The United States is the most lawless nation on the globe. No subject has attracted more attention and caused more serious discussion.
This discussion concerned much more than the causes of lawbreaking, for participants used the issue of criminality to grapple with some of the most troubling cultural dilemmas of their time.
The criminal served as an important cultural resource for men and womenworking to understand and shape the structure of their society and place of the individual within it.
We will see that David Ruth, the auhor of the book, explored how Americans of the 1920s and 1930s used the criminal to understand their society. The book, Inventing the Public Enemy tells about a lot of gangsters « invented » by the media according to the gangster stereotype of the 1920s and1930s. The numerous accounts given by the media help the reader understand what the dilemmas of the society were at that time.
We will then wonder :
How the gangsters, the public enemies convey the problems of the society back in the 1920s/1930s.
First of all, we will see the different points of view on criminality and its causes, which will lead us to study the criminal as a businessman andthen the consumer society and what it implied on men’s and women’s behaviours.
Let us first dwell upon the different points of view explaining the reasons for criminality :
The determinists and the moralists tried to explain and epxress their point of view and their arguments about the causes of crime during the twenties.
What is the criminal responsibility ? What is the line thatdefines the individuals ?
For the determinists, criminals are governed by external forces, whereas the moralists’ counterarguments during the middle-twenties is that criminal are responsible for their actions.
In pronouncing the criminial’s irresponsibilty, many determinists voiced broader concerns about the diminution of individual competence in a mass society.
Many Americans thought thatcrime was the result of powerful forces, external to the individual will. For the determinists, if some people turned out to be criminals, it was because of innate hereditary factors such as « racial proclivities, mental illness, low intelligence or pernicious childhood environment ». According to them, crime was not «the voluntary choice of a free agent». The criminals underwent a generalpowerlessness caused by the social condition in which they were.
The determinists pointed out at an abscence of free will that explained criminality.
For them, the lack of free will resulted in an absence of control over their own lives. This common powerlessness united ordinary people even across the lines of class and ethnicity.
Free will can be described as the ability of agents to make choicesfree from certain kinds of constraints.
On the contrary, most mass media accounts contended that criminals possessed free choice and the responsibility that accompanied it.
For the moralists, there was a need to understand the human behaviour because mysterious, distant forces played no significant role. For them, the criminal was a responsible, normal man. Their point of view contrastedwith the determinists’ :
On the one hand the moralists thought that the criminal was a normal, intelligent and rational individual who broke the law for financial gain.
On the other hand, the determinists thought that lawbreakers were monstruously different with a bad brain chemistry and defective machines.
The dangerous criminal, according to Louis E Bisch was the « normal crook, the man whois able to think as you and I do, who can plan, who can reason, who is clever, who is daring. They are also capable of sentiment, love, loyalty, truthfullness, any and all of the highhest and best emotions- even self sacrifice in behalf of a principle or of an individual.
Some writers stressed that lawbreakers possessed good moral traits along with the bad. They presented the criminals in a...
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