CHAPTER FOUR: SOCIAL STRUCTURAL THEORIES Chapter Summary Chapter
CHAPTER FOUR: SOCIAL STRUCTURAL THEORIES Chapter Summary Chapter Four is a discussion of sociological criminology based in the social structural school of thought. The Chapter begins with an analysis of Durkeims theory of anomie, and how this theory gave way to many other theories of crime, such as social disorganization and strain theory. After a full discussion of social organization and strain, the author discusses theories of the criminal subculture. Chapter Summary One prominent subculture is criminal gangs, which the author explores in detail. In the concluding section of the Chapter, the author
analyzes and evaluates the social structural theories of crime, as well as the policy implications derived from these theories. After reading this chapter, students should be able to: Understand functionalism Explain Durkheims theory of anomie Chapter Summary Discuss strain and the different theories of strain. Explain subculture theories Describe opportunity structures and focal concerns.
Discuss gangs both historically and presently Analyze and critique social structural theories of crime. Understand the policy implications of social structural theories of crime. The Social Structural Tradition The task of sociological criminology is to discover why social animals commit antisocial acts. The Social Structural Tradition Social structure: - how society is organized by social institutions - family, educational, religious, economic, & political institutions - stratified based on various roles & statuses. The Social Structural Tradition Structural theorists are more interested in seeking causes of group crime rates rather than why particular individuals commit crimes.
The consensus or functionalist perspective is one that views society as a system consisting of mutually sustaining parts and characterized by broad normative consensus. All the various social institutions have their own particular specialized social functions to keep society running smoothly. Sociological Positivism Causes of crime favored by sociologists in this tradition are compounds of a variety of social phenomena which are summarized by terms such as social disorganization, anomie, or group conflict. The appreciation of the social context of criminal behavior is sociologys greatest contribution to our understanding of crime.
Durkheim, Modernization, & Anomie AnomieMeaning lacking in rules or normlessness, used to describe the condition of normative deregulation in society. Mechanical solidarity exists in small, isolated & selfsufficient prestate society in which individuals, because they share common experiences & circumstances, share common values and develop strong emotional ties to the collectivity. Durkheim, Modernization, & Anomie Organic solidarity: Characteristic of modern societies in which there is a high degree of occupational specialization. Durkheim argued that because crime is found at all times and in all societies, it is a normal and inevitable phenomenon. Criminals and other deviants are useful in that they serve to identify the limits of acceptable behavior. All people are said to aspire to maximize their pleasures, but
deficiencies in natural talent will thwart some from attaining their goals legitimately. Figure 4.1 Zone Map of Male Delinquents in Chicago 19251933 Source: Shaw, C., & McKay, H. (1972). Juvenile delinquency in urban areas (p. 69). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Copyright by the University of Chicago Press. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. The Chicago School of Ecology Shaw & McKay: the majority of delinquents always came from the same neighborhoods regardless of the ethnic composition of those neighborhoods. The Chicago School of Ecology
The first criminological theory to be developed in the United States was the Chicago school of human ecology. Clifford Shaw & Henry McKay Social ecologydescribes the interrelations of human beings and the communities in which they live. Early social ecologists viewed the city as a super organism with natural areas differentially adaptive for different ethnic groups. Social Disorganization Social disorganization: The breakdown, or serious dilution, of the power of informal community rules to regulate conduct. The mix of peoples with limited resources, bringing with them a wide variety of cultural traditions sometimes at odds with traditional American middle-class norms of behavior, is not conducive to developing and/or maintaining a sense of community. Figure 4.2
Diagrammatic Presentation of Ecological Theory Influx of native and foreign immigrants into cities looking for work and congregating in poorest areas Value conflict and decrease in formal and informal social controls lead to SOCIAL DISORGANIZA -TION Deterioration of
Delinquen neighborhood cy and and development crime of delinquent values Social Disorganization A neighborhood in the process of losing its sense of community = a transition zone. Social disorganization = the loss of neighborhood collective efficacy. Collective efficacy: The shared power of a group of connected and engaged individuals to influence an outcome that the collective deems desirable. The same things that predict the loss of collective efficacy are the same things that predict social disorganization.
