Crime and deviance are a result of a strain between the goal of ‘money success’ and the socially approved means of achieving it”. Assess this view

Crime and deviance are a result of a strain between the goal of ‘money success’ and the socially approved means of achieving it”. Assess this view (21 marks)

I got an A on this essay ^_^

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"Crime and deviance are a result of a strain between the goal of `money success' and
the socially approved means of achieving it". Assess this view (21 marks)
Robert Merton, a functionalist sociologist who elaborated on Durkheim's work, agreed with the view
that crime and deviance are the result of strain between the goal of money success and the socially
approved ways of achieving it. In fact, Merton formed his own theory about crime and deviance and
why it occurs within society ­ the strain theory. This theory suggests why certain members of society,
predominantly the working class, turn to committing criminal acts and behaving in a deviant manner.
According to Merton's strain theory, individual members of the working class who cannot achieve a
certain goal within society ­ these goals are ones which have has a strong emphasis place on them by
society, such as money success ­ react by turning to criminal and deviant acts. Merton's strain theory
therefore supports the view that crime and deviance are the result of strain between the goal of
money success and the social approved ways of achieving it.
Merton goes on to further explain why the working class, who cannot achieve the goal of money
success, turn to crime. According to Merton, members of the working class are less likely to gain the
skills and qualifications which are needed to achieve an adequate education and therefore money
success; this may be due to material deprivation or a lack of cultural capital (Bernstein). As a result of
these individuals lacking the skills and qualifications needed to achieve within society, they are more
likely to seek an alternative route in which they can achieve money success; this is due to the strain
(which Merton referred to as anomie) which is creates a feeling of frustration which then goes on
pressure these working class individuals to act in a criminal and deviant manner. According to Merton,
this deviant behaviour can be shown in five ways; conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism or
rebellion. The strain theory therefore supports the view that crime and deviance are the result of a
strain between the goal of money success and the socially approved ways of achieving it.
Cohen agrees with Merton's claims that crime and deviance is largely committed by the working
class, however, he disagrees with the view that crime and deviance is the result of strain between
the goal of money success and the socially approved ways of achieving it. Cohen would disagree with
Merton's idea that crime and deviance only occurs amongst individuals within the working class and
not amongst certain groups, i.e. subcultures. Cohen also criticises Merton's suggestion that all crime
has a utilitarian (money) basis; this fails to acknowledge crimes such as vandalism and graffiti which
are not committed on order to gain money. Cohen's criticisms of Merton's strain theory make it clear
that Cohen rejects the view that crime and deviance are the result of strain between the goal of
money success and the socially approved ways of achieving it.
Cohen suggested his own theory as to why individuals commit criminal and deviant acts within
society. According to Cohen, the goal of `money success' is not one which is shared by the whole of
society, but rather the desire to achieve some form of status amongst one's peers is a universal one.
Cohen suggested that individuals and subcultures within the working class, who lack the skills and
qualifications required to succeed, feel that they are at the bottom of a status hierarchy and
therefore suffer from status frustration; this then results in them acting in a deviant or criminal
manner in order to achieve a form of status in the eyes of their peers. Cohen's theory about status
frustration therefore disagrees with the view that crime and deviance are the result of strain
between the goal of money success and a socially approved means of achieving it.
Another theory which explains crime and deviance is the subcultural theory which was suggested by
Cloward and Ohlin; this theory take both Merton's strain theory and Cohen's idea of status
frustration into account. They agree that youths within the working class lack legitimate opportunities
which offer them `money success' and this is what results in them acting in a criminal and deviant way.
Cloward and Ohlin claim that the working class consists of three main subcultures (groups within
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According to Cloward and Ohlin, these
subcultures react in different way to their lack of legitimate opportunities. This results in them
accessing illegitimate opportunities by which to achieve their money success. This theory therefore
rejects the idea that crime and deviance are the result of strain between the goal of money success
and a socially approved means if achieving it.…read more

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