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Before I attempt to discuss the above statement I feel it is important to define what is meant by contemporary society. The term contemporary society may be defined as a group of interacting people who share a geographical region, a sense of common identity, and a common culture which belongs to the same period of time, usually in the last 10 years. This therefore means that it is a modern group of people following a common meaning (7)(Wikianswers 2008). To evaluate whether choice is now more limited in contemporary society it will be necessary to contrast it with various sections of society from previous decades. I will attempt to give a relative analysis by using various sections of society that have been covered in three different sections of this course.

Firstly I will look at the effects that the area of crime may have upon choice. The famous Chicago School of Sociology academics like Shaw & McKay and others studied young male delinquents in American cities in the 1920’s.  The early twentieth century was a time of high migration. Immigrant groups moved from the slums areas as soon as financially possible towards the suburbs and were replaced by new arriving poor immigrants. Crime rates remained high in the slum areas but were reduced in the suburbs suggesting that it was the environment responsible for crime rates rather than a particular immigrant group. In the slum areas Shaw and his collaborators through methods like participant observation found young men had formed gangs which had there own distinctive sub-cultures where criminal behaviour was an accepted norm. These youths had been involved in a culture in which delinquent behaviour is prescribed and criminally defined behaviour patterns are acquired in a social and cultural setting (1)(Quinney).

It could be argued that because the choices of youths are limited crime gang culture seems attractive. This theory was criticised because it didn’t explain why every youth did not join a criminal gang and also with participant observation there is a risk of influencing the people you are studying. Ploscowe partly criticised the schools theory for not placing enough emphasis on other factors. “ The soundest approach to the problem of the causation of crime therefore lies through a study of the individual criminal in relation to all the social and environmental factors which have an influence on his personality” (1)(Ploscowe, 1931, p17 cited in Quinney).  More recent studies have shown that gang culture remains a popular choice for young people in poor areas. Gang leaders become role models due to having high status through power and access to money. Education and other aspects of society are rejected by gang members. Choices are   limited to what is acceptable to the norms and values within the gang. (2)(Smith). Media headlines have recently been made by an apparent increase in knife crime and violence in Britain. Whether there is an actual increase or not the increased reporting can create a fear in society. People may chose to stay in at night, stay away from certain areas and not answer the door. (3)(Collins et al).

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The extent of choice we have in society plays an important role in the identities that we choose. Our identity is however not only influenced by our personal choices. The degree of agency that we have over our identities is also controlled by the social structures like class, occupation, gender, nationality and education. Changes within these social structures can bring uncertainty to ones identity and the choices we make. (4)(Woodward). Class in particular can hugely influence the neighbourhood we grow up in, the schools and universities we attend or even end up in prison. Despite 11 years of ...

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