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Norms, Legitimacy and law Enforcement

Meares, Tracy L.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) Oregon Law Review. 79(2): 391.

In various articles, Tracey Meares has employed social disorganization theory – the theory that structural and cultural organization of neighborhoods can either facilitate or hinder crime – to establish the relevance of sociological theory for crime policy. Yet social disorganization theory focuses on places and not people. Hence, while it identifies the infrastructure of relationships in a community, it does not specify the content of the norms, values, and ideas pertaining to compliance. Hence, in this article Meares seeks to apply the structural and cultural theories of sociology to the individual by providing an explanation of why individuals comply with the law. Social psychologists observe that people comply with law more for norm-based reasons than instrumental reasons. Meares extends this perspective to argue that policies that harness norms, as opposed to policies that seek compliance by targeting the consequences of failing to obey, will lead to more effective crime policy.


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