Outline and assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in explaining crime (A*)

Hello, this is my top marks essay for subcultural theories of crime that I wrote last year. Hope it helps!

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Outline and assess how useful subcultural theories are in explaining crime.
A subculture is a culture that exists within the dominant culture of a society. Therefore,
members of a subculture should have different norms and values to the rest of society, and
could be regarded as deviant because of this. Merton (1938), a functionalist sociologist, was
aware that not everyone in society shared the same beliefs and goals, however, his works
concentrated on the individual. He suggested that those lower down in a stratified society
had restricted goals. He developed `strain theory' and argued that there are five responses
to the value consensus, which are conformity; innovation, ritualism, retreatism; rebellion.
However, while Merton focuses on deviance as an individual response to anomie, subcultural
theory focuses on delinquency as a subcultural response.
Albert Cohen (1955) drew upon Merton's idea of strain. He states that working-class
youths share the success goals of mainstream culture, but they lack the means to achieve
these goals. They have failed in education, live in deprived areas and have very few job
opportunities, making it hard for them to achieve their goals. This leads to a sense of failure
and inadequacy, something Cohen calls `status frustration'. Their solution to the problem is
the development of a delinquent subculture that values toughness, aggression and
masculinity. This new subculture reverses the norms and values of society, what is regarded
as `good' for the majority becomes `bad' within the subculture, and vice versa. Cohen argues
that working-class culture is to blame, as young working-class males are not taught to value
school.
A strength of Cohen's theory is that, unlike Merton's, it explains working-class crime
as a subcultural response. However, Cohen assumes that working-class males aspire to the
same goals as middle-class males, but this is contradicted in Willis's study `Learning to
labour' (1977). The lads in his study did not share the same goals as the majority. In fact,
they saw educational failure as a success for them, because they wanted jobs in the local car
factory. Box (1981) agrees that most delinquents never accepted the mainstream goals in
the first place, and argues that Cohen's theory must only apply to a small minority of
delinquents. Cohen generalises too much about working-class culture and working-class
parents. He implies that all working-class parents do not value education or want their
children to do so.
Cloward and Ohlin (1960) argued that both Merton and Cohan had misunderstood
the function of subcultures for working-class youths. They developed the idea of an
`illegitimate opportunity structure', where some working-class youths who were involved in
subcultures could have access to an illegal career. According to Cloward and Ohlin, the illegal
opportunity structure had three possible subcultures within it (criminal, conflict and
retreatist). Criminal subcultures had role models and a hierarchy, conflict subcultures turned
to violence and were involved in `gang warfare', and retreatist subcultures consisted of
those individuals who didn't fit into the other two subcultures.
The work of Hobbs (1998) shows that there is a criminal opportunity structure
present and available to working-class youths, who perhaps do not share the norms and
values or the majority in society. He interviewed successful professional criminals, which
shows that it is possible to have a `career in crime'. However, there are problems with the
design of their `illegitimate opportunity structure'. Firstly, do delinquents all fit neatly into
three categories in real life, or do they perhaps drift through subcultures? Also, it is difficult
to clearly distinguish between the three groups, as elements of one may be found in
another.
Miller disagrees that subcultures develop as a reaction to not achieving in
mainstream society. Instead, he explains crime in terms of a distinctive working-class

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Miller argues that within
the lower-working-class culture there are a number of `focal concerns' which encourage
deviance. These focal concerns include a heightened sense of masculinity and an acceptance
of violence as a part of their day-to-day lives. His ideas suggest that it is conformity within
the subculture, rather than a rejection of mainstream values, that explains working-class
crime.
In his work, Lewis (1959) also described a `culture of poverty', which is characterised
by `fatalism' (one of Miller's focal concerns).…read more

Comments

Name24


Can you get an A* without a conclusion?

flowerbunny

Thanks for giving a template for me to structure my answers!

wngono

This a great suopportive resourcde which can be useful in order to support students when constructinbg top answers for the crime and devaince paper. The answer is clear and detailed clearly debating the issue although adding a conclusion would be useful but can easily be done by a student using the strongest supporting point and strongest critique. 

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