Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories: a summary

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  • Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories
    • Durkheim's functionalist theory
      • The inevitability of crime
        • Not everyone is equally effectively socialised, so some individuals will be prone to deviate
          • This is even more so in modern societies because of the complex, specialised division of labour
            • There is a diversity of lifestyles and values
        • There is a diversity of lifestyles and values
      • The positive functions of crime
        • Boundary maintenance
        • Adaptation and change
        • Davis: safety valve
        • Polsky: channel
        • Cohen: warning
        • Erikson: agencies of social control actually produce rather than prevent crime in order to sustain a healthy level of it
      • Evaluation
        • Useful for understanding how C/D is integral to society and how it can have hidden or latent functions for society
        • Just because crime does these things is not why it exists in the first place
        • Ignores how crime might affect different groups or individuals within a society
        • Crime doesn't always promote solidarity - in fact it can do the opposite
    • Merton's strain theory
      • The American Dream
        • Americans are meant to pursue their goals by legitimate means
        • Strain to anomie
        • American culture puts more emphasis on achieveing the goals than on how one does so, creating more pressure to deviate
      • Deviant adaptations to strain
        • Conformity
        • Innovation
        • Ritualism
        • Retreatism
        • Rebellion
      • Evaluation
        • Exolains 2 patterns of crime
          • Most crime is property crime because American society is so materialistic
          • Lower class crime rates are higher because they are most lacking in legitimate opportunities
        • Takes official crime statistics at face value
        • Marxists: ignores the power of the ruling class
        • Assumes there is a value consensus
        • Only accounts for utilitarian crime for monetary gain
        • Ignores the role of group deviance
    • Subcultural strain theories
      • A.K. Cohen: status frustration
        • Merton ignores that much deviance is committed in groups and focuses on utilitarian crime committed for monetary gain
        • Crime is a lower class phenomenon because of their inability to achieve mainstream success by legitimate means
        • W/C boys face anomie because they suffer from cultural deprivation and lack the skills to achieve
        • The criminal subculture inverts society's values, and instead its values are spite, malice, hostility and contempt for those outside it
        • The boys create their own illegitimate opportunity structure in which they can win status from their peers through their delinquent actions
        • Cohen assumes that W/C boys start off sharing M/C success goals only to reject them when they fail
      • Cloward and Ohlin: 3 subcultures
        • Attempt to explain why different subcultural responses occur
        • Crimianl subcultures, conflict subcultures, retreatist subcultures
        • Evaluation
          • Do not cover crimes of the wealthy
          • Fail to consider the wider power structure
          • South argues that they draw the boundaries too closely
          • Strain theories are criticised for being reactive because they explain subcultures as forming in reaction to the failure to achieve mainstream goals
          • Miller: what about independent subcultures?
          • Matza: members of subcultures drift in and out of delinquency
      • Recent strain theories
        • Young people might pursure: popularity with peers, autonomy from adults, or to be treated like 'real men'
        • M/C youths might be delinquent because they may too have problems achieveing such goals
        • Messner and Rosenfield: the American Dream's obsession with monetary success and its 'winner-takes-all' mentality exerts pressure to achieve these goals w/ an 'anything goes' mentality
          • Downes and Hansen: survey of crime rates and welfare spending in 18 countries found that societies that spent more on welfare had lower rates of imprisonment
        • Savelsberg: communism's collective values being replaced by new western capitalist goals of individual 'money success' led to a rise in crime in post-communist societies in eastern Europe


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