Outline and Assess How Useful Subcultural Theories Are in Explaining Crime.

In: Social Issues

Submitted By mandi17
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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…...

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