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Theories of Crime and Deviance in Terms of Explaining Crime Essay

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Some of the theories which will be discussed today are developed from functionalism assuming that criminal activity is motivated by economic needs, while other theorists argue a social class rationale for deviance. Marxist attempted to put a new approach in order concerning sub cultural theories. This approach, which was named the ‘new criminology’, puts a much greater emphasis on the perceptions of the deviants, and of those who directly confront the deviant and specific context in which the deviant act occurs.

The focus of concern is not of traditional Marxism on how powerful groups create law, but more to do with the law enforcement, patterns of law breaking and the motives of crime. The new Marxist approach on subcultural issue stresses on two factors. 1. The contents of youth culture 2. The differences produced by class background. From a Marxist perspective Crime and deviance can only be understood in terms of capitalism and class struggle. Marxist believes that Capitalism creates inequalities, which lead to conflict. Greed, selfishness and want are associated with capitalism, and it is these in which lead people to committing crime.

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In a capitalist society there are pressures to break the law, which affect people from all sections of society from the wealthiest to the poor. Crimes are often motivated by financial gain, Marxist also agreed with just what Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin argued, by agreeing that yes there are also crimes which are committed which are mot motivated by financial gain, which were called non-utilitian crimes. Again these crimes can be seen as expressions of the frustration and aggression, which the capitalist society produces. Marxists claims that there is one law for the rich and one law for the poor in society.

Marxists believe the law is enforced systemically, and it is biased in favour of those who are on top. Corporate crime costs society much more than benefit fraud committed by the lower class in society, but yet it is those who are at the bottom of society who are targeted more. The police would target the working class more as they often commit crime, which is easily visible, and therefore they are easier to prosecute. . Albert Cohen theory found that certain groups within society react by resorting to crime in order to achieve success.

In order to gain a status and that they are motivated to commit these crimes through status frustration. Cohen was one of the first American sociologists to study subcultures and gangs amongst young working class males. Cohen analyzed the motivations of working class youths and the explanations in which could explain why they committed crimes. He accepted that these youths also pursued the success goals of mainstream society, but were unable to achieve those goals because of educational failure, which in turn led to low-level jobs. Such failure was due to their position in the social structure of society.

Cultural deprivation is the reason for educational failure of members of the working class. In 1955 Cohen said “throughout there is a kind of malice apparent, an employment at the discomfort of others and a delight in the defiance of taboos” What Cohen meant by this was that youths in a delinquent subculture take pleasure in other peoples disapproval and suffering as a result of their deviant behavior. Activities such as stealing, Joy riding, Vandalism and truancy are highly regarded in that subculture while condemned in the wider society. Figures from the Crime survey for England and Wales have shown that 2. million violent incidents were recorded in 2011/2012. It’s been estimated that young people aged 10-17 were responsible for 23% of police recorded crime. In 2010 equivalent to just over a million police recorded crimes. Considering other theorists who studied subcultures was Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin. Cloward was an American Sociologist and an activist. He influenced the strain theory of criminal behavior. Lloyd Ohlin was an American sociologist and criminologist who taught at Harvard law school, Columbia University and the university of Chicago.

Over his career he studied the causes and effects of crime and punishment, especially as it related to youthful offenders and delinquents. This is seen as a functional perspective of subcultural behavior. Many working class youths who cannot gain status legitimately, become frustrated and therefore try to gain status through illegitimate. They create their own subculture and reject the norms and values of mainstream society. Richard Clowen in 1961 said, “ The boy who joins a gang isn’t in a rut. He has aspirations, but no place to go with them”.

Both theorists argue that delinquency resulted from the irresponsibility of youths as a symptom of poverty and the lack of alternative opportunities caused by poverty. The conditions underlying delinquency could be resolved through social programs in local communities that will help address the essential causes and provide support for those in their local society. Members of the working class are more likely to deviate because they have fewer opportunities to achieve success by legitimate means. However, they then developed three possible responses to this problem.

The crime committed within these subcultures if often non-utilitarian. This means the crime is undertaken for no financial gain. For example, vandalizing a building or to graffiti a building. This does not make money for the criminal, however it will gain status among their peers. Figures have shown that Graffiti cleanup takes a big chunk out of budgets. In America 80% of the Graffiti is gang related. In 2003 the city of Los Angeles spent $55 million dollars on graffiti removal. Cloward and Ohlin identify the 3 types of delinquent subculture.

First one being Criminal Subculture, in this situation the young delinquent has access to a criminal subculture. Such subcultures emerge in areas where there is already an organized adult criminal community. The 2nd type of delinquent subculture is Conflict subculture. Here, conflict subculture develops in areas where there is little opportunity to gain access to a criminal subculture. Such as there is no real opportunity to acquire role models and criminal skills. The last type of delinquent subculture is the retreatist subculture. In this situation, working class youths will be faced with failure to achieve uccess either by lawfully or unlawfully. Such a subculture will often revolve around drugs. David Matza who is an American sociologist developed a theory on delinquency, which is based on what he terms. “Drift”. His concept of drift is based on the idea that individuals at will between law abiding and criminal behavior and are never committed entirely to one type of behavior. His theory argues that crime has an element of freewill, individual choice and a questioning of behavior. He believes that individuals have a choice and can decide on different courses of action.

