Unveiling the Sociological Underpinnings of Knife Crimes

  • 11 Pages
  • Published On: 19-12-2023

There has been a gradual increase in the rate of violent crimes in the UK over the past ten years (Hern, Glazebrook, and Beckett, 2005). One of the weapons that are easily accessible and is used in committing the crimes is the kitchen knife, and statistics from the UK government showed that 24 percent of the teenagers have been carrying knives as weapons and about 20 percent admitting to have attacked someone with the intention of harming them (Hern, Glazebrook, and Beckett, 2005). Politics have played a significant part in the knife crimes as stated by Squires (2009). In 2008, a British media report that the issue of knife crime was reported in certain areas and the young black men seemed to be more involved into the crime as both the perpetrators and the victims (Squires, 2009). Coincidentally, the knife crime coincided with several measures on the youth policy that the government was rolling out. Tough measures were then put in place in order to curb the crime, but the root cause and the reproduction of insecurity, fear, and conflict was not looked into. This paper seeks to understand the relationship between several sociology theories and the knife crimes.


Due to the present political climate which is associated with the neoliberalism and its impacts on the society, there is a compelling need to study the capitalist system and compare it to the communism and the socialism. Marxism is a theory named after Karl Marx and it is an economic, political and social philosophy which makes a clear examination on the impacts of capitalism on the economic development, productivity and labor (Blackledge, 2013). To add, it advocates for a revolution that favors communism and overturns capitalism. Marx found out that there was class conflict that was as a result of the inherent exploitative power relationships between the worker and the capitalists. It was believed that the conflict would eventually cause a revolution where the capitalists would be overthrown by the workers (Blackledge, 2013).

Additionally, Marxism encouraged communism which advocates for a system that is class less where all the properties are communally owned rather than being owned by individuals (MacKinnon, 1982). This may encourage the knife crime where those that are opposed to private ownership and are for the communism use this to cause a revolution. Socialism on the other hand advocates for the public ownership of the production means but it allow people to still own property. The reforms occur within the existing political and social structures which may encourage the knife crimes. To add, both the socialism and communism are opposed to capitalism which is an economic system that is symbolized by the individual ownership of property and there are systems that are put in place that protect the right to transfer or to own individual property (MacKinnon, 1982). The capitalism is associated with inequalities between the rich and the poor and also the exploitation of the poor by the rich.

As argued by Marx, the society is divided among a several social classes where the members have several things in common and with each other than with other individuals of other social classes (Blackledge, 2013). The division between the classes could cause the great difference in the society where people may end up in knife crimes. The capitalist society can be divided into the workers, who are tasked at converting raw materials into finished goods and the business owners, who are the individuals who drive the means of production. The business owners give the workers incentives so that they can get the most out of them which sometimes causes bitterness that can eventually lead to knife crimes.

To add, Marx stated that the workers do not have much to stake in the production which makes them to become resentful to their own humanity and to their owners and they are also alienated from the production (Blackledge, 2013). Due to the resentment towards their humanity, the workers end up getting into knife crime because they have nothing much to lose. The exploitative economic relations as well as the inherent inequalities between the two classes eventually leads to a rebellion of the workers against the business owners in an attempt to abolish capitalism. Marxist theory also argues that the relations formed by the people is what fundamentally constructs a society (MacKinnon, 1982). The increased knife crimes can be attributed to the current capitalism in most of the countries where people are divided into classes and those who are unsatisfied in the class that they fall in, tend to be resentful and they end up into knife crimes. Over the years, capitalism is being practiced and a debate on the transition and the nature of the historic movements ought to raise in order to understand the current happenings (Grollios, 2017).

On the other hand, functionalism is an approach that is based on the fact that all societal aspects including the norms, roles, and institutions serve a purpose and are all crucial for the future survival of the society (Lam and Wüthrich, 2020). The 19th century is when the approach become prominent since some sociologists argued that it was crucial to understand the needs of the social organisms. The observable consequences, the adaptation as well as the interrelationships within the system were important in the functionalism theory. Therefore, the interaction with people that could have committed knife crime could have resulted to others committing a similar crime.

Knife crime is a crime that involves the use of knives to commit a crime. Knives have been used as weapons in committing crimes and it has become a worrying trend where most of people in the UK have been involved in the knife crime are young (Harding, 2020). Various remedies are being tried to end this trend. For instance, there were about 46,000 offences that involve the use of sharp objects or knifes in wales and England in the year ending March 2020. The trend of the knife crimes has been an uptrend. A study conducted by Straw et al (2018), revealed that differing believes in the root causes of crime, inadequate knowledge on the justice system and distrust of public society were some of the key themes that led to knife crimes. Also, there was consequences of knife crimes were misconceived.

