development of crime theories essay

‘Outline and critically evaluate the contributions made by ‘subcultural’ theories towards out understanding of crime causation’

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Within this essay, I have been asked to critically evaluate how subcultural theories make contributions towards our understanding of crime causation. In order to answer the question above, I shall first describe exactly what a ‘subculture’ is defined as and what qualities an individual has to lead to the causation of crime, according to individual theorists. I will state different theorists I have decided to include throughout my essay and how these theorists believe subcultures have lead to crime causation over the past many decades including many references throughout. These theories will include Merton’s ‘strain’ (anomie) theory (1938) and Cohen’s ‘status frustration theory’ (1956). I will also include theories that are critical of the strain theorist for numerous of reasons such as ‘drift’ and ‘neutralization’ theorists, Sykes and Matza(1957) and control theorists, Hirschi (1969).

Finally, I will conclude with a short  conclusion on how well each subcultural theorist has helped our understanding of crime causation. Firstly, before defining what a ‘subculture’ actually is, we need to understand the definition of ‘culture’. According to the Cambridge dictionary, culture is defined as ‘the way of life of a particular people, esp. as shown in their ordinary behavior habits, their attitudes toward each other, and their moral and religious beliefs’. This said, it means that many different societies can be referred to as a ‘subculture’ by others who do not share the same common interests as others. However, a subculture defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary is ‘an ethnic, regional, economic, or social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture or society’.

Subcultures are often seen to be very different to the cultures of mainstream society and often emerge due to an individual pushing their identity after been marginalized; some examples would be Goths, bikers and the classic ‘Mods and rockers’ subcultures that emerged within Britain in the 1960s.Now that the term ‘subculture’ has been defined I will now start to link how subcultural theorists lead to the understanding of crime causation. One of the first subcultural theorists I am going to evaluate is Robert Merton who developed the classic strain (also known as the anomie theory) theory 1938. The strain theory proposes that pressure derived from social factors such as having a lack of income will drive people to commit crime in order to fill this missing aspect. However, the strain theory is originally based on the ‘American dream’ in the1940’s and was developed to explain why the crime rate was rising within the USA. The American dream was a set of meritocratic principles that were meant to assure the American public has equality of opportunity and was available to

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