He argues against the subculture theorists previously stated that external force within society does not dictate all their movement. Matza asserts that most delinquents disapprove of crimes of violence such as armed robbery and mugging as well as stealing cars. Indeed he argues that young offenders are only engaged in committing crimes occasionally. They are casually immersed in a pattern of illegal activity. Matza observed several values from delinquents in which they refine as subterranean values. The 1st value delinquents search for a thrill or an adrenaline rush.

This rush they seek is not easily accomplished through law-abiding means. The excitement might even come from the fact that the behavior is not accepted. The 2nd value is that they do not view normal occupations as worth the work when they can make more money doing illegal acts. Researchers believe this is to gain rank and prestige among their criminals. Lastly they argue that the delinquent becomes aggressive because of their alienation. This is clearly seen in gang rivalries when violence is used to protect “turfs” and reputations. The purpose of this aggression is to show how tough they are and that they have achieved manhood.

However Matza concluded that their study on the effect of subterranean values still do not explain several aspects of Juvenile delinquency. For example the reasons into why certain Juveniles convert subterrerrean values into serious criminal behavior and others do not. Subcultural theories have been built upon the work of Merton. Theorists have said that deviance is the result of individuals conforming to the values and norms of a social group to which they belong. However if a social group who’s norms are different than those of the main society then they will become deviant.

Cohen said lower working class boys want to achieve the success, which is valued by mainstream culture. However due to education failure and the head end jobs that result from this, they have little chance of achieving these goals. This then leads to status frustration. The boys are at the bottom of the social structure and have little chance of gaining a higher status in society. This is similar to Merton’s theory, however Cohen said that instead of turning to crime as Merton said they would, they reject the norms and values of mainstream society and instead turn to the norms and values of a delinquent subculture.

In this subculture the boys can achieve success because the social group has different norms and values from the rest of society. So in this culture a high value is placed upon criminal acts such as stealing and vandalism, which are condemned by mainstream society. The issue with today’s society could be argued that the mean reason is the increase of the unemployment rate. The percentage of young youths being unemployed is higher than ever. 75 Million, which works out 12. 6% of 15-24 year olds around the world, are out of work. 7. 5 million of those youths are not in either education or training.

Cherie Blair, who is the chair of the street weapons commission, told the daily telegraph that she believed “that there is no quick fixes to solve the problems of gun and knife violence in Britain. ” She cautioned that no single policy would “Reverse the trend of young people carrying weapons”. More than 70 youngsters died at the hands of gangs in Britain in 2008. In London 26 were stabbed to death, there’s more than 170 gangs, with members as young as ten years old. Many are friends from the same area with intent of controlling a “turf” referring back also to what Matza stated.

These “turfs” are often defined by a postcode. The penalty for straying into the wrong area is to be robbed, beaten or stabbed. Many teenagers now carry a knife out of fear, in order to defend themselves if attacked. These figures prove that Cloward and Ohlin’s theory still are relevant in today’s society. When they stated that delinquency resulted from the irresponsibility of youths as a symptom of poverty and the lack of alternative opportunity caused by poverty. This could most defiantly refer back to a society such as London as 4 in 10 London children Live in poverty.

David Downes is a British sociologist that studied east London adolescents, and tested the American sub cultural theories. There was no evidence to suggest the existence of status frustration or of the illegitimate opportunity structures that Cloward and Ohlin’s argued. However he did find strong evidence in support of Matza. Their lives were characterized by dissociation from work and aspirations of a career. They did not enjoy their jobs, it was merely a means of gaining money. However they did not show resentment about law school status, as Cohen would have predicted.

Or lack of employment opportunities. Contrary to Cloward and Ohlin, the lack of satisfaction at work and school often led youths to stress. Downes called this “leisure values” which is very similar to Matza’s subterranean values. The youths in his study placed a much greater stress on leisure values than middle class youths tended to do precisely because of their relative lack of satisfaction at school and work. To conclude, then it seems the majority of subcultural theories are incredibly effective in explaining working class crime and are also able to apply strain theory to back up their arguments.

References http://www. arasite. org/subclths. html Cohen, Albert & Short, James, (1958), “Research in Delinquent Subcultures”, Journal of Social Issues, pages 20–37. Cohen, P. (1972). Sub-cultural Conflict and Working Class Community. Working Papers in Cultural Studies. No. 2. Birmingham: University of Birmingham. Miller, Walter (1958). “Lower Class Culture as a Generating Milieu of Gang Delinquency”. Journal of Social Issues. Pages 5-20 Matza, David. (1964). Delinquency and Drift. Reprint edition: 1990. Transaction Press. Pages

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