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Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in understanding crime & deviance

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Introduction

Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in understanding crime & deviance There are a number of sociological theories, which strive to understand a cause for crime and deviance. Subcultural theorists posit the idea that there is nothing "wrong " with criminals and those who commit deviant acts. Instead, they advocate an alternative set of values or a "subculture". The first theorist to use the idea of subculture is Albert Cohen (1955). Cohen was of the belief that "status frustration" is the motive behind delinquent acts. This means that those who feel looked down upon and those who feel that they are denied social status. Thus, they formulate their own dissimilar set of values, as a kind of alternative route to gaining status. Secondly, Cloward and Ohlin (1961) suggest that there is an illegitimate opportunity structure, which runs parallel to the legal one. It operates on three levels; criminal subculture; conflict subculture; and retreatist subculture. ...read more.

Middle

So, the hippies then formed subcultures, which they would use to rebel, against the police. Within these subcultures, consumption of drugs was the norm and therefore, in this sense the deviant behaviour was legitimised. As Becker suggests, being part of a criminal subculture completes a criminal career. However, many consider Young's findings to be heavily flawed. Young only studies the effects of being caught and does not consider why people commit crimes in the first place anyway. Young also fails to place any blame on the criminals themselves and instead places complete blame on the police and other agents of social control. Young's results have been collected from a very small sample, which detracts from the study's reliability. Paul Willis in "Learning To Labour", recognised two different subcultures within a school whilst studying the education system. The first he found was a "lobes" subculture, which was made up of those who concurred with school and worked hard in order to obtain high status occupations. ...read more.

Conclusion

This detracts from the reliability of the study. Additionally, Willis only used one school to conduct his study whereas a whole range of schools from across the country would have produced different results that might not have necessarily support the findings of Willis after research in just one school. Willis' study has also been accused of being very patriarchal, as he chooses to exclude girls from his study. He therefore seems to ignore the part of women in crime and deviance. Although subcultural theories do provide a significant understanding of crime and deviance they do not state why some others who are outside these subcultures commit crimes. The subcultural sociologists also overlook the fact that the majority of people who face some level of unjustness, conform and do not enter into illegitimate lifestyles. Therefore, one cannot rely upon subcultural theories alone to understand crime and deviance although if a sociologist combined subcultural theories of crime and deviance with other sociological theories on crime and deviance then he or she will gain a much broader, clearer and more accurate understanding of crime and deviance. ...read more.

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