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Evaluate subcultural explanations for crime and deviance

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Introduction

'Evaluate subcultural explanations for crime and deviance' Durkheim and Merton are generally regarded as the starting point for subcultural theories, more specifically with the concept of Anomie. It begins with the idea that deviance results from the culture and structure of society itself, with particular attention drawn to the class system. All members of society share the same values, but since they are placed in different positions, they do not have the same opportunity of realising the values. In illustration we can look towards the USA. The major value in this society was one of success, measured in terms of wealth and material possessions. However, those in a lower social position often resulted to deviant from the normative ways of achieving the goal, namely institutionalised means such as educational qualifications, due to having less opportunity in these areas. It was argued that this could result in a full rebellion whereby both the goal and norms to achieve it would be rejected, creating their own goals and means of achievement. However, some sociologists would criticise this analysis for assuming that there is a value consensus and that there is only one reason individuals may become deviant. Others criticise it for being too deterministic. ...read more.

Middle

Working class youths want to have status in their class as they are denied it elsewhere, thus conforming to these focal concerns. Functionalist theories have been commended because they highlight important links between the social structure and the cultural causes of crime and deviance. However, they have also been criticised because they fail to consider subcultural styles and meanings. They also neglect to consider the ways in which crime and deviance is socially constructed by various agencies of social control. Functionalist subcultural theories have also been criticised for readily accepting official statistics on crime, and therefore fails to explain higher class crime and neglect female delinquency. Matza rejects the ideas that delinquents are distinctly different from mainstream society and that certain individuals were determined to be involved in deviance. Matza argued that delinquents were similar to everyone else in society in their values and voiced similar feelings of dislike towards crime in general as the majority of society. Matza points out that when delinquents are caught, they express feelings of remorse and extend justifications to their acts, showing that they care and know that what they are doing is wrong. Matza argued that there are two levels of values, the first level being the ones which guide people most of the time - these are seen to be 'good'. ...read more.

Conclusion

This can be illustrated with recent employment and trade union laws that control the activities of the powerless. Laws implemented by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s undermined trade union power by limiting numbers on picket lines and requiring secret ballots before strikes. Furthermore, he points out that most laws protect property and money. A person who robs a bank could go to prison longer than a person who commits murder. Pearce also suggests that the extent and distribution of crime and deviance is socially constructed. He maintains that the law is selectively enforced so that powerless groups are more likely to be policed, arrested, and prosecuted than powerful groups. This can be illustrated with a comparison of social security and tax fraud. The cost of tax fraud is four times the cost of dole fraud, yet there are sixteen times more prosecutions for dole fraud than tax fraud. He goes on to argue that selective law enforcement serves to create the belief that crime is a working class problem and therefore directs attention away from crimes committed by powerful groups. It is also said to reduce working class solidarity (togetherness) by creating the belief that working class criminals are the 'enemy' rather than the bourgeoisie who exploit them on a daily basis. As we can see, there are different ways to approach subcultural theories. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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