Social Disorganization Ecological fallacy: We cannot make inferences about individuals & groups on the basis of information derived from a larger population of which they are a part. How do we know that differences in delinquency rates result from the aggregated characteristics of communities rather than the characteristics of individuals selectively aggregated into communities? Strain Theory:
Robert Mertons Extension of Anomie Theory Robert Merton: Strain theory views crime as a normal response to the conditions that limit the opportunities for some individuals to obtain the economic success for which we are all supposed to strive. Anomie = structural-cultural disjunction and strain, the way people adapt to life in the context of anomie. Figure 4.3 Diagrammatic Presentation of Anomie/Strain Theory Cultural and Structural Context Middle-class success goals shared by all members of society
Limited access to legitimate means (education, jobs) for some Disjunction between goals and means (the ideal and the reality) ANOMIE Social-psychological response Individuals adapt to anomie by accepting or rejecting goals & means GOALS Accepts Rejects
Rejects Accepts Rejects MEANS MODE OF ADAPTATION TO ANOMIE Accepts -------> CONFORMITY (nondeviant) Accepts -------> RITUALISM (deviant, noncriminal) Rejects --------> RETREATISM (deviant, social dropout, could be criminal) Rejects ------ > INNOVATION (deviant, criminal) Rejects --------> REBELLION (deviant, wants to substitute new goals and means)
Modes of Adaptation Five modes of adaptation that various people adopt in response to social pressure Conformity: Accept the success goals of American society, and the prescribed means of attaining them Ritualism: Rejects the cultural goals, but does not adapt in a criminal manner. Innovation: Accepts the validity of cultural goals, but rejects the legitimate means of attaining them. Modes of Adaptation Retreatism rejects both the cultural goals, and the institutionalized means of attaining them; they are in society but not of it. Rebellion reject both the goals and the means of capitalist American society, but unlike retreatists, rebels
wish to substitute alternative legitimate goals and alternative legitimate means. Institutional Anomie Theory Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld: Institutional Anomie Theory (IAT) places the blame for the high crime rate in the United States unequivocally on the doorstep of the much-vaunted American Dream and its capitalist underpinnings. High crime rates are intrinsic to the basic cultural commitments and institutional arrangements of American society.
Institutional Balance of Power: Subjugation of other institutions. Institutional Anomie Theory American culture tends to devalue the non-economic function and roles of other social institutions. The answer to the high crime rate in the United States is decommodification, which refers to social policies intended to free social relationships from economic considerations by freeing the operation of the other social institutions from the domination of the economy, or to at least gain a certain degree of balance. Robert Agnews General Strain Theory
Robert Agnew laid the foundation for a general strain theory. Strain results from the removal of a positively valued stimuli or the presentation of negative stimuli. We all experience multiple strain throughout our lives, but the impact of strain differs according to its magnitude, recency, duration, and clustering. The most important fact is not strain per se, but how one copes with it. Subcultural Theories: Albert Cohen & Status Frustration Distinct criminal subcultures might develop, particularly among lower-class individuals because these are the people expected to feel the bite of blocked opportunity more sharply. Albert Cohens book Delinquent Boys proposed a mechanism by which lower-class youths adapt to the
limited avenues of success open to them Short-run hedonism: The actor is seeking immediate gratification of his or her desires without regard for any long term consequences. Subcultural Theories: Albert Cohen & Status Frustration Much lower-class crime and delinquency is expressive rather than instrumental. Though no fault of their own, young people lack access to middle-class avenues of approval and self-worth. Because they cannot adjust to what Cohen calls middleclass measuring rods, they experience status frustration. The real problem for Cohen is status frustration, not blocked opportunity. Lower-class youth desire approval and status, but because they cannot meet middle-class criteria, they become frustrated.
Cloward & Ohlins Opportunity Structure Theory One of the most influential extensions of strain theory has been Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlins opportunity structure theory, outlined in their book, Delinquency and Opportunity. To obtain and take advantage of the most rewarding illegitimate opportunities, aspiring delinquents often need an in. Gang types that develop from the frustration generated by blocked opportunities: Criminal gangs, Conflict gangs, Retreatist gangs. Walter Millers Theory of Focal Concerns Gangs are not a reaction to status deprivation Miller asserted that lower-class behavior and values must be viewed on their own terms. Six focal concerns that are part of a value system and a
lifestyle that has emerged from the realities of life on the bottom rung of society Trouble confers status if it is the right type of trouble. Toughness is very important to the status of lower-class males. Walter Millers Theory of Focal Concerns Smartness refers to street smarts and is the ability to survive on the streets using ones wits. Excitement is the search for fun. Fate is a belief that the locus of control is external to oneself and a belief in lady luck. Autonomy means personal freedom. The hard-core lower class lifestyle typified by these focal concerns catch those engaged in it in a web of situations that virtually guarantee
delinquent and criminal activities. Youth Gangs Malcolm Klein defines a youth gang as: any denotable adolescent group who (a) are generally perceived as a distinct aggregation by others in the neighborhood, (b) recognize themselves as a denotable group, and (c) have been involved in a sufficient number of delinquent incidents to call forth a consistent negative response from neighborhood residents and/or law enforcement agencies. The Increasing Prevalence of Gangs Gangs are more prevalent in the United States today than
ever before. It is the neighborhood of the marginalized and underclass that the most fertile soil for the growth of gangs exist. Why do Young People Join Gangs? Joining a gang has almost become a survival imperative in some areas where unaffiliated youths are likely to be victimized. Gang membership provides means of satisfying belongingness needs. Gangs functions for many of its members as (1) family,
