Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories 2

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  • Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories 2
    • A.K. Cohen: status frustration
      • Much deviance results from the l/c inability to achieve mainstream success goals by legitimate means like education.
      • But disagrees with Merton as he sees deviance as an individual response to strain, ignoring the group deviance of delinquent subcultures.
      • Merton also focuses on utilitarian crime (money-related)  and ignores non-utilitarian crimes (assault).
      • Cohen notes, w/c boys face anomie in the m/c education system.
      • They are culturally deprived and lack the skills to achieve, leaving them at the bottom of the official status hierarchy.
      • As a result, they suffer status frustration, which they resolve by rejecting mainstream m/c values and turn to others in the same situation, forming a subculture.
      • Subcultures offer an illegitimate opportunity structure for boys who have failed to achieve legitimately.
      • Provides an alternative status hierarchy  where they can win status through delinquent actions.
      • Its values are spite, malice, hostility and contempt for those outside it. It inverts mainstream values e.g. society respects property, the boys gain status from vandalising it.
      • Cohen assumes w/c boys start off sharing m/c success goals, only to reject them when they fail. He ignores the possibility that they never shared these goals and so weren't reacting to failure.
    • Cloward & Ohlin: three subcultures
      • Agree with Merton that w/c youths are denied legitimate opportunities to achieve and that their deviance stems from their response to this.
      • But notes that not everyone adapts to this by turning to 'innovation' as some subcultures resort to violence and drug use.
      • Key reason to this is the unequal access to illegitimate opportunity structure, e.g. not everyone who fails at school can become a successful safe-cracker.
      • Different neighbourhoods provide different illegitimate opportunities. They identify three types of subcultures.
      • 1. Criminal subcultures - provides youths with an apprenticeship in utilitarian crime. Arise in neighbourhoods with a long-standing. stable criminal culture and a hierarchy of professional adult crime.
      • 2. Conflict subcultures - arise in areas of high population turnover that prevent a stable professional criminal network developing. Legitimate opportunities are within loosely organised gangs.
      • 3. Retreatist subcultures - 'double failures' who fail in both legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structures and turn to 'drop-out' subculture based on illegal drug use.
      • South - shows that the drug trade combines the 'disorganised' crume of gangs (conflict subculture) with the organised 'mafia-style' professional crime (criminal subculture).
      • Ignores crimes of the wealthy and the wider power structure, and over predicts the amount of w/c crime.
      • They try to explain different types of w/c deviance in terms of different subcultures, unlike Cohen.
      • Draw boundaries too sharply between the types. Actual subcultures often show characteristics of more than one 'type'.
      • Cohen and Cloward & Ohlin's theories are reactive - they explain deviant subcultures as forming in reaction to the failure to achieve mainstream success goals, wrongly assuming they start off with the same goals.


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