Cohen - The Delinquent Subculture


Modification and development of Merton:

- Delinquency is a collective response to class position

- Merton failed to account for crimes which don't attempt to increase wealth e.g. vandalism

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Status frustration

Working class boys are socialised into the success goals of mainstream culture but educational failure make these unnattainable. With avenues to success blocked, status frustration results. 

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Alternative status hierarchy

Status frustration is resolved by rejecting the success goals of mainstream culture and replacing them with an alternative set of norms and values in terms of which they can achieve success and gain prestige.

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Delinquent subculture

A collective solution to the common problems of working class adolescents.

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Delinquent subculture part two

Mainstream norms and values are inverted  e.g. high value placed on stealing

These types of acts offer high rewards and great prestige and prowess may be gained from performing the values of the subculture well, solving the problem of status frustration. 

Mainstream values are rejected which offer little chance of success, and are replaced by devaint values in which they can become successful, explaining non-monetary crime.

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Structural perspective

Cohen's ideas are based on the structual persepctive (like Merton), however he see's some delinquency as a collective response directed by subcultural values. 

The pressure from the social structure to deviate is reinforced by pressure from the deviant subculture. 

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It offers an explanation for non-monetary crime, however assumes that working class boys start off sharing middle class success goals and reject these when they fail.

Box doubts that most delinquent youths orginally accept, before inverting mainstream values. They feel resentment at being regarded as failures by teachers and middle class youths whose values they don't share and cannot accept. They turn against those who disrespect and look down on them. 

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