Essay Sample on Definitions and Conceptualizations of Crime

Published: 2023-10-31
Essay Sample on Definitions and Conceptualizations of Crime
Essay type:  Cause and effect essays
Categories:  Criminal law Society Criminal justice
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1101 words
10 min read

Several definitions of crime can be applied in the context of criminology. As such, there have been differences regarding what should be considered a crime. For instance, if an individual is to consider the legal definition of crime, then a crime becomes any activity that breaks the law. However, questions on whether it is necessary to consider whether specific actions of individuals or institutions can cause serious harm, such as if governments violate the basic rights of the citizens by denying them favorable compensation. As such, the definition of crime, as well as identifying the actions that constitute the crime, can be identified as diverse as they range from social, cultural, and political definitions and conceptualizations. Nevertheless, these three definitions may overlap, but they do not necessarily mean the same things since some actions may be considered criminal across all three sections. In contrast, other actions are considered a crime across only one sector.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Legal Definition of Crime

Generally, crime can be identified as an omission or an act that is forbidden by the law. The government is responsible for creating as well as enacting laws that help to determine acceptable behavior. On the one hand, numerous laws have been passed by the government, and identifying all these deviations from the law as criminal can be extreme (Bradley & Walters, 2019, pp. 6). On the other hand, failure to identify a deviation from the law as a criminal act raises the question of the appropriate description of the offenders. For instance, although failure to collect dog soils is punishable by imposing a fine of $300 in New Zealand, the offender cannot be identified as a criminal as the deviation is too minor (Bradley & Walters, 2019, pp. 7). Therefore, the term criminal cannot be used to describe all actions that break the law since some actions such as failure to collect dog soils are less severe compared to others like murder or acts of violence. The challenge of accepting the definition of crime as any act that is punishable by law is that other forms of crime would be disregarded as unprofessional, and immoral but would not be admissible in court. The question of whether the judicial system should only focus on violations in line with the Crimes Act despite their minority indicates the primary challenge of this definition. Therefore, this challenge illustrates that the definition is inadequate as it underscores the complexities that are linked to the idea of crime being harmful, deleterious, and offensive conduct.

Sociological Definition of Crime

The concept of crime is dynamic as it is continuously changing across different cultures. According to (Bradley & Walters, 2019, pp. 12), the sociological definition of crime extends beyond legal parameters. It incorporates the broader concepts of rights, harms, risks as well as the wrongdoings committed by individuals and institutions. Furthermore, crime changes from one historical period to another to illustrate the constructivist nature of the concept. These considerations trigger the reflection of the concept of crime and who can be identified as a criminal. Additionally, some actions can be destructive and harmful to individuals and societies but are not identified as crimes as they are not included in criminal acts such as pollution. For instance, although all forms of pollution are harmful to society, industries can obtain permits from the government that will enable them to pollute the environment to a certain extent. The pollution will not be considered as a criminal activity unless the industry breaches the conditions of the permit. The main challenge to this definition is that the variation of crime across different societies and cultures will confuse in such a way that while some actions are banned in some states, they are accepted and encouraged in others. For instance, alcohol and marijuana consumption may be banned in over twenty states, but they are accepted in other countries.

Cultural Definition of Crime

The cultural definition of crime states that crime can be identified as a culturally constructed label as it varies across different cultures. As such, the lawmakers facilitate contradictions in their definition of the concept of crime that further reflect the inequalities that are present in society. From this definition, individuals with power can protect their interests by providing a definition of crime that will suit them (Bradley & Walters, 2019, pp. 13). For instance, the concept of corporal punishment as a form of disciplining children is illegal in Sweden but acceptable in more than 130 countries in the world. Additionally, the religious and cultural fabric of a society can be used in some contexts to define a criminal act. However, the challenge with this definition lies in the question of how certain actions are identified as a criminal. In contrast, other actions that are equally or more destructive are not considered as criminal since similar behaviors have different interpretations across different cultures. The challenge provides an insight into the disorganization of the process of operating the concept of criminalization as it is unclear on who operates the process of criminalization.

Political Definition of Crime

The political definition of crime recognizes that crime is an ideological censure such that powerful groups use the process of criminalization as a method of controlling society (Bradley & Walters, 2019, pp. 14). Additionally, crime can be identified as a disabling moralistic category where specifically authorized agents direct human conduct in a society that is politically organized (Bradley & Walters, 2019, pp. 15). The political definition of crime reaffirms the sociological definition as crime is identified as a label that is attached to behavior by people who have the authority instead of the intrinsic quality or inherent trait of the specific behavior. As such, people in powerful positions can assert their influence to identify and describe actions as harmful, corrupt, or even scandalous (Bradley & Walters, 2019, pp. 16). However, the primary problem with this definition is that powerful institutions can involve themselves in acts that are harmful to people and society. Still, these actions are considered as legal due to the level of influence that the institution has over the people and the lawmakers.


Crime can vary across different societies and cultures even though the term is used to describe injustices and inequalities that are present in society. However, the term crime can be harshly used to connect minor offenses. As such, the parameters of criminality are extended beyond legal codes to include moral and social domains. Nevertheless, the definition of crime needs to be adjusted to include all domains and not just focus on the legal acts.


Bradley, T., & Walters, R. (2019). Introduction to Criminological Thought (3rd ed.). Pearson Education.

Cite this page

Essay Sample on Definitions and Conceptualizations of Crime. (2023, Oct 31). Retrieved from

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism