Sociological Explanations Of Deviance. Merton (1968) developed Durkheim's concept of 'anomie' into his 'strain theory' . Taking the American Dream of economic success he pointed out that it was not possible for everyone to achieve this goal. So how do we cope?
The response of the majority
They accept the goals of society and the legal means to achieve them
Typical ‘law abiding’ citizen
Accept the goals of society - material success
But reject legal ways of achieving them
May turn to crime to achieve a good lifestyle
Some turn to gambling to achieve this which is not illegal but not the ‘normal’ route to success
Individuals lose sight of the goals - or give up
But continue to obey the law
Stuck in a rut
May hope for lottery win
Individual loses sight of goals and the means
May ‘drop out’ or ‘opt out’ of mainstream society
Individual rejects the goals and means of mainstream society
And substitutes them with new ones
These are often at odds with mainstream society
eg revolutionary, terrorist etc
Evaluating Merton's contribution
Taylor 1971 sees Merton’s model as a gigantic fruit machine
‘only some players are rewarded…but nobody... asks who put the game there in the first place’
Albert Cohen (1966)
An American - he looked at subcultures and gangs
WC male deviance was not necessarily related to economic ends
Vandalism has no economic reward!
He explained such acts in the context of ‘status frustration’
i.e. Failures at school, often unemployed or in dead end jobs, lived in poor areas and therefore felt they had little stake in ‘mainstream’ society.
Evaluating Cohen’s views
Evaluating Cohen’s views
1. Interpretivists question the idea that we all share such a common value system.
2. All subcultural theories mainly focus on males. Feminists have used the phrase ‘malestream’ sociology to show how females have been ignored in sociology (at least before the 1970’s)
Cloward & Ohlin 1961
Looked at similar issues to Cohen and linked aspects of subcultural theory to Merton’s concept of anomie:-
This occurs in areas where an established underworld already exists
Young males serve ‘apprenticeships’ in this world
e.g. the world of the Kray twins
No clear criminal underworld exists
No ‘apprenticeships’ to follow
Young males turn to gangs
e.g Patrick’s study of Glasgow gangs
These are seen as ‘double’ failures
Neither able to serve ‘apprenticeships’ or join gangs
Resort to drug abuse and petty crime.
People have a surface where they accept the mainstream values
But underneath we have opposite values which surface from time to time
e.g. a wife/husband commits adultery
a boss gets drunk at the office party
What Freud calls the ‘monsters of the id’
Techniques Of Neutralization
How people explain ‘untypical’ behaviour
‘I was drunk’ ‘It’s Christmas’ etc.
‘Everyone does it’
The difference is that some groups - the WC commit a lot of their acts in public.
Consider acts of drunkeness on the street on a Saturday night and in a rugby club
- who is more likely to be arrested
Evaluating Matza’s Work
Matza adds some balance to the deterministic views of the structuralists
But the techniques of neutralisation may be just excuses