2. What does the sentence “America is organized for crime” mean?

  3. Explain the concept of the American dream.

  4. What are the virtues of the American dream?

  5. What are the vices of the American dream?

  6. Discuss the Golden Age of the anomie perspective.

  7. What led to the fall of the anomie perspective?

  8. According to Messner and Rosenfeld, in what way is Merton’s anomie theory deficient?

Chapter 2: By Any Means Necessary: Serious Crime in America

  1. Discuss cross-national comparisons of crime.

  2. How can we explain difference in crime rates?

  3. What is our most serious crime problems?

  4. Why are local institutions failing?

Chapter 3: Ships in the Night: Theoretical Perspectives in Contemporary Criminology

  1. Explain Messner & Rosenfeld’s two key scope conditions.

  2. Why is research dominated by “relatively minor criminal infractions”?

  3. Discuss: cultural-social learning explanations of crime.

  4. Disorganization-control explanations of crime.

  5. Common origins of cultural deviance theory and social disorganization theory.

  6. Anomie-strain explanations of crime.

  7. What are the criticisms of anomie theory?

Chapter 4: Culture, Institutional Structure, and Social Control: A Sociological Explanation of Crime

  1. Discuss the four value foundations of the American Dream: achievement

  2. Individualism

  3. Universalism

  4. The “fetishism” of money

  5. What is it about the institutional structure of American society that is central to the understanding crime?

  6. Discuss anomie and the weakening of institutional control

  7. Discuss the social distribution of crime

Chapter 5: Strengthening Social Institutions and Rethinking the American Dream

According to the authors:

  1. Why will conventional strategies in the conservative camp NOT result in significant reductions in crime?

  2. Why will conventional strategies in the liberal camp NOT result in significant reductions in crime?

  3. What is required for effective crime control?

  4. What institutional reform in required?

  5. What is meant by cultural regeneration?

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