Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of subcultural theories of crime