Assess the Contribution of the Subcultural View to Explain Crime and Deviance. (33 Marks)

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Assess the contribution of the subcultural view to explain crime and deviance. (33 marks) A popular debate within society today is the contribution subcultural views have to explain crime and deviance. Subculturalists believe that crime and deviance is a collective activity rather that an individual one, for example, robbery. Subculturalists focus on working class criminal subcultures; a culture within a culture. One subculturalist that believes crime is a collective activity is Albert Cohen. Cohen argues that crime is a collective response to strain. Individuals join together and form a subculture to cope with the feelings of strain. Strain is the gap between society’s goals and legitimate means of achieving them. But due to poor educational achievement and low paid manual work they are unable to gain these goals. An example of this is Willis’ 12 lads and their ‘anti-school’ subculture. The strain makes working classes experience ‘status frustration’ due to the lack of power, respect and prestige that they receive and therefore they seek this through illegitimate means such as joyriding. This suggests that criminal gangs develop for more reasons than financial gain. From this it is clear that Albert Cohen agrees with the subculturalist view of crime being a collective activity. However, the work of Albert Cohen can be criticised by Merton. Merton argues that crime is an individual response to strain and not a collective one, which then leads to a sense of anomie/strain. He also says how capitalism has led to crime. Merton says there are 5 responses to anomie. These are conformists; people who conform to success through legitimate means, for example, working hard and buying a brand new car; innovators; people who reject normal ways of gaining success, and turn to deviance, for example, theft; ritualists abandon the idea to be successful, and lower their goals and
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