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Critically examine the different ways in which sociologist have used the concept subculture to explain deviance.

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Critically examine the different ways in which sociologist have used the concept subculture to explain deviance (40marks) Subcultural theories of crime and deviance explain deviance in terms of the subculture of a social group. The theories argue that particular groups develop and maintain norms and values that differ from those held by the majority of modern day western society. This approach does not ignore the importance of social structure but sees it as a background to beliefs about the world. It heavily influences by the social action theory. There are a number of subcultral theories of deviance which attempt to explain forms of collective, non-utilitarian deviance in terms of the formation of subcultures. Robert Merton argues that deviance results not only from 'pathological personalities' but also from the culture and structure of society itself. Merton begins his argument from the standard functionalist position of value consensus, that all members of society share the same values. However, since members of society are placed in different positions in the social structure, they do not have the same opportunities as others of realising the shared values. ...read more.


However, they cannot turn to crime for they have been strongly socialized to conform to society's norms and values, and so unable to innovate, their only solution is to scale down their ambitions. Merton terms the final, and least common response as retreatism. It applies to the most 'different' members of society, such as "psychotics, alcoholics, and drug addicts." They have strongly internalised both cultural goals, and also the institutionalised means, but are unable to achieve success, abandon all ambition, and as a result, drop out of society, prepared to accept to failure. Several critics have attacked Robert Merton's theories, for neglecting the power relationships in society as a whole, within which deviance and conformity occur. Cohen's work was in fact a change and improvement of Merton's beliefs and position. From his own studies of delinquency, he pointed out two significant criticisms of Merton's position on working class deviance, Weber objected functionalism idea. He argued that delinquency is a collective rather than an individual response, and secondly Cohen argued that Merton failed to account for non-utilarian crime - such as vandalism which does not produce economic reward. ...read more.


The criminal subculture, where they tend to emerge in areas where there is an recognized pattern of organized adult crime. In such areas a learning environment exists for the young, and they are exposed to criminal skills and deviant values. Conflict subcultures, which tend to develop in areas where young people have little opportunity for access to dishonest opportunity structures. Their final subculture is known as the retreatist subculture. They claim this is mainly based around illegal drug use, because they failed to succeed in all social structures, and, in this sense, are seen as double failures. This theory is also associated with ecological approaches. This refers to the sociological study undertaken by the University of Chicago to look at the pattern of crime and deviance. The creation of Chicago School is to see the breaking off point in contemporary criminology and deviance. In conclusion, the subcultural theories claim that deviance is the result of individuals compliant to the values and norms of the social group to which they belong. On the other hand, structural theories of deviance explain the start of deviance in terms of the position of individuals or groups in the social structure. ...read more.

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