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The Criminological Use of Culture and Subculture

The Criminological Use of Culture and Subculture

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The Criminological Use of Culture and Subculture

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  1. The Criminological Use of Culture and Subculture Understanding Criminology 2nd November 2006

  2. Lecture Outline • Subculture: Definitions and Typology • Gangs and the variety of adaptations to strain • Social Class and Subculture • Drift Theory

  3. Culture and Subculture • Adaptations of Strain theory, with an awareness of the diversity of deviant forms • Initial focus on gangs and youth delinquency

  4. 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

  5. Typology • 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. National = Strain / Inequality / Limited Opportunities Community = Legitimate and Illegitimate Opportunities

  9. 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:-

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. Summary • 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