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Crime and Deviance - Theoretical Perspectives - Subcultural Theories

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Stephen Rooney Sociology: Crime and Deviance Theoretical Perspectives: Subcultural Theories * Highlight marginal groups in society, such as young working class males living in urban areas. * They explain deviance and criminality in terms of gangs and peer group influences, masculinity and a sense of rejection by the wider society, one outcome being educational failure. * Subcultures are usually defined as those groups which are in some way antagonistic to mainstream values but which do not prove head-on opposition e.g. Mods and Rockers, punks, skinheads etc. Eventually they 'grow up' and become adults. * Some groups are antagonistic to the wider society and want to overthrow it or change it by revolutionary and/or violent means. Such groups are referred to as countercultures. * Groups, which reject mainstream society but create their own separate alternative, are called countercultures. ...read more.


Evaluating Cohen's views * A number of ethnographic studies have provided support for Cohen's views, including James Patrick's A Glasgow Gang Observed (1973) David Hargreave et al.'s Deviance in the classroom (1975) Paul Willis' Learning to Labour (1977) Stephen Ball's Beachside comprehensive (1981) * There are still assumptions in this approach of some sort of dominant value system that is rejected by delinquent youth. More relativistic theories, such as those within an interpretative framework, question such views and deny commonality of values, which we all aspire to or reject. * The invisibility of females in the studies Cloward and Ohlin * Addressed similar issues to Cohen and developed aspects of subcultural theory linking his work to Merton's concept of anomie. * Identified three levels of deviance Criminal subculture Occurs in areas with an already established criminal underworld where in effect young men are 'apprentice criminals' from an early age. ...read more.


* Cohen sees lower working class males delinquency as a reflection of structural forces that are beyond their control. * Looks at Subterranean values, this is where common values are replaced by opposite ones. * Another concept introduced by Matza is techniques of neutralisation which applies to how people explain their seemingly untypical behaviour e.g. 'I was drunk at the time' * Suggests youth drift into situations 'we were just out for a laugh'. Evaluatin Matza's work * Addressed the shortcomings of structuralist approach and its tendency to see things in deterministic terms * Involves dimension of free will but still recognises structural constraints * Critics pointed out the difficulty in pin pointing the concept of drifting for research purposes. * Does not give valid data because often respondants give 'approved of' accounts ...read more.

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