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The Criminological Use of Culture and Subculture. Understanding Criminology 2 nd November 2006. Lecture Outline. Subculture: Definitions and Typology Gangs and the variety of adaptations to strain Social Class and Subculture Drift Theory. Culture and Subculture.

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the criminological use of culture and subculture

The Criminological Use of Culture and Subculture

Understanding Criminology

2nd November 2006

lecture outline
Lecture Outline
  • Subculture: Definitions and Typology
  • Gangs and the variety of adaptations to strain
  • Social Class and Subculture
  • Drift Theory
culture and subculture
Culture and Subculture
  • Adaptations of Strain theory, with an awareness of the diversity of deviant forms
  • Initial focus on gangs and youth delinquency
subculture definitions
Subculture: Definitions
  • A relatively small grouping that develops distinctive norms, values and beliefs. Subcultures provide members with a range of personal resources (e.g. status, capital, excitement) that have often been denied by mainstream society / culture
  • Subcultural Theory: aim to identify the cause and expressive nature of subcultures
  • Reactive / Oppositional Subcultures
    • The subcultural form is a direct reaction against mainstream culture
    • Most directly influenced by strain theory
  • Independent Subcultures
    • Subcultures develop their own values and norms of behaviour independently of mainstream culture
william whyte street corner society
William Whyte: Street Corner Society
  • Easier for a “slum” resident to achieve monetary success in a racket, than by conventional means
  • Role models: college boys v. corner boys
  • Gang activities highly organised
  • Pioneering participant observation based study
  • KEY: expressive nature of subcultures
sutherland s differential association theory
Sutherland’s Differential Association Theory
  • Delinquent practices are ‘culturally transmitted’ from one individual to another
  • Cultural conflict: if “definitions” favourable to law violation outweigh those unfavourable, crime will occur
  • Applied largely to white-collar crime, but has subsequently been applied to other crime
  • KEY: Cultural Transmission

National = Strain / Inequality / Limited Opportunities

Community = Legitimate and Illegitimate Opportunities

albert cohen delinquent boys the culture of the gang
Albert Cohen: “Delinquent Boys:The culture of the gang”
  • Subculture evolved in response to strain, and a rejection of ‘middle-class values’
  • Education paramount:
    • Make children aware of social status
    • Key to the constraint of opportunities
  • Goal: status, not necessarily monetary success
  • An attempt to understand non-economic deviance
  • Gangs were a particular form of subcultural adaptation, characterised by:-
richard cloward and lloyd ohlin
Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin
  • Focussed on the range that adaptations to strain could take, incorporating differential association
  • Criminal Gangs
  • Conflict Gangs
  • Retreatist Gangs
  • Returned to Merton’s focus on monetary success
evaluation of strain influenced subcultural theories
Evaluation of Strain Influenced Subcultural Theories
  • Fits with
    • Over-representation of working class, urban offenders in gang activity
    • A dominant / superior middle class culture
  • Possibly fits with
    • Gang activity being predominantly male: girls and young women have alternative sources of status?
  • Doesn’t fit with
    • Widespread, but petty offending
    • British experience
david downes a british perspective
David Downes: a British Perspective
  • In Britain, social class is central to understanding subcultural adaptation
  • Working class youth had a “realistically low” level of aspiration / fatalism
  • Delinquency as a ‘fact’ of life, but not a ‘way’ of life
downes and subculture in britain
Downes and Subculture in Britain
  • Key cause of delinquency: boredom and the importance of leisure
  • little opportunity for excitement (akin to strain)
  • leisure became the location for excitement and expression of

- toughness, daring, panache

  • Links between leisure and delinquency
    • proceeds of crime funding leisure
    • delinquency is itself exciting
    • delinquency is a by-product of certain forms of excitement
marxist analysis of sub culture counter culture
Marxist analysis of sub-culture / counter-culture
  • Phil Cohen
  • Economic Decline ->
    • family tensions
    • fragmented community
    • economic insecurity
  • Mods: socially mobile white-collar worker
  • Skinheads: emphasising masculinity of hard manual labour
david matza drift and neutralization
David Matza: Drift and Neutralization
  • Sees subcultural theories are over-predictive
  • Drift: a ‘limbo between convention and crime’ preceding delinquency
  • Techniques of neutralization demonstrate continued commitment to mainstream cultural values
  • Delinquency represents the exaggeration of “subterranean”, but not deviant values:
    • the pursuit of excitement
    • the disdain for routine work
    • toughness and masculinity
what is a cultural of deviance
What is a Cultural of Deviance?
  • Pockets of specific activities providing meaning and resources to the member
    • E.g. The Gang
  • A widespread loose affinity between relatively informal groupings
    • E.g. Anti-globalisation environmental groups
  • A reflection of temporary adolescent rejection of parental / mainstream values – functional?
  • A vital mechanism that acts to support and

reproduce mainstream culture

  • Most cultural theories would expect more criminality than actually seen
  • Matza and Drift theory would not predict much ‘career criminality’
  • Cultural Relativism: a danger that criminality is romanticized: the expressive qualitative nature of deviance is addressed: rarely the same focus on mainstream culture or victimisation