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Lecture 7

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Candace Kruttschnitt

SOC212 Lecture 7: October 24, 2012 Strain theory: University of Chicago, and there are two strains that developed there Merton: Big banana on strain theory Cohen:  In text, suggests strain theory constitutes the first truly systematic use of cultural/subculture  occurs in explanation of delinquency, you’ll see how much he was influenced by merton but also by his own development of the importance of culture in explaining delinquency  Contribution: focus on the origins of delinquent sub culture. And in so doing he wanted to examine how culture functioned and served to solve problems forkids. If you are in a position of strain. Cohen really talked about how culture can serve as a way of solving problems for delinquent kids.  As Downes and Rock point out, some cultures borrow elements from larger cultlures and re work them into distinct forms. Reading for this week goes into a lot ode tail about different people who wrote aboutculture/rural culture (ie. Miller: lower class delinquent youth)  even put in label theory (she don’t like) save label theory for next week..  Cohen introduced his theory of delinquency in order to explain what he said was two known facts: 1. The existence and content of delinquent sub culture (why it exists and what I tlooks like) 2. the concentration of this sub culture among the male working class individuals.  He says ‘lok it, the lower class embraces the middle class success ethic. As merton did, cohen rejected that the lower class had a culture which was different from the middle or upper class. Everyone has internalized this desire to get ahead. And the desire to become successful. Why? bBecause middle class values have taken ahold of values (watch TV, attend schools (which are saturated with middle class values), go to movies)  Over time, members of every class think they have to get ahead, respect for property, material success was very important. Also said that the socialization of lower class children wreally hinders their capacity to compete for this scuess.  Like Merton, everyone desires material success, not everyone has same opportunity to achieve it. Lower class parents don’t have the economic resources and the social power to assist their children (money for right clothes, home in right neighborhood, capacity in this social capital, capacitu to intercede correctly, etc. ) Baiscally the lower calss arehindered in that way. They are not sending their kids to the best private schools, not getting into best public universities.  Cohen believed that the lower and middle class parents socialize their kids differently (important)  middle class parents are more often rational, deliberate, demanding, they stress self discipline in their children, they’re more likel to surround their kids with educational toys, lots of books, and thye teach their children that love and acceptance is loved by discipline earned and effort. By contrast, he said lower class parents are more easy going, pretty permissive with their children. Less contact with books, educational toys, fighting as a means of resolving problems was acceptable  He argued that vecause of this socialization process that differs by class, you have a decreased ability to compete (if you’re from lower class) and this produces strain. STRAIN THEORY  Cohen believed juxtaposition what child ist taught to want and what he can actually achieve produces STRAIN in child. And he spent a lot of time talking about schools (as middle class insitutions); designed to foster and grow middle class children and values. (ie. If you studied long enough and hard enough, get good grades at end of semester)   lower class kids don’t learn this then they are hindered  Cohen believed that ailure in school is accompanied by loss of status in the sense of PERSONAL FAILURE because he believed that all these lower class have a want for upward mobility and middle class stability)  So lower class embraces middle class values and ethics but socialization of lower class kids hinders their activity to compete. And the decrease shows strain (can’t live up to texpectations)  Increased strain is what causses some kids to gravitate to delinquent subculture. It’s a solution for a problem (joining like minded feels, overcome feeling of isolated and personal failure) basically most people adjust to strain by joining others. Suggested 3 possible solutions to strain experienced by these kids: 1. The Corner boy society a. Lower class solution (ritualism) i. These are kids who Cohen argues that they psychologically disengage in competition. Withdraw into community of like minded peers. Going to hang out with other lower class kids and forget about achieveing big success ii. These are kids who might get into minor scrapes with law, but ultimately they will acquire limited education, a family, and working class b. College Boy i. These kids rupture their ties with lower class. Except channels of middle class and go on. c. Delinquent Sub culture i. Why it exists, what’s it content: 1. A whole bunch of different adjectives.. Malicious, negativistic, non ultiarmins, hedonistic, malicious versatile, group autonomy ii. Why charactizsed this way? 1. Ordinary people steal something because they need something. But lower class delinquent boys are non utilitarian. Graffiti (example), kicking over garbage cans, throwing rocks at windows; serves no purpose 2. Makes no sense to middle class but makes sense to lower class boys 3. ‘The delinquent subculture is appealing precisely because against everything valued against middle class. It compensates for the humiliation that these kids feel. 4. This is where Cohen and Merton parts ways: Cohen (looked at innovator) says that they’re not actually trying to reach successful goals while acting out, and sees it as a rejection to get American dream; Merton: A way of getting monetary success; utilitarian; innovators were trying to get American dream  Delinquent subculture is a vehicle for translating mode of delinquency into action and for granting status (feeling good about self again) is based ont hat action  Is this good? Is this a good explanation? It’s hard to know why some people choose that college route and some choose delinquent subculture. There are a fair amount of ethnographic research that provides some evidence for what Cohen is saying. ‘Elijan Anderson’  book about many black males actively live their life in opposi
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