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Analysis of Steven F. Messner and Richard Rosenfeld's Article

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In 2013, Steven F. Messner and Richard Rosenfeld published and article titled A Society Organized for Crime in the fifth edition of Crime and the American Dream. Their article examines the develop of the American Dream, and how it has affected society and crime. They look at things such as nature and level of crime violence, fear of crime, punishment, the dark side of the American Dream, and the anomie theory. Through their research and exanimations, they believe that in order to completely understand the nature and level of crime in our society, we need to look at the distinguishing features of our society, especially in regards to cultural imagination.

Messner and Rosenfeld use their article to examine and explain how the American Dream created a society that is more prone to crime (Messner and Rosenfled, 2013, pg. 3). They give a brief introduction into specific white-collar crime with Bernie Madoff, and then discuss the current situation our society is in in regards to the nature of crime and how we perceive crime (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 1). The authors then get into the development of the American Dream, and how it changed our society (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 7). They discuss the Great Depression, WWII, the 2008 economic recession, and the presence the American Dream has in the current day (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 8). In the analysis of the American Dream (and the dark side of it), Messner and Rosenfeld discuss many aspects of economics in the U.S. (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 9). They discuss things such as monetary success, noneconomic roles, economic inequality, and universalism (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 8). The two then use the anomie theory to explain how these economic aspects of the American Dream affect and produce crime in our society (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 12). They end their research article with “unfinished business”; the work that needs to be done to address the high crime-related issues in our country (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 15).

The organization of Messner and Rosenfeld’s article is very well laid out. It totals about 15 pages and is an easy read due to the way it is split up. The sections are clear and easy to make out, and the subheadings briefly and accurately describe what is being discussed in those sections (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg.4). However, there are a few subheadings that do not follow the previous formatting, so it is difficult to understand if those sections are truly subsections, or something different (Messnr and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 8). Also, some sections are larger than others, and can be a bit confusing to understand with the vast amounts of information (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 7). If subsections were split up into their main ideas and points, while still keeping their information, what Messner and Rosenfeld are trying to express would be significantly easier to understand. Overall, the organization was done well, and with small changes to match consistency, it would improve greatly.

The article’s style is fairly traditional and text-only. It fits well as a research paper and/or information article, but it does not go much further than that. While the text is good and the information is beneficial and makes sense, there are additions that could be made that would enhance the general purpose of the article. Much like the LA Times’ article American Dream can lead to crime which was published 26 years prior to Messner and Rosenfeld’s article, text-heavy work can lose a reader (Simon, 1987, pg. 1). Even though the text is important, and it is okay to be text heavy, there should be additional elements in a piece for it to fit the times and to make the content better understandable. For example, in 2015, Vox did an interview article with Sen. Cory Booker about the current criminal justice system (due to how our society works) is destroying the American Dream (Lopez, 2015, pg. 1). While the purpose of the article was slightly different than Messner and Rosenfeld’s, it had the similar undertone of “this is our society, this is how our society affects crime and punishment, and this is how those methods are damaging our society” (Lopez, 2015, pg. 1). The Vox article’s style is very appealing; not only is it laid out well, but it incorporates a variety of different media (video, photo and graphics) that engage the reader and make the information understandable in a more modern way. If Messner and Rosenfeld had included some type of visual element, such as infographics when they discuss economic inequality, they content would have been more interesting, and better understood (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 10).

The overall effectiveness of this article is pretty generic. It does its job by making a point and/or statement, outlining the issue from pre-development to current day, and uses research and strong elements to support the claim. Therefore, just by reading through the article, one can gain a basic understanding of the issue and point, but there is not much depth after that. In a similar article from the Harvard Business School in 2007, many visual data elements were included in the research (Tella and Dubra, 2007, pg. 1568). Tella and Dubra’s article focuses on crime and punishment in regards to the American Dream, and their work is extremely data-driven (Tella and Dubra, 2007, pg. 1564). Even though their work is abstract and complex to the average person, their inclusion of visual data elements and equations makes their work much more effective in expressing their claim and issue, and is overall more effective in creating a change. If Messner and Rosenfeld included elements like these, perhaps when they are discussing the vices and virtues of the American Dream or the “unfinished business” there is, their argument could be more effective to the average reader or student (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 14).

The topic in this article is treated very well. It is identified early, clearly explained, and examined in a way that is understandable and respectful to those who are affected by it. The article does a great job of explaining the topic in appropriate detail, giving previous background information to explain cause, how the topic is playing in today’s world and affecting our society, and how the future may be affected by unfinished work in regards to this topic. The topic, its issues and explanations are also strongly supported by credible evidence and sources that deal with similar information. Everything that Messner and Rosenfeld discuss in their article is relevant to their topic about the American Dream’s society lays the foundation for crime to occur and rise (Messner and Rosenfeld, 2013, pg. 1).

The audience appeal for Messner and Rosenfeld’s article is also fairly generic. For a research article, it appeals to students, instructors and researchers who would be the primary readers. However, for the time it was published and in an effort to spread their message and research, Messner and Rosenfeld could have done more to make the piece more appealing to a wider audience than just members of the academic community. For example, the website Criminal does podcasts about topics and events relating to criminology and criminal justice. In Episode 31, they discuss the American Dream and how it affects crime and society, which is very on point to what Messner and Rosenfeld are discussing (Judge, 2015, pg. 1). While the topics are extremely similar, Criminal takes a very wide-audience approach with their use of podcasts that include information and interviews (Judge, 2015, pg. 1). The podcast is not only very timely with technology, but also what the general public is interested in and searching out. If Messner and Rosenfeld included something more timely and interesting on a broad scale, they could reach a large audience and further the impact of their work.

Messner and Rosenfeld’s article examines a part of our society that strongly affects the crime we face. When thinking about crime, we often do not think about how the creation and desire for the American Dream contributes to the crime that occurs, especially that which is involved with economic challenges. Messner and Rosenfeld examine the American Dream, the crime we currently face, the economic issues in our country, and use credible sources and statistics to back their claim that the presence and pressure of the American Dream has created a society that encourages criminal activity.

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