(2) friendship group, (3) play group, (4) protective agency, (5) educational institution, & (6) employer. Girls in Gangs Females are a minor part of the modern gang scene. Girls join gangs for many of the same reasons that boys do. Three basic types of female gang involvement All-female gangs Mixed gender gangs Female auxiliaries of male gangs The vast majority of females gang delinquency consists of non-violent property and status offenses. Evaluation of Social Structural Theories
Ecological theory brought home one of the most universal demographic characteristics of crime, namely, its concentration in socially disorganized areas inhabited by economically deprived people. Strain theories claim to explain particular types of crimes in terms of their prevalence in society, and not why one individual becomes criminal and another does not. General strain theory has been criticized as reductionist because of its emphasis of attempting to explain how people subjectively perceive and react to strain. Evaluation of Social Structural Theories General strain theory has been criticized as reductionist because of its emphasis of attempting to explain how
people subjectively perceive & react to strain. Subculture theories augment both ecological and anomie/strain theories by introducing the idea of subculture. Evaluation of Social Structural Theories Focal concerns has attracted charges of racial insensitivity. Social disorganization Chicago Area Project: Treating communities from which offenders came. Shaw & McKay organized a number of programs aimed at generating or strengthening a sense of community within neighborhoods. Table 4.1 Summarizing Social Structural Theorie Theory Key Concepts Strengths
Weaknesses Poverty concentrates people of different cultural backgrounds and generates cultural conflict. The breakdown of informal social controls leads to social disorganization, and peer group gangs replace social institutions as socializers. Explains high crime rates in certain areas. Accounts for intergenerational transmission of deviant values and predicts crime rates
from neighborhood characteristics. Cannot account for individuals and groups in the same neighborhood who are crime free or why a few individuals commit a highly disproportionate share of crime. Anomie (Durkheim) Rapid social change leads to
social deregulation and the weakening of restraining social norms. This unleashes insatiable appetites, which some seek to satisfy through criminal activity. Emphasizes the power of norms and social solidarity to restrain crime and points to situations that weaken them. Concentrates on whole societies and ignores differences in areas that are
differentially affected by social deregulation. Anomie/Strain (Merton) All members of American society are socialized to want to attain monetary success, but some are denied access to legitimate means of attaining it. These people may then resort to crime to achieve what they have been Explains high crime rates among the
disadvantaged and how cultural norms create conflict and crime. Explains various means of adapting to strain. Does not explain why individuals similarly affected by strain to not react (adapt) similarly. Social Disorganization Table 4.1
Summarizing Social Structural Theories Theory Key Concepts Weaknesses Strengths Institutional Anomie America is literally organized for crime due to its overweening emphasis on the economy and material success. All other institutions are devalued and must accommodate
themselves to the requirements of the economy. Explains why crime rates are higher in America than in other capitalist societies. Points to decommodi fication as crime reduction strategy. Concentrates on single cause of crime. Should predict high rates
of property crime in America rather than violent crime, but the opposite is true. General Strain There are multiple sources of strain, and strain differs along numerous dimensions. Strain is the result of negative emotions that arise from negative relationships with other as well as from sociocultural forces. Individual characteristics
help us to cope poorly or well with strain. Reminds us that strain is multifaceted and that how we cope with it is more important than its existence. Adds individual characteristics to theory. Criticized by structural theorists as reductionist because it fails to
explore structural origins of strain. Table 4.1 Summarizing Social Structural Theories Theory Key Concepts Weaknesses Strengths Subcultur al Much delinquency is short-run hedonism rather than utilitarian.
Lower-class youths cannot live up to middle-class measuring rods and thus develop status frustration. They seek status in ways peculiar to the subculture. Subcultural youths do not have equal illegitimate opportunities for attaining success. Those who do join criminal gangs; those who dont join retreatist and conflict gangs and engage in mindless violence and vandalism. Extends the scope of anomie theory and integrates social disorganization theory. Focuses on processes by which
lower-class youths adapt to their disadvantages and shows that illegitimate opportunities are also denied to some. Explains the patterned way of life that sustains delinquent values and goals. Explains subcultural crime and delinquency only. There is some question as to
whether a distinct lower-class culture exists in the sense that it is supported by proscriptive values that require antisocial behavior. Focal Concerns Lower-class youths live their lives according to the focal concerns of the neighborhoods they find themselves in. These focal concerns lead to conflict with the mainstream culture because they generate antisocial behavior.
Identifies the core values of lower-class culture and how they generate and perpetuate antisocial behavior. Explains only lowerclass antisocial behavior. Ignores the structural origin of the focal concerns. Policy and Prevention: Implications of Social Structural Theories Strain theory If the cause of crime is a disjunction between cultural values
emphasizing success for all and a social structure denying access to legitimate means of achieving it to some, then the cure for crime is to increase opportunities or to dampen aspirations. Cloward & Ohlin developed a delinquency-prevention project, known as Mobilization for Youth which concentrated on expanding legitimate opportunities for disadvantaged youths. Policy and Prevention: Implications of Social Structural Theories The policy recommendation flowing from institutional anomie theory would be those that tame the power of the market via decommodification. Any policy recommendation derived from subcultural theory would not differ in any significant ways from those derived from ecological or anomie/strain theories.
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