Sociology Crime and Deviance Subcultural Theorists

Unit 4 Subcultural Theorists

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  • Created on: 02-06-12 16:04

A.K Cohen

Agrees deviance is from lower classes' inability to achieve goals.

Criticises Merton (Strain theory)--> Merton sees deviance as an individual response to strain, ignoring group deviance and non-utilitarian crimes, e.g. assault, vandalism.

A.K. COHEN argue that working class boys face anomie in middle class education system--> culturally deprived--> lack the skills to achieve-->leading to status frustration.

To resolve the cultural deprivation, they reject mainstream middle class values and form subculture (innovation, retreatism, rebellion)

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A.K Cohen Continued

Argues that subcultures offer illegitimate opportunity structure for boys, which provides an alternative hierachy to win status delinquently.


  • Offers explanation of non-utilitarian deviance
  • Assumes w/c boys start of sharing m/c success goals, only to reject them when they fail, however, they could never have shared the girls in the first place, so werent reacting to failure.
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Cloward and Ohlin

Agree with Merton, w/c youths are denied legitimate opportunities to achieve.

However--> not everyone adapts to a lack of legitimate opportunities by innovating. Subcultures:

  • CRIMINAL--> arise in neighbourhoods where the is stable criminal culture and hierachy of adult crime, provide opportunities for youth.
  • CONFLICT--> prevent stable criminal network. Violence provides a release for frustration and alternative source of status earned by winning 'turf' from gangs (rivals)
  • RETREATIST--> fail in legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structure to go to drugs.


  • ignores crimes of the wealthy
  • It does explain different types of w/c deviance(subcultures)
  • Draw boundaries too sharply between different types. Actual subcultures show characteristics of more than one 'type'.
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