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Lecture 6

SOCC30H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Hardcore Hip Hop, Conspicuous Consumption, Sex Pistols

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Julian Tanner

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SOCC30 Lecture 6 Notes
Last week: Places where violent crimes are mostly likely to occur like in disadvantaged
(unemployed, poor, precarious employment) neighbourhoods in the city.
Subcultures of crime
Serious(street) crime and delinquency is not evenly distributed throughout the community
Nor is it evenly spread among all strata of the population: the most serious and
frequently delinquent adolescents come from lower socio-economic groups.
Much persistent and serious youth crime is conducted collectively: youth crime is not just
a conglomerate of individual acts – much of it is committed in association with others
Serious delinquents mainly associate with other serious delinquents-criminal behaviour is
learnt behaviour. They share a similar way of looking at the world in ways that we
might want to refer to as a subculture of delinquency ,standing in opposition to
mainstream society
Additional notes: Serious crimes tends to be concentrated in particular parts of cities
characterized by poverty and are disadvantaged. It’s also disproportionally committed by young
people who come from the lowest socioeconomic groups. Youth crime is usually carried out in
small cliques, groups, sub-cultures and occasionally gangs. Youth also considered more
conspicuous than adult crime because young people are acting and behaving in groups.
Delinquents or young criminals interact with other like-minded people and because of that
interaction, we can make the argument that criminal behaviour is very much like non-criminal
behaviour in that it is low and replace where criminality is low. Terms like youth groups, youth
subcultures and youth gangs can be used more or less interchangeably. Criminal behaviour is
learnt in interacting with like-minded people.
Delinquent subcultures of this sort were first identified in Chicago in the 1930s and 1940s
(1920s and 1930s?):
-As a consequence of the search for excitement among young people growing up in a
frustrating and limiting urban environment, according to Thrasher
-a product of social disorganization, according to Shaw and Mackay (social control in short
American research on delinquent subcultures in the 1950s and 1960s:
-delinquency as a product of blocked opportunities (Robert Merton: criminals as
innovators --wealth gained by illicit means; Cloward and Ohlin: criminal opportunities also
unequally distributed)
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Albert Cohen: delinquency as a product of status frustrations: (vandalising school
Additional notes: Frederick Thrasher has the distinction for being the first person to every
systematically study gangs. Measured gang activity in the city of Chicago. Chicago has been
such a catalyst because it’s a large American city and in the 1920s and 1930s, there was a
huge migration of people into the city. This migration was a two main source. They were
largely white European immigrants coming to the US from Europe. At the same time, there
were large amounts of internal migration of largely African Americans moving in search of
work into Chicago from the Southern US. Thrasher says youth gangs were originally little
more than childhood/adolescent play groups. These sorts of informal groupings of children
and adolescents were originally about a search for fun and excitement in a new urban
environment. An environment in which parental/social control is in short supply. Over time,
these childhood/adolescent youth groups became gangs and be concerned with criminal
behaviour. That time the parents are busy trying to make a living than to pay attention to
what their kids are doing. Shaw and Mackay mapped out the patent and distribution of crime
in the city of Chicago. They found that crime tended to concentrate in circles around the
inner city. The further out of the city you went, you start to see the diminishing of crime
rates. The other observation that they made was that areas that can be regarded as high crime
areas tended to persist over time. They found consistently that the crime rate was highest in
the centre of the city of Chicago even though different racial and ethnic groups were moving
in and out of those inner city areas all the time. Wave after wave of different kind of
migration. In their attempt at a sociological analysis to explain all of this, they focussed on
kids getting involved in crime because of a lack of social control. This was a time where
families were trying hard to make a living; where avoiding unemployment was an
achievement within itself. Therefore, parents didn’t have much time left to devote to the
social control of their kids. Robert Merton described criminals as being innovators meaning
that America was a society, which presented everybody with a series of goals that they were
expected to aspire to, goals that lead to wealth and status. Everyone was encourage to strive
to that goal but not everyone has the means of achieving those goals with legitimate means.
Legitimate means as in hard work, going to school, getting a job and so on. People from poor
backgrounds are put in a situation of strain and the way they solve that strain is by
innovating. Innovating meaning turning to illegitimate or illicit means of achieving those
goals. Albert Cohen who wrote a book called ‘Delinquent Boys: Culture of the gang’ in the
1950s. He did a study of working class boys in an American high school. The starting point
of his study was the observation that not all crime and delinquency was as described by
Robert Merton. Crime and delinquency wasn’t always bout robbing banks, stealing, etc.
Cohen observed that there are many kids who behave in illegal behaviour by damaging
things (vandalism). Merton’s theory doesn’t do a very good job at explaining what he calls
non-instrumental delinquency. Destroying a school building, for example, isn’t going to
make you any money. The school system encourages all young people, regardless of
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