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Examine the Similarities and Differences Between Subcultural Theory and Strain Theory as Explanations for Deviant Behaviour

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Examine the Similarities and Differences Between Subcultural Theory and Strain Theory as Explanations for Deviant Behaviour Subcultural theory explains deviance in terms of the existence of social groups, which hold different values to that of mainstream society. Strain theory on the other hand, explains deviance in terms of people who are placed in a position where they are unable to conform to mainstream values, for example the lower classes. While strain theory doesn't use the term subcultures, it does however attempt to give reasons why some groups in society are more likely to be deviant. Merton (1938) attempted to expand on Durkheim's concept of anomie and explain what causes crime within society. He argued that society ascribed to a dominant value with was to 'get rich quick', however only the minority within society had the legitimate means to achieve this success; such as opportunities within education, talent and hard work. There was no equality within society to achieve success legitimately, therefore the majority became disenchanted with society and sought deviant ways of behaving. He argued that a sense of normlessness existed in society, which he termed as an anomic situation, and it was this that caused a strain within society. ...read more.


who applied their theories to subcultures. However where they criticised Merton was in his failing to recognise that an illegitimate opportunity structure existed in parallel with a legitimate opportunity structure. Cloward and Ohlin believed that, depending on socialisation there were 3 types of deviant subculture. Firstly the criminal subculture was the most successful in terms of illegitimate opportunity structures as it provided a chance for individuals to work their way up the criminal 'ladder', and also provided successful criminal role-models. They then posed the conflict subculture; where gangs were formed and violence sometimes erupted between rival gangs, e.g. gang warfare. The final subculture was the retreatist one, where there was no opportunity to enter the first two subcultures. Members felt like 'double failures' and turned to alcoholism and drug abuse. These concepts were mirrored by Sutherland and Cressey (1978), who argued that individuals learn to be criminal by mixing with others of similar interests and backgrounds, which then produces the delinquent sub-culture. Cloward and Ohlin however, were criticised for assuming the whole of society would fit into one of three kinds of subculture. ...read more.


Later work by Shaw and McKay explained the subcultures in Chicago with regard to cultural transmission, whereby as there were no socially accepted values, generation after generation were then socialised to hold deviant values, with crime as culturally acceptable. This is a view mirrored by Murray (1990), however he argues against the idea that environmental or structural issues within society cause this behaviour. Murray believes that there is a subculture at the lowest strata of society, called the underclass, that succeed in socialising generation after generation to hold the same deviant values. He argues, however, that this subculture exists by choice with members who have a work-shy attitude, loose morals and illegitimate children. Murray has been heavily criticised for his views as he fails to take into account issues like rising unemployment as a reason for deviant behaviour. In conclusion, subcultural and strain theories do have some similarities, and much of the subcultural theories posed, owe much to the original ideas of Merton. However they have expanded on his work to further explain acts such as violence and deviance without economic gain. It is therefore fair to say that strain and Subcultural theories share some similarities, yet their differences highlight that they are individual theories on their own right. ...read more.

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