Deviance Order and Protest Essay

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How does subcultural theory explain the development of gangs and gang culture? Subcultural theories investigate why criminal group activities develop within society. A subculture is a distinguishable group of individuals set apart from mainstream society because of its differences in beliefs and rules which differ from the broader culture. Subcultures can be applied to an extensive range of groups however this essay will discuss delinquent subcultures. (Haralambos M and Holborn M, 2004) Frederic M. Thrasher (The Gang 1927) suggested gangs are structured groups of working class adolescents, united by loyalty, territoriality, and hierarchy. Thrasher suggested that ‘the gang develops as one manifestation of the economic moral and cultural frontier which marks the interstice between areas of the city’ (Marshall G, 1998) The research of sociologists at the Chicago school became renowned for its interests in crime and urban life. (Marsh I 2009) They believed that the industrializing and urbanizing of societies brought social disorganization causing an increase in social problems particularly, crime. Influenced by Durkheim’s research, the Chicago School saw crime as a social phenomenon. They claimed that certain areas and neighbourhoods were uncontrollable and chaotic due to rapid social changes caused by industrialisation and urbanization making criminality inevitable, but only temporary which caused no threat to society. (Marsh I 2009) Robert Ezra Park believed that when studying criminality sociologists should participate in first hand research which influenced the development of various ethnographic research studies. (Marsh I 2009) Park claimed that ‘cities should be seen as ecological systems, with different areas and neighbourhoods within them developing at different times and in specific ways’. (Marsh I 2009 p561) Ernest Burgess developed the ‘ecological’ approach. He formed five concentric circles covering Chicago city which mapped out different zones. The middle of the circle was a business area including offices and banks and outside was different residential zones. Just beyond the middle business zone was the ‘zone of transition’ then the zone of what he called ‘workingmen’s homes’, ‘the residential zone’ and the ‘commuter’s zone’. The ‘zone of transition’ was where most social problems and criminality occurred. (Marsh I 2009) Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay developed Burgess approach to study patterns of adolescent subcultural criminality in Chicago. The ‘zone of transition’ contained deteriorating houses, factories, abandoned buildings and inhabitants were often immigrants and people who could not afford to live elsewhere in the city. (Wong C, 2011) Shaw and McKay illustrated that crime was a normal response to social, structural and cultural characteristics of a community. They explained that deviant subcultural behaviour was produced among lower class, urban males. (Wong C, 2011)They found that within deprived areas with a transitory population, criminal behaviour was most likely to be found. (Marsh I 2009) Social disorganisation and the absence of strong normative controls from the family and the community found in the zone of transition were found to cause high rates of juvenile delinquent activities. (Marsh I, 2009) Chicago urban ecologists are influential but have been criticised for only studying American cities during one historical period consequently making their conclusions paint an over –simplified picture of urban life. (Macionis J and Plummer K, 2012) Classical sociologist, Emile Durkheim argued that deviance and criminality was normal, he emphasised that criminality was a necessary, integral part of all healthy societies. (Marsh I, 2009) However Durkheim’s argument that crime is inevitable and functional does not explain the causes of crime or why certain individuals are more likely to engage in delinquent activities. (Marsh I, 2009) Recent functionalist theories based on the notion of there being...
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