The symbolic interactionism is a perspective and theoretical framework that is used in sociology meant to explain how a society is created and maintained through the interactions between the people (Carter and Fuller, 2015). It is perspective that resulted from several influences and the theories on the relationships between the society and one self (Carter and Fuller, 2015). It is focused on the relationship between people within a society. One of the ways in which people are able to relate with each other is through communication. It is believed that George Herbert Mead founded the symbolic interactionism theory although he did not publish it. His student later came up with the term and he argued that human beings tend interact with things based on the meaning attached to those things (Rock, 2016). The attached meaning to of the things are based on people’s interaction with the society. For instance, there could have been an increase in the number of knife crimes committed by the young people due to the increase in their interaction with knife crimes in the society. The circumstance that one is in, also determines their interpretation of the things that they interact with. People may tend to see knifes as weapons when they are unhappy or are resentful about something. Therefore, the circumstance that one is in may lead them into committing knife crimes.

The patterns of interaction between individuals also affect the thinking of each other (Rock, 2016). For example, the people who interact with knife criminals may also become one since their way of thinking may be affected. To add, the communication and the signs and symbols that are used during the interaction can also lead to crime. Also, the theory focuses on the use of symbols and on the meaning of those symbols to the society. The symbolic interaction theory and the Marxism theory are similar in that the interaction and sense of belonging as well as the interaction and communication affects a person’s behavior. Qualitative research methods are more common in the symbolic interactionism to understand the symbolic worlds. Constructivism is a branch of the symbolic interaction theory that believes that people tend to develop social constructs based on how they interact with others (Fosnot, 2013). Also, the developed social constructs that last for a period of time are those that are accepted within the community or are those who’s meaning are agreed upon widely. The approach has been used ti identify what a society defines as defiant. In most of the societies, knife crime is not acceptable and there are several countries that do not allow their citizens to carry knives around. People who are involved in the knife crimes are therefore labeled as defiant.

Postmodernism is the reaction against the values and intellectual assumptions in the history of modern philosophy. The theory believes that there is the existence of a reality that is independent of the human investigative techniques, social practices, the society and their minds (Boyne, and Rattansi, 2017). The theory dismisses the idea that human beings are naïve. It also has the idea that human beings can change their societies as well as themselves for the better if more specialized tools are provided and if they use logic and reason. To add, it predicts that in the future, people will be more humane since they would have made their lives better. Therefore, the knife crimes can be associated with the difficult lives that people are leading which is making them to be inhuman hence resulting to the crime. Also, the theory believes that there is the human nature that consists of dispositions, aptitudes and faculties that are present at birth and are not instilled or learned through social forces (Boyne, and Rattansi, 2017). As explained in the theory, the knife crimes could have been inborn and not learnt through social interactions. The postmodernism views reason and logic as conceptual constructs which are valid only within the context that they are used.

Additionally, post modernism emphasizes on the politics that are concerned with differences and identity rather than the radicalism and the traditional large scale politics (Roberts, 2017). Politics is one of those issues that lead to knife crimes especially if there is enmity between two groups that oppose each other in politics and could cause violence when people feel like they are not adequately represented could result into crime. On the other hand, most of the feminist theory indicate that the female are weaker than the male. Global institutional recognition of feminism has been on the increase where there is more political endorsement of the feminism (Bell et al., 2019). Most of the females may therefore tend to be victims of the knife crime. The males are masculine and from the theory, they are more likely to be involved in the knife crime than in the females.

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To conclude, there has been a worrying trend on the increase in the knife crime over the years. Crimes have been committed using sharp objects and also using knives. The Marxism theory explains how the society is divided into classes and members of one class tend to be more comfortable around each other than in the other class. Also, the theory also explains how the rich tend to exploit the poor by paying them small wages while the poor work extra hard. The discrimination that the poor get from the rich has made them to be less committed to their work since they have very little to lose. To add, the poor would go to a revolution which might mean that they indulge themselves into the knife crimes so as to free themselves from the exploitation. The symbolic interactionism on the other hand is a theory that focus on the relationships between individuals in society. The good relationship would bear harmony while the bad relationships might lead to crimes like the knife crimes. Postmodernism on the other hand believes that there is the existence of a reality that is independent of the human investigative techniques, social practices, the society and their minds. The social theories would be key in understanding the human behavior, thereby understanding the root cause of knife crimes so that the issue can be addressed.


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Rock, P. (2016). Making of Symbolic Interactionism. London, Palgrave Macmillan Limited. https://public.ebookcentral.proquest.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=5646866

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