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Chapter 4

SOC205 Chapter 4 (Lecture 3 + Textbook Notes).docx

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Paula Maurutto

SOC205 Week 3 Chapter 4 - Crime inAmerican Society (Anomie & Strain Theories) American as a Criminogenic Society • The Chicago school believed that the roots of crime were embedded predominantly in 1 area of American society - city slums - & that people became criminal by learning deviant cultural values. • Although Merton never rejected this formulation, he outlined a very different social process - one involving conformity to conventional cultural values - that he believed produced high rates of crime & deviance. Robert Merton (1910-2003) – Strain Theory (University of Columbia) Structurally Induced Strain − The disjunction b/w what the culture extols (the American Dream) and the means provided by the social structure (limited legitimate opportunities) produces strain and pressure for deviance − Lower socioeconomic group – more strain and pressure − Crimes committed as a result of strain − Argued that social and economic structure limits access to theAmerican Dream − Limited opportunities for moving up the social ladder − Social structure limits access to achieve the American Dream/ goals of success through legitimate means (ex: college edu, corporate employment, family connections). − Your aspirations are culturally defined; your social structure can limit your ability to satisfy those desires; and if you can’t satisfy those desires, there’s more pressure to engage in deviant behavior Strain Theory in Context • Merton did not believe inner-city neighborhoods were fully disorganized and inherently criminogenic (skipped). − Residents want to live the cultural dream but were denied the opportunity to leave the slum which produced a pressure to deviate. Typology of Adaptations • Different ways existed for people to resolve the strains generated from the inability to attain success. • Merton realized that most people, even if they found their social ascent limited, didn't deviate. Page 1 of3 SOC205 Week 3 • Instead, the modal response was for people to conform, to continue to ascribe to the cultural success goal & to believe in the legitimacy of the conventional means through which success was to be attained. • Different ways in which people adapt • Four deviant adaptations: 1. Innovation: Embrace success, but turn to illegitimate means. Much criminal behaviour can be categorized as innovation. 2. Ritualism: Maintain outward conformity to the norms of governing institutionalized means, but not the goals. People adapt their goals so they can actually meet them 3. Retreatism: Relinquish allegiance to both the cultural success goal and the institutionalized means (are in society but not of it). People who relinquish both the cultural goals & the means to achieve it. This accounts for a certain category of people who are involved in alcoholism, drugs, homelessness, etc. 4. Rebellion: Not only reject but wish to
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