1. Functionalsit, strain and subcultural theories

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  • Functionalsit, strain and subcultural theories
    • Durkheim's functionalist theory
      • In order to achieve solidarity society has 2 mechanisms; socialisation and social control
      • Crime is inevitable and an integral part of all societies
      • In modern societies there is a tendency anomie because societies have a specialised division of labour which leads to individuals becoming increasingly different from one another
      • This weakens the collective conscience and results in more crime and deviance
      • The positive functions of crime
        • Boundary maintanance
          • Crimes produces a reaction from society uniting its members in condemnation of the wrongdoer
          • Punishment therefore serves to reaffirm society's shared norms and values rather than to deter the wrongdoer
          • This may be done through the courtroom  which dramatise wrongdoing and stigmatise the offender
        • Adaptation and change
          • For Durkheim all change starts with deviance
          • Individuals with new ideas will initially be deemed as deviant because they challenge existing norms and values
          • If those with new ideas are suppressed society will be unable to make adaptive changes
          • Too much crime=anomie Too little crime=stifles individual freedom and prevents change
        • Other
          • DAVIS
            • Prostitution acts as a safety valve for the release of men's sexual frustrations without threatening the monogamous nuclear family
          • POLSKY
            • Pornography safely 'channels' a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives such as adultery
          • COHEN
            • Deviance warns us that an institution is not functioning properly
          • ERIKSON
            • He suggests that the true function of agencies of social control is to maintain a certain level of crime rather than to rid society of it completely
      • EVAL
        • How much crime is too much?
        • Ignores the different ways crime may function in different groups
        • Crime doesn't always promote social solidarity and it may lead to people becoming more isolated
    • Merton's strain theory
      • People engage in deviant acts when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means
      • This theory combines 2 elements; structural factors (society's unequal opportunity structure) and cultural factors(strong emphasis on success goal but less on legitimate means)
      • The American Dream
        • Americans are expected to pursue the American Dream via legitimate means
        • The American Dream tells people there are opportunities for all
        • However, the reality is that many disadvantaged groups are unable to access the legitimate opportunity structure
        • This lead to pressure to deviate from legitimate means and accepted goals which Merton calls, the strain to anomie
        • The pressure to deviate is emphasised by the American culture which puts pressure on people to achieve success at any price
      • Deviant adaptations to strain
        • Conformity: accept the goals and try to achieve them legitimately
        • Innovation: accept the goals but use illegitimate means to achieve them such as theft
        • Ritualism: give up on the goals but have internalised the legitimate means and so they follow the rules for their own sake
        • Retreatism: reject the goals and reject the legitimate means so become drop outs (outcasts, vagrants, tramps...)
        • Rebellion: reject the goals and means but replace them with new ones in a desire to bring about revolutionary change (political radicals and counter-cultures like hippies)
      • EVAL
        • Merton takes official statistics at face value so he sees crime as a mainly w/c phenomenon
        • MARXISTS: he ignores the power of the r/c who make laws which discriminate against the poor
        • It assumes there us a value consensus- that everyone strives fro money success
        • Only accounts for utilitarian crime for monetary gain and not crimes of violence
        • Ignores group deviance
    • Subcultural strain theories
      • A.K. COHEN: Status frustration
        • Agrees with Merton that deviance results from an inability to achieve accepted goals by legitimate means
        • However, he critisises Merton for; seeing deviance as an individual response to strain, and for focusing on utilitarian crime committed for material gain
        • W/c boys face anomie in the m/c dominated school system
          • They suffer from cultural deprivation and lack the skills needed to achieve
          • As a result of being at the bottom of the status hierarchy they suffer status frustration
          • The boys resolve their status frustration by rejecting mainstream values and they form a delinquent subculture with other culturally deprived boys
        • The boys' delinquent subculture inverts the values of the m/c school system
        • The subculture offers the boys an alternative status hierarchy
        • They win status from their peers in this alternative hierarchy by performing delinquent acts
        • EVAL: Cohen's theory is good as it includes non-utilitarian crime, it helps to explain non-economic delinquency such as vandalism
        • EVAL: however like Merton, Cohen assumes that w/c boys start off sharing m/c success goals only to reject them when they fail. What if they didn't share them to begin with?
      • CLOWARD & OHLIN: Three subcultures
        • They agree with Merton that w/c youths are denied legitimate opportunities to succeed
        • Different subcultures respond to strain in different ways
        • Their response also depends on access to an illegitimate opportunity structure as well as a legitimate one
        • Different neighbourhoods provide different illegitimate opportunities for youths to learn criminal skills and develop criminal careers
        • Cloward & Ohlin identify 3 deviant subcultures:
          • Criminal subcultures: provide youths with an apprenticeship for a career in utilitarian crime. This requires a long-standing and stable criminal culture in the area with an established hierarchy of professional adult crime
          • Conflict subcultures: arise in areas of high population turnover which results in high levels of social disorganisation and prevents a stable criminal network from developing. The only illegitimate opportunities therefore arise within loosely organised gangs
          • Retreatist subcultures: those who are unable to access an illegitimate opportunity structure at all. These become 'double-failures' and often turn to illegal drug use as a form of rebellion
        • EVAL:
          • They too think that most crime is committed by w/c. Their theory is too deterministic and over-predicts the extent of w/c crime
          • They provide an explanation for different types of w/c deviance
          • However, they draw boundaries too sharply between the different types of diance
          • Their theory is a reactive theory and can be criticised for assuming that everyone starts off sharing the same mainstream success goals
          • MATZA: most delinquents are not committed to one subculture but instead drift in and out of different ones
      • Recent strain theorists have argued that young poeple may pursue a variety of goals other than money success
      • MESSNER & ROSENFIELD: institutional anomie theory
        • Focuses on the American Dream
        • Obsesses over money success and it's 'winner takes all' mentality encourages crime by encouraging an anomic cultural environment in which people are encouraged to adopt an 'anything goes' mentality in the pursuit of weath
        • In societies based on free-market capitalism and lacking adequate welfare provision, high rates of crime are inevitable
  • Recent strain theorists have argued that young poeple may pursue a variety of goals other than money success

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