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Outline and evaluate the usefulness of subcultural approaches to the study of crime and deviance

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Introduction

"Outline and evaluate the usefulness of subcultural approaches to the study of crime and deviance." When studying Crime and Deviance, Subcultural approaches can be very helpful. In this essay, I plan to discuss the different strands of subcultural theory, including Differential Association, Cultural transmission and Status Frustration. I will evaluate these theories with other theories such as Durkheim's Strain Theory and Internationalism. I will then draw a conclusion based on what I have written. Cultural transmission is the process by which a set of values that allow Crime and deviance to take place are passed on through generations. This idea was developed by Shaw & McKay (1942), and they suggest that in the most disorganised and poor areas of the city, successful criminals are providing a role model for younger generations. They argue that this younger generation is socialised into believing that criminal behaviour is normal and easily achieved. This theory can be linked to the family topic in the sense that this is the primary location where socialisation takes place. The key functionalist thinker, Robert Merton, would highly criticise the theory of subcultural transmission by using his own Strain Theory. In this, Merton suggests that people are socialised into wanting particular things, such as nice houses or cars, etc. However, the majority of people lack the means to achieve these goals. According to Merton, it is this that causes a strain in the structure of society (I.e. ...read more.

Middle

Therefore, Durkheim would argue that the Differential Association theory was incorrect in its explanation why Crime and Deviance occurs. Although Durkheim's theory does not provide an explanation for the existence of crime & deviance, so it would appear that Differential Association Theory is more useful. Cohen drew on Merton's strain theory to develop Status Frustration. Cohen was interested in the fact that not all crimes are committed for economic gain, for example, vandalism. Cohen suggested that working class boys strive to copy middle class norms and values, but lack the means to achieve success. This leads them into believing that they are failures. From this, they reject those ideologies of normal behaviour in an attempt to cover humiliation and gain status, they engage in crime and anti-social behaviour. The most obvious link that can be make from this theory is to Education, since the labelling of working class boys within the education system would increase the probability of their failing. This would add to the feeling of worthlessness & result in crime and deviance. A synoptic link can also be make to Phenomenology, in that because Cohen looks at individuals rather than the wider social structure, it is more likely that he would use phenomenological methods in his research, i.e., collect qualitative data (data which is hand-written, for example, a diary). (So what conclusion do you draw from this?) ...read more.

Conclusion

Interactionists would criticise this theory by saying that it is incorrect about the causes of crime and deviance, and that it operates on the basis that all criminals are people who've broken the law, which is far too simplistic. Internactionists suggest that it is far more important to look at the context of the situation that the crime was committed in, and people's reactions to the crime, to better understand and explain it. This leads to the Labelling theory. This is where people may interpret an individual's actions as deviant, and then label that person as a criminal. This label would most likely turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the labelled individual internalises and accepts the label, eventually becoming a criminal. In conclusion, Subcultural theories can be very helpful when studying crime and deviance as they provide causes and different ways of studying it. However, since there are such a variety of opinions within the theories, it is difficult to pick out one that is the most or least helpful, and so the study of crime and deviance when using subcultural theories can sometimes become confusing. An advantage of subcultural theories for some sociologists is that the majority of them study crime and deviance using phenomenological methods, collecting quantitative data. In my own opinion, I believe that the most useful subcultural theory is Differential Association. (Say why!) However, overall I believe that subcultural theories are not as useful as other theories, such as Interactionism, when studying Crime and Deviance. ...read more.

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