Sociology- Criminology Essay Jan 2011

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Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in explaining ‘subcultural crime and deviance’ in society today. (21 marks) – Jan 2011 Subcultural crime and deviance refers to criminal acts, rule breaking and behaviour that is being committed by groups in society that does not conform to the norms and expectations of a particular society or social group. Subcultural theories attempt to explain why certain groups within society commit crime and deviance within society and has achieved in constructing useful theories, however each have their own weaknesses. Early Functionalist ideas, as seen in Item A, are interested in explaining why some people in society break the rules and overall see crime as a group activity. The following approaches see the deviant as simply reacting to external forces largely beyond their control and see crime and deviance as social facts that can be measured in society. One of these approaches is Merton’s Strain theory whose key idea is that deviance is the product of a delinquent subculture with different norms and values from the rest of society that provides an alternative opportunity structure for those denied a legitimate chance to succeed. According to Merton, deviance within society is a result of the culture and structure of society itself because he believes all members of society share common values and goals but do not always occupy the same economic and social positions. Therefore, they do not have equal opportunities to realise those goals. One example Merton uses is the ‘American Dream’ to illustrate his theory. The philosophy behind this believes anyone can achieve their goals of the American Dream regardless of their social background through normal means including hard work, determination etc. However, Merton argues that the pressure from society to achieve financial success actively pushes individuals to commit crimes because they want to achieve their...
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