Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories

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  • Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories
    • Durkheim's functionalist theory of crime
      • Crime is inevitable and universal- its a normal and healthy part of society. In every society, some individuals are inadequately socialised and therefore are prone to deviate. In modern scoieties, there's highly specialised division of labour and diversity of subcultures, people become increasingly different to each other and the shared rules become less clear cut. this is what Durkheim call Anomie (normlessness)
      • Boundary maintenance- crime can produce a reaction from society, uniting its members against the wrongdoer and reinforcing the value consensus. It is the function of punishment to reaffirm the shared rules and reinforce solidarity.
      • Adaption and change- for change to occur, individuals must challenge the existing norms and will at first appear deviant. If this is suppressed, society will be unable to make change and will stagnate.
      • Other positive functions of crime- Asafety valve: Davis argues prostitution releases men's sexual frustration without threatening the nuclear family. Warning light: A.K Cohen argues deviance indicates an institution isn't functioning properly.
      • Criticisms: Durkheim claims society needs a certain amount of deviance and crime, but he never specifies how much is enough. Durkheim explains crime in terms of its function but just because crime does this, doesn't necessarily mean this is why it exists in the first place.
    • Merton's strain theory
      • The American Dream- emphasises money success, all Americans expected to pursue this by legitimate means. The ideology claims the society is meritocratic, but its actually full of problems like poverty and discrimination that block success for many. Resulting strain between money success and the legitmate means by which Americans are expected to achieve them produces frustration and pressure to resort to illegitimate means. The pressure is increased by the AMerican cutlure putting more emphasis on achieving success at any cost rather than by doing it via legitimate means.
      • Deviant adaptions to strain
        • Conformity- Individual accepts culturally approved goals and acieves them through legitimate means.
        • Innovation- Accepts money success goal but uses illegitimate means to achieve it.
        • Ritualism- Gives up on the goal, but have internalised the legitimate means so follow the rules.
        • Retreatism- Reject both the goal and legitimate means and drop out of society.
        • Rebellion- Replace existing goal s and means with new ones with the aim of bringing about social change.
      • Strengths- Shows how both normal and deviant behaviour can arise from the same mainstream goal, e.g. conformists and innovators. He explains the pattern in offical stats, most crime is property crime (American society values material wealth highly). Working class rates are higher, they have the least opportunity to achieve legitimately.
      • Subculturaly strain theory criticises and builds on Merton's theory.See deviance as the product of delinquent subcultures, which offer WC members a solution to the problem of how to gain status.
    • A.K Cohen: Status Frustration
      • Ciritcises Merton- He says Merton ignores group deviance of delinquent subcultures. Merton ignores non-utilitarian crimes (assualt, vandalism), which may have no economic motive.
      • Agrees much deviance results from WC's unability to achieve the goals legitimately.
      • Cohen notes WC boys face Anomie in MC education: they are culturally deprived and lack the skills to achieve, leaving them at the bottom of the offical hierarchy. As result, they suffer status frustration, the resolve this rejecting mainstream MC values and turn to others in the same situation, forming a subculture.
      • Alternative status hierarchy- A subculture offers an illegitmate opportunity foy boys who have failed to achieve legitimately. Their values are based on spite, malice, hostility and contempt for those outside it. They invert mainstream values.
    • Cloward and Ohlin: three subcultures
      • Agree with merton that that WC youths denied legitimate opporunities to achieve and deivance stems from this.However, they add not everyone adapts in the same way to this situation. Some subcultures resort to violence, others to drug use.
      • The key reason for these differences is unequal access to the legitimate opportunity structure, and unequal access to illegitimate opportunity structures.
      • Different neighborhoods offer diffeent illegitimate opportunities for criminal skiils to develop, three subcultures have been identified.
        • Criminal Subcultures: Provides apprenticeships for youths on utilitarian crime. These only occur in places with a longstanding, stable criminal network with an established professional criminal hierarchy.It allows the young to associate with the adult criminals, who can select the right skills and focus them on a particular criminal career, and they can climb the criminal career ladder.
        • Conflict Subcultures: These arise in places of high population turnover, which results in high levels of social disorganisation, which prevents professional criminal networks from developing.Without it, the only illegitimate opportunites are available within loosely organised gangs. Violence is used as a release from young men's frustration at their blocked opportunities, as well as winning 'turf' from other gangs, gaining them status.
        • Retreatist Subcultures: Not everyone who aspires to be a professional criminal or gang member actually succeeds, similar to the legitimate opportunity structure. These people are known as 'double failures', who often turn to illegal drug use.
      • Evaluation: They agree with Merton and Cohen that most crime is WC, so ignore MC crime.             Their theory is too deterministic and over-predicts the extent of WC crime. They assume everyone who is WC will go on to commit crime, which isn't the case.              They agree with Cohen that delinquent subcultures are the main source of deviance, inlike Cohen they give an explanation for the differing types of WC crime with regards to the subcultures.
      • Nigel South (1997)- found drug trade is a mixture of disorganised and organised crime, suggesting Cloward and Ohlin make the distinction between hte two type too clear cut, which isn't the case. Likewise, 'retreatist' users are also professional dealers, which is not taken for account of in Cloward and Ohlins view.
      • Evaluation: Starin theories have been called reactive theories of subculture, as they explain deviant subcultures in reaction to failure in mainstream goals. They have been criticised for assuming everyone will start off sharing the same goal of success.
    • Institutional Anomie Theory
      • Like Merton's theory, Messner and Rosenfeld's theory focuese on the American Dream. the obsession with wealth and successexerts 'pressure' towards crimeby encouraging an amonic culture where people are encouraged to adopt an 'anything goes' mentality in the pursuit of wealth.
      • In America, economic goals are above all others, and this undermines some institutions like schools. Schools are preparing the young for the labour market at the expense of respect for others. This makes it harder for schools to exertsocial control over the pupils. Messner and Rosenfeld conclude in societies of free-market capitalism and lacking adequate welfare provisions, high rates of crime are inevitable.


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