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Functionalist, Strain, and Subcultural Theories


Functionalism, Strain and Subcultural Theories
Laura Jenkinson
Mind Map by Laura Jenkinson, updated more than 1 year ago
Laura Jenkinson
Created by Laura Jenkinson over 6 years ago

Resource summary

Functionalist, Strain, and Subcultural Theories
  1. Merton
    1. Strain Theory
      1. Merton adapted Durkheim’s theory of anomie to explain deviance.
        1. Structural factors – societies unequal opportunity structure.
          1. Cultural factors – the strong emphasis on success goals and the weaker emphasis on using legitimate means to achieve them
          2. The strain between the cultural goal of ‘money success’ and the lack of legitimate opportunities to achieve it produces frustration in the job market.
            1. This creates a pressure to resort to illegitimate means such as crime and deviance.
              1. Merton calls this the ‘strain to anomie’
          3. Devient Adaptions to Strain
            1. Merton argues that the individuals position in the social structure affects the way they adapt or respond to the strain to anomie
              1. Five different types of adaption
                1. Conformity – Merton sees this as typical response of most Americans but is most likely among middle class individuals with good opportunities to achieve. Individuals accept culturally approved goals and strive to achieve them through legitimate means.
                  1. Innovation – Those at the lower end of the class structure are under greater pressure to innovate. Individuals accept the money goal of success but use illegitimate means to achieve it.
                    1. Ritualism – Typical of lower middle classes. Individuals give up on trying to achieve ‘money success’ but have internalised the legitimate means so they follow the rules for their own sake.
                      1. Retreatism – Individuals reject both the goals and legitimate means and become dropouts.
                        1. Rebellion – Individuals reject the societies goals and means but replaces them with new ones in a desire to bring about revolutionary change.
                      2. Criticisms
                        1. Takes official crime stats at face value. These over represent working class crime. It is also too deterministic - the working class experience the most strain yet they don’t all deviate.
                          1. Marxist argue it ignores the ruling class’s power to make and enforce laws which criminalise the poor but not the rich.
                            1. It assumes there is value consensus – ignores the possibility that some may not share the goal of ‘money success’
                              1. Only accounts for utilitarian crime for monetary gain. Also does not account for state crime.
                                1. Explains how deviance results from individuals adapting to the strain of anomie but does not account for group deviance such as delinquent subcultures.
                              2. Durkhiem
                                1. The Inevitability of Crime
                                  1. In modern societies, there is a tendency towards anomie due to increasing diversity.
                                    1. This diversity weakens the collective conscience – resulting in higher levels of crime.
                                    2. Crime is inevitable and universal
                                      1. In complex modern societies, there is a diversity of lifestyles and values.
                                        1. Not everyone is equally effectively socialised.
                                      2. The Positive Functions of Crime
                                        1. Boundary Mainteinance
                                          1. Crime prompts a reaction from society, uniting its members in condemnation of the wrongdoer and reinforcing their commitment to their shared norms and values.
                                            1. Punishment is not to make the wrongdoer suffer or mend his ways, or to remove crime from society. It is to reaffirm society's shared rules and promote social solidarity.
                                              1. Rituals in the courtroom dramatise wrongdoing and publicly stigmatise the offender. The reaffirms the values of the law abiding majority and discourage others from wrongdoing.
                                              2. Adaption and Change
                                                1. All change starts with an act of deviance.
                                                  1. There must be some scope for people with new ideas and values to challenge and change existing norms and values – they must not be stifled by the weight of social control.
                                                    1. In the first instance, new ideas and values will inevitably appear as deviance.
                                                      1. If those with new ideas are suppressed, society will stagnate and be unable to make necessary adaptive changes.
                                              3. Criticisms
                                                1. He claims that society requires a certain amount of deviance – but offers no way of knowing how much is the right amount.
                                                  1. Just because crime may reinforce shared norms and values and promote social solidarity does not mean that is why crime exists in the first place.
                                                    1. Crime is not functional for everybody – what about the victim?
                                                      1. Crime doesn’t always promote social solidarity – may have the opposite effect (eg. women may stay inside for fear of attack).
                                                    2. Subcultural Strain Theories
                                                      1. A.K. Cohen
                                                        1. Agrees with Merton that much deviance results from lower classes inability to achieve mainstream success goals by legitimate means.
                                                          1. He criticises Merton’s explanation:
                                                            1. Merton ignores group responses to the strain to anomie, such as delinquent subcultures
                                                              1. Merton does not explain non-utilitarian crime
                                                              2. Cohen notes that working class boys face anomie in the middle class education system:
                                                                1. They are culturally deprived and lack the skills to achieve, leaving them at the bottom of the official status hierarchy.
                                                                  1. As a result, they suffer status frustration. They resolve it by rejecting mainstream middle class values and forming subcultures with others in their situation.
                                                                    1. This offers an illegitimate opportunity structure for boys who have failed to achieve legitimately.
                                                              3. Cloward and Ohlin
                                                                1. Agree with Merton that working class deviance stems from lack of legitimate opportunities to gain status.
                                                                  1. But they note that not everyone adapts to a lack of legitimate opportunities by turning to utilitarian crime.
                                                                    1. The key reasons for these differences is unequal access to both legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structures.
                                                                      1. Different neighborhoods provide different illegitimate opportunities to learn criminal skills and develop criminal careers.
                                                                        1. They identify three types of subculture that result:
                                                                          1. Criminal subcultures – provide youths with an apprenticeship in utilitarian crime. Arises in neighborhoods where there is a longstanding, stable criminal culture and a hierarchy of professional adult crime.
                                                                            1. Conflict subcultures – arises in areas of high population turnover that prevent a stable professional criminal network developing. The only illegitimate opportunities are within loosely organized gangs.
                                                                              1. Retreatist subcultures – the ‘double failures who fail in both the legitimate and the illegitimate opportunity structures and become ‘drop outs’ of society, often turning to illegal drugs.
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