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Lecture 6

CRM302 (Criminological Theories)- Lecture 6

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Ryerson University
CRM 302
Stephen Muzzatti

CRM302-011 – Week 6: “thbcultures” Monday, February 25 , 2013 Subcultures: - Social History - Intellectual Heritage: Parsons & Kobrin - Albert Cohen - Cohen on Merton - Richard Cloward & Lloyd Ohlin - Walter Miller --- SOCIAL HISTORY - 1950’s & 1960’s: criminology focused on a particular transgressive behaviour (delinquency, specifically gang activity) and understanding ideologies focused on context (refer to Hall’s critique in Chapter 5) - at the same time, sociology were spurred on by this study and created a new sociological phenomenon = SUBCULTURES - combination of juvenile gangs and delinquent subcultural behaviour Albert Cohen - combined the Chicago School Theory with the works of Edwin Sutherland and Mertonian concept of anomie to create a set of urban working class male delinquents - by way of sociology, history was undergoing tremendous changes (the 1950’s in America = great prosperity and the baby boom [large spike in birth rates] and in a sense, America was at its height as a world power) - the landscape was a disproportionately white middle class (or aspiring to be middle class) suburbia - consumerism was also on the rise with propaganda and inventions such as household gadgets and “dream kitchens” with their appliances - this led to two unintended consequences 1) Introduction of previously unheralded actors in the marketplace: youth - for the first time, there was a societal consensus on youths as their own identity, with different tastes and interests in almost everything (music, clothes, etc.) and it became a new economic politic, social force - they were previously thought of as smaller versions of adults (example: clothing made for adult men were just made in a smaller size for teenage boys) - this resulted in new music, film, clothing, etc. being made to attract these youths and their money, now that they were being seen as a new group of consumers 2) Peaking Urbanization - this suburban boom and its promise had a “dirty underbelly” - in terms of urban geography, there was gleaming suburbia BUT: it left a dilapidated inner city; the “white flight” was when a disproportionate amount of white (Anglos) fled the inner city to be in the suburbs, taking their tax dollars and consumer dollars with them, leaving businesses in the inner city to decline and leaving no money for the city to build or repair their infrastructure. Therefore, the old inner city was left to literally collapse in on itself (where images of “the ghetto” come from) - NOTE: this time also saw the racial battleground being re-drawn because racial tension was being re- invigorated, fuelled by the above two consequences (not new, just getting to the point where it became impossible to ignore) - any victories against racial oppression (desegregation of schools, for example) or any advances made in equality at the time were being met with resistance from the dominant Anglo population (like the KKK) INTELLECTUAL HERITAGE - early 50’s: several tried to adjust Merton’s theories and apply it to delinquency and gang activities T. Parsons - there was a period he was considered a “king of sociology” - wrote “The Social System” (1951) in which he examines social structure and classes in a structuralist manner in addition to anomic social strain - suggested that criminal behaviour can also result from strains like the inability to reconcile your own expectations with the expectations of others or from the “failure to make institutionally prescribed object attachments” (example: inability to be in a “normal” heterosexual relationship) Solomon Kobrin - researcher at Chicago Area Project (think-tank) - wrote an article “The Conflict of Values in Delinquency Areas” (1951) in which he looks at working class and under class areas, specifically looking at generations of men in these “slum”-like areas (areas with lower income) - found that city politicians and other municipal bureaucrats were often connected to criminal organizations in these areas - in examining these relations, Kobrin coined the term “the Single Controlling Group” - theory based on studies was that well-organized, well-integrated single group was able to exercise control and power over young men and juveniles in the area - this was considered a safe community because young men would behave themselves in fear of the controlling group (this controlling group wants to ensure their family in the neighbourhoods are safe from these delinquents) - look at it this way: if you were involved in criminal behaviour, would you rather confront a criminal justice system or criminal organizations like the mafia? (the criminal justice of course, because they would be more fair and probably wouldn’t kill you) - so, because these politicians and elites have connections to criminal organizations, young men are scared away from partaking in criminal behaviour Albert Cohen - studied at Harvard under Merton and Parsons - wrote “Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang” (1955) where he suggested delinquency was most prominent in working class males and went so far as to say the most common form of delinquency was gang activity - Characterized gang subcultures by these 6 characteristics: 1) Non-utilitarianism: they are not pragmatic or efficient/goal-oriented, and do not do things with a higher economic rationale (example: stealing a car purely to drive it around for fun and then set it on fire, rather than selling the components for maximum financial benefit) 2) Malicious: bad intent, ruthless/cruel and taking delight in the misfortune of others 3) Negativistic: “us against the world” mentality 4) Versatile: flexible in their ways of doing things (example: situation may call for fighting, stealing, etc.) 5) Hedonistic: pleasure-seeking and one’s own gain 6) Highly Autonomous: self-governed, in-out group with almost a siege mentality – reinforcing the “us against the world” mentality Observation: - great deal of effort put forth in these young men to gain status - example: social class VS lower class: - Lower class youth based on their class position, they are entering the playing field (“the American Dream”) at a disadvantage (opportunity strain) - as a result of the unequal playing field: STATUS FRUSTRATION - the first place these lower class boys experienced status frustration: school - How? Types of teachers. - The teachers are disproportionately white middle class, using a ‘middle class measuring rod’ with standards that are just unattainable by these working class kids (such as setting long-range goals, prolonged/delayed reward) which were basically anathemas to working class kids because of different values - because of the competitive grounds at school, the ones that suffer the most are the ones who express the most hostility towards middle class people: these lower class kids - so, the collective solution (reaction formation) was the inversion of these values, sort of like rebellion); instead of middle class standards/criteria, they create their own standards/criteria they CAN attain, to give themselves merit and make themselves feel worthy = becoming highly autonomous - For Cohen, the kind of transgressive/criminal behaviour that these male youths partake in is a form of resistance/ “the articulation of trouble” (trouble meaning inequality and disadvantages) - Cohen heavily borrowed from Sutherland’s differential association - theorized that the greater the intensity & frequency the interaction between an individual and a group, the great the likelihood that these youths will integrate into the group and become one COHEN ON MERTON - Merton’s work was extremely influential since he was Cohen’s professor, but Cohen wanted to improve on some of Merton’s work, though he thought it was sophisticated and very plausible for th utilitarian deviance (refer back to
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