‘Saints and scroungers': constructing the poverty and crime myth

Mooney, Gerry and Hancock, Lynn (2011). ‘Saints and scroungers': constructing the poverty and crime myth. Criminal Justice Matters, 83(1) pp. 26–27.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09627251.2011.550156


According to the old adage, ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’! For many, the connections between poverty and crime are a matter of common sense; little scrutiny is required. Our concern is to look at how common sense understandings are re-made and to challenge some common misconceptions about poverty and crime.

We have used the word ‘myth’ in our title, but we are not referring to simple falsehoods about poverty and crime – although de-bunking these is important. Rather, we wish to apply Flood’s (2002) discussion of ‘political myths’ in this context. As Flood (2002) puts it: ‘a political myth can be said to exist when accounts of a more or less common sequence of events, involving more or less the same principal actors, subject to more or less the same overall interpretation and implied meaning, circulate within a social group’. We are concerned with how political myths are circulated, the authority and the pervasiveness of the messages, and the functions of these myths.

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