However subcultural theorists developed this idea claiming that people experiencing strain seek different forms of success. More specifically Cloward and Ohlin put forward the idea of the 'illegitimate opportunity structure’, which they used to explain subcultural crime. This structure was operable outside of the mainstream structure and ultimately lead to the attainment of success and money through deviant means. For example, Cloward and Ohlin argued that organized crimes such as the drugs trade could be explained by failures in mainstream capitalism. Cloward and Ohlin argue, that the majority of criminals involved in the drugs trade were unable to succeed within capitalism and were driven to an illegitimate means of obtaining wealth.
Both Dan Gardner’s “The Missing Piece of the Gang-Violence Debate” and Bruce K. Alexander and Stefa Shaler’s “Addiction in Free Markets” see drugs as a social problem. However, while they hold the view that drugs are not the main problem which encourage addiction and bloodshed respectively, Alexander and Shaler focus mainly on dislocation, while Gardner focuses on black market created by outlawing of drugs. Alexander and Shaler center on social dislocation merging into a free-market system which makes individuals insignificant. Gardner argues that drug addiction causes the social problems of urban violence and homicide. While these differences shape the essays’ handling of development and detail, the authors’ main ideas are contradictory.
It does however explain why some people or actions are described as deviant, and can help in understanding crime and deviance. According to item A labelling has changed the theoretical base for the study of criminals. Becker emphasises the significance of crime being a social construct; an action only becomes criminal or deviant once society has labelled it so, and that crime can be argued to be a social construction. He introduced the concept of a master label, referring to the label which a person is given which overrides all other labels. When a person is labelled as negatively, society tends to tend them as such, and this master label often becomes internalised, and then a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs.
Crime is defined as an infraction of criminal law. Jary and Jary (2000). In Sociology: A New Approach, Haralambos et al. (1986) crime is further defined as an act which breaks the law and is subject to punishment. Crime and deviance are culturally defined and therefore relative, as a culture evolves so do definitions of both deviance and crime.
In this essay we will assess the usefulness of these functionalist theories, and look at how it helps us explain crime. One functionalist who tried to explain crime is Merton and his strain theory, the strain theory argues that people engage in the deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means. Merton explanation combines 2 elements; structural factors- society’s unequal opportunity structure, cultural factors- strong emphasis to achieve goals and weak emphasis on using legit means. Merton uses the strain theory to explain some patterns of crime in society, he argues a person’s positioning in society affects the way they adapt or respond to the strain to anomie. Merton gives 5 different types of adaption; Conformity- the individual accepts socially acceptable goal and achieves it through legitimate means, Innovation- Individual accepts the role of success and wealth but uses illegitimate means to achieve them, Ritualism- Individual give up on legitimate goals but still follow strictly to the rules, Retreatism- Individuals reject legitimate goals and means of achieving them e.g drug addicts, the final type is Rebellion- Individuals reject existing goals and means but replace them with new one in desire to bring about revolutionary change.
The Marxist approach as an explanation of crime and deviance concentrates on the unfair nature of the capitalist society in which we live and how it drives individuals into a life of crime. Marxism is criticised by other theories that do not share their opinion on capitalism – this therefore means they do not share their opinion on crime and deviance. The traditional Marxist view on crime and deviance is that capitalism is a system based on greed, competition, and consumerism and that this creates the ideal conditions and need for crime. They say that capitalism drives people to commit criminal activities, crime is motivated by financial gain which is logical in a capitalist system, they can also explain non-utilitarian crimes by saying they can be caused by frustration with the unjust system we live in in todays society. Marxists also believe that the capitalist system creates laws that are seen to favour the working class and make them think the system is fair and just, however, these are only put in place to appease the subject class and give the appearance of fairness.
Outline and assess Marxist theories of crime. Marxist theories of crime are based on conflict. They claim that society is divided by capitalism and there is a conflict between the upper-classes and the working-classes. They suggest that social inequality is a cause of crime saying that the law is made by the upper class (bourgeoisie) to benefit the ruling class and is harsh towards the working class. Marxist writers such as Chambliss suggest that the majority of the working-classes are exploited by the owners of big businesses and the government.
Differential Association Theory Edwin Sutherland first projected his theory of differential association in 1939 in his book "The Principles of Criminology" to clarify why some people in society’s communities become criminals and some don’t (Scarpitti, 2009). The theory uses a sociological methodology to explain how criminals learn the practices and reasoning of criminal behavior, however it is entrenched in the Chicago School of criminology. Before this theory was created, crime was almost always explained by multiple factors, such as social class, race, location and age (Gomme, 2007). Differential association was one of the first theories to steer away from earlier classical theories that fixated on the individual and believe that that the criminal was born and not influenced. Sutherland believed the propensity for criminality is neither genetic nor fated.
Edwin H. Sutherland’s differential association theory is believed that an individual’s criminal behaviors were learned from their social and differential group organizations. Sutherland adopted the view that prevailing conception of crime as having multiple causes, including mental deficiency, broken homes, minority status, age, class, inadequate socialization, alcoholic parents and the like (Matsueda, 2000, p. 125). Sutherland stated that the differential theory has a set of nine propositions. These propositions introduce three concepts; the normative conflict, differential association, and differential group organization. These concept explain crime at levels of the society, the individual, and the group.
From a Marxist point of view laws are made by the state, which represent the interests of the ruling class. This argument forms the basis of a theory of widespread crime and selective law enforcement. This shows that crime will occur right the way through society, however poor criminals receive harsher treatment than rich criminals. Marxists tend to emphasise white collar and corporate crime, and pay less attention to blue collar variants. They emphasise that crimes of the upper class exert a greater economic toll on society than the crimes of ordinary people.