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Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in understanding crime and deviance

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Introduction

Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in understanding crime and deviance In assessing the usefulness of subcultural theories it is first important to understand what subcultural theories are - they are an explanation of deviance in terms of the subculture of a social group arguing that certain groups develop norms and values which are to some extent different from those held by other members of society. So, to assess the usefulness of subcultural theories we are now able to look at the different types of subculture theories, what they tell us and the sociologists point of view such as Cohen and Miller. To a certain extent I believe they are useful but both sides of the argument must be looked at and this must be looked at in further detail to understand how useful they really are... Some groups of criminals or delinquents might develop norms that encourage and reward criminal activity. Other members of society may regard such activities as immoral, and strongly disapprove of them. Subcultural theories claim that deviance is the result of individuals conforming to the values and norms of the social group to which they belong. ...read more.

Middle

They turn against those who look down on them; they will not tolerate the way they are insulted. Also, David Bordua (1962) argued that he used it to explain the educational failure of lower-working-class youngsters, with the notion of cultural deprivation, but he did not use it to explain delinquency. Thus, whereas cultural deprivation is passed on from one generation to the next, this does not seem to happen with the delinquent subculture. Despite such criticisms, Cohen's ideas continue to offer insights into delinquency. Even Cohen's critics would generally accept that the search for status remains an important factor in the formation of delinquent subcultures. In Delinquency and Opportunity the American sociologists Cloward and Ohlin combined and developed many of the insights of Merton and Cohen (Cloward and Ohlin, 1961). While largely accepting Merton's view of working-class criminal deviance, they argued that he had failed to explain the different forms that deviance takes. Cloward and Ohlin argued that Merton had only dealt with half the picture. He had explained deviance in terms of the legitimate opportunity structure but he failed consider the illegitimate opportunity structure. ...read more.

Conclusion

He claimed that their values and way of life, which are passed on from generation to generation, actively encourage lower-class men to break the law. The other theory is the underclass theory coming from Charles Murray (1990) Of the New Right. Murray suggests that both in the USA and the UK there exists an 'underclass' a distinct lower-class grouping that subscribes to 'deviant' rather than mainstream values which it transmits to its children. Critics of Murray argue that he is scapegoating the poor for the effects of structural constraints such as economic recession which are well beyond their control. Murray's theory is accused of negatively labelling a section of the poor for their poverty, which results in their over-policing. There is no empirical evidence for the existence of an underclass that subscribes to fundamentally different values. So we are clearly provided with a comprehensive look at subcultural theories through several sociologists such as Murray. Not surprisingly there are some criticisms of these theories but this does not mean that they are not useful. Of course both sides of the argument must be looked but there is sufficient work given to tell us that despite some criticisms and some other points of view as shown, subcultural theories are indeed useful in understanding crime and deviance for the reasons stated. ...read more.

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