Evaluate the subcultural theories of crime.
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Evaluate the subcultural theories of crime.
Subcultural theories of crime and deviance explain deviance in terms of the subculture of a social group. The theories argue that particular groups develop and maintain norms and values that differ from those held by the majority of modern day western society.
Robert Merton argues that deviance results not only from \'pathological personalities\' but also from the culture and structure of society itself. Merton begins his contention from the standard functionalist position of value consensus, that is, all members of society share the same values. However, since members of society are placed in different positions in the social structure, they do not have the same opportunities as others of realising the shared values. According to Merton, this can cause deviance. "The social and cultural structure generates pressure for socially deviant behaviour upon people variously located in that structure."
In using the U.S.A in his example, Merton outlined his theory as follows: members of American society share the major values of American culture, particularly where they share the goal of success, for which they all strive to achieve, and which is largely measured in terms of wealth and material possessions. The "American Dream" states that all members of society have an equal opportunity of achieving success, of owning a Cadillac, a Beverley Hills mansion, and a substantial bank balance. In all societies there are institutionalised means of reaching culturally defined goals. In the U.S.A, the accepted methods of achieving success are through educational qualifications, talent, hard work, and ambition. In a balanced society an equal emphasis is placed upon both cultural goals, and institutionalised means, and members are satisfied with both, but in the U.S.A, a significant importance is attributed to success, and relatively little importance is given to accepted, and not necessarily legal, ways of attaining this success. As a result of this, American society is unstable and unbalanced. There also tends to be a high disregard for the \'rules of the game\', and to do your utmost to accomplish success by any possible means. The situation becomes similar to athletics, where winning becomes vital to an athlete, and they cheat to win, where rules are abandoned, mainly by drug-taking. When the rules cease to operate, a situation of \'anomie\' (or normlessness) results. In such situations, deviance is encouraged, and norms and values no longer direct behaviour. However, a person\'s reaction to a situation of anomie will be shaped by their position in the social structure.
Robert Merton outlined five ways in which members of society could respond to success goals:
Where members of a society conform to success goals, and also the normative means of reaching them. They strive or success by means of accepted and legal channels..
Secondly, there is the response of innovation. This means that the person rejects normative means of achieving success, and instead turns to deviant means of achieving success - mainly via crime. Merton argues that members of the lower social strata are most likely to adopt this route for they are less likely to attain success through conventional channels, because their educational achievements tend to be low, and so heir jobs provide few chances for advancement, and so there is a greater pressure upon them to deviate, for crime provides greater rewards to them than traditional means.
Merton uses the term ritualism to describe the third response. The people who fit into this category are deviant because they have, to a large extent, abandoned the widely held success goals. The majority of those in this alternative are members of the lower middle class, for their occupations provide a smaller chance of success than their upper middle class counterparts. However, they cannot turn to crime for they have been strongly socialized to conform to society\'s norms and values, and so unable to innovate, their only solution is to scale down their ambitions.
The fourth response is known as rebellion. This is a rejection of both success goals and institutionalised means, and replaces them with different goals and means. Those who adopt such beliefs want to create a new society, and Merton himself argues that it is "typically members of the rising class rather than the most depressed strata who organize the resentful and rebellious into a revolutionary group.
Merton terms the final, and least common
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Criminology, Sociology, Science, Deviance, Behavior, Subcultural theory, Subculture, Norm, Structural functionalism, Anomie, Deviant, Strain theory
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