SOC 6 Focal Concerns

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Walter Miller's lower-class focal concerns focuses on the traits of the lower-class culture that connects deviance to a distinct normative structure that conflicts with norms of the dominant culture. Miller started a descriptive research strategy to observe lower-class male gang members in their natural habitat. It led Miller to conclude that people of the lower-class show a set of “focal concerns” that categorize them from the mainstream of American society.

Miller concluded that people of the lower-class are so concerned with the prospects of their activities leading to trouble, that it results in unwanted interference from people of the more powerful and upper-class. The concern with getting in trouble doesn't reflect identification with the norms of the middle-class culture, but alarms the potential complications for life that deviation from such norms brings. At the heart of trouble is the potential for arrests, fines, court appearances, jail sentences and similar inconveniences like drinking, fights, or other illegal behavior. A lower-class male recurrently involved in law-violating behavior may be revered as a good boy or a stand-up guy, but at the same time as always being in trouble. People have to decide whether to conduct themselves as the subcultural standards encourage or to avoid trouble. Miller says that potential for trouble serves as a negative criterion for mate selection in the lower-class, in contrast to the potential for success and achievement that are accorded priority in the middle-class.

The toughness focal concern, according to Miller, may be a reaction to the female-dominated households that are common in the lower-class environment. With the lack of male role models, lower-class boys learn things that distort masculinity. Strength, physical skills and bravery in the face of threats are emphasized, while intellectual and cultural focuses on the upper classes that are actively disdained. Homophobia is spreading among the lower-class

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