Subcultrual Crime and Deviance

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The term subcultural crime and deviance implies the violation of laws or social norms by various groups within society. A subculture is a collective response to mainstream culture with their own separate values and beliefs. These groups have been studied in depth by sociologists and many have attempted to explain subcultural crime and deviance through the existence of deviant subcultures. Originally the work of Merton surrounding strain theory claimed that when there was a strain between the goals of society and the means of obtaining the goals then people would turn to crime. However Subcultural theorists developed this idea claiming that people experiencing strain seek different forms of success. As item A explains, subcultural theorists have developed earlier ideas about crime. They see crime and deviance as a group activity. More specifically, Albert Cohen (1955) believed that ‘status frustration’ is the motive behind delinquent acts. This means that those who feel looked down upon and those who feel that they are denied social status commit the delinquent acts. Thus, they formulate their own dissimilar set of values, as a kind of alternative route to gaining status. Cohen built on Merton’s theory of ‘strain theory’ which holds that society places much emphasis on material success that many people experience pressure to deviate from accepted norms and values. Deviance occurs when they reject that goal. For example, some people are tempted to use any available means of getting to the top – even if this involves criminal behaviour. Merton refers to this pressure to deviate as a ‘strain to anomie’. Anomie meaning normlessness, referring to a situation where norms no longer guide behaviour and where ‘anything goes’. However much of Merton’s work was done on American culture, and the ‘American Dream’ so it cannot be applied to many societies. Cloward and Ohlin
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