Subcultural strain theories l2
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  • Different neighbourhoods provide different illegitimate opportunities to learn criminal skills and develop criminal careers. They identify 3 types of subcultures that result
  • Adult criminal select and train youths with the right abilities and provide youths with opportunities on the criminal career ladder
  • Drug Trade is a mixture of disorganised crime like conflict subculture and professional mafia style criminal subculture. Also some supposedly retreatist users are professional dealers making a living from this utilitarian crime
  • Like Cohen’s theory, Cloward and Ohlin’s is a reactive one- they explain deviant subcultures as forming in reaction to the failure to achieve mainstream success goals. This wrongly assumes that everyone starts off sharing these same goals Walter Miller- lower class has its own independent subculture separate from mainstream culture with its own values. This culture does not value success in the first place so its members are not frustrated by failure. He agrees that deviance is widespread in lower class but argues this arises out of an attempt to achieve their own goals not mainstream ones (focal concerns)
  • MIC worksheet from spiral ringbound book
  • 1. Boundary maintenance – reinforcing norms and values for the majority; adaptation – facilitating social change; safety-valve, warning of a societal malfunction. 2. The feeling created when individuals find their access to legitimate means of achieving status is blocked+-. 3. Ritualists have lost sight of society’s goals, but still follow the legitimate means or rules; retreatists have rejected both society’s goals and the legitimate means to achieve them. 4. It assumes that all those who experience a strain to anomie will deviate, but many who experience strain do not deviate. 5. Crime that has no economic motive, such as vandalism. 6. Because some people are not effectively socialised and because in complex societies there are subcultural differences in norms and values. 7. Goals are the things we are expected to want and strive for, such as success, money, fast cars; means are the ways in which a person may obtain or achieve these goals. 8. Because not everyone who fails in mainstream society has equal access to an illegitimate opportunity structure; e.g. some areas have an organised professional criminal structure but others do not. 9. The emphasis on money and economic success; the lack of a supportive welfare system; the lack of clear norms about how wealth should be pursued legitimately.


  • 1. Subcultural Strain Theories 2
  • 2. Lesson Objectives• Recap Cohen’s Status Frustration and Alternative Status Hierarchy explanations of crime• Introduce Cloward and Ohlin’s theory of crime committed by young people• Evaluate this subcultural theory
  • 3. Last Lesson Recap• What reasons are there for young men committing more crimes than any other group?• What is Status Frustration and why does it occur?• How does Alternative Status Hierarchy explain delinquency?• What are some of the evaluation points of Cohen’s theory?
  • 4. Cloward and Ohlin: 3 subcultures• Agree with Merton that WC youths are denied legitimate opportunities to achieve and that deviance stems from the response to this.• However not everyone adapts to lack of legitimate opportunities by turning to innovation (utilitarian crime). Some resort to violence, others to drugs
  • 5. The key reasons for these differences is not only unequal access to thelegitimate opportunity structure, but unequal access to illegitimateopportunity structures e.g. not everyone who fails at school canbecome a successful safecracker Can you take my son under your wing? I want him to know everything there is to know about protection racketeering.Peoples’ opportunities to be deviant are different: not everyone getsthe same chances to be crooks; some have better opportunities toenter into a criminal career, particularly if they have access to acriminal subculture.
  • 6. Depending on their access to the illegitimate opportunity structure,young people can enter into one of three deviant subcultures:Criminal subcultures are established and organized criminal networkswhich provide a learning environment for young criminals from criminalrole models. They are largely concerned with utilitarian crime thatderives financial rewards.
  • 7. Conflict subcultures develop in areas of limited access to either thelegitimate or the illegitimate opportunity structures.There is little organized adult crime to provide an apprenticeship incriminalityThese are usually areas of high turnover of population and have littlesocial unity or informal social control.Gang violence is a predominant response.
  • 8. Retreatist subcultures have failed to succeed in both thelegitimate and illegitimate opportunity structures and aretherefore double failures.Their activities centre mainly around illegal drug abuse. And we’re too soft and stupid to be I’ve no qualifications, gangsters. So we just no job and no future get wasted instead. in the normal world...
  • 9. What similarities and differences arethere between Cloward’s and Ohlin’s retreatist subculture and Merton’s idea of a retreatist adaptation
  • 10. • Members of different types of deviant subculture might engage in different acts of deviant behaviour.• In small groups, discuss which of the following offences you think would be most likely to be committed by members of ‘criminal’, ‘conflict’ or ‘retreatist’ subcultures.• Are there some offences that might be committed by members of all three subcultures? Vandalism hooliganism illegal possession of knives street fighting using ‘crack’ cocaine theft from shops car theft burglary illegal possession of guns dealing in stolen goods robbery with violence murder taking ecstasy joy riding dealing in drugs
  • 11. Evaluation Like Merton and Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin ignore crimes of the wealthy and the wider power structure and over predict the amount of W/C crime. Unlike Cohen they try to explain different types of W/C deviance in terms of different subcultures. However they draw the boundaries too sharply between the different types. Actual subcultures often show characteristics of more than one ‘type’ (can you think of any examples?)
  • 12. Like Cohen’s theory, Cloward and Ohlin’s is a reactiveone- they explain deviant subcultures as forming inreaction to the failure to achieve mainstream successgoals. This wrongly assumes that everyone starts offsharing these same goalsWalter Miller- lower class has its own independentsubculture separate from mainstream culture with itsown values. This culture does not value success in thefirst place so its members are not frustrated by failure. Heagrees that deviance is widespread in lower class butargues this arises out of an attempt to achieve their owngoals not mainstream ones (focal concerns)among middle class people
  • 13. Burke identifies criticisms of their work also:1) the idea of the criminal subculture is based on gangs in Chicago in the 1920s and 30s so isn’t particularly applicable to modern British society;2) the idea of retreatist subcultures is a ‘grossly simplistic’ explanation of drug abuse which is actually really common
  • 14. What have Recent Strain Theorists suggested? Page 78
  • 15. Overview of Key Sociologists• Create a glossary of what the key sub cultural sociologists have said.• Summaries each of them in no more than 25 words.
  • 16. Use subcultural explanations to explain• 02/2007_26_wed.shtml
  • 17. MIC: Gang Leader for A Day
  • 18. 1. Summarise using the key words below: KEY CONCEPT: legitimate opportunitystructure; illegitimate opportunity structure; criminal subcultures; conflict subcultures; retreatist subcultures; utilitarian crime; non-utilitarian crime. 2. Revision Sheet
  • 19. Quick Check Q’s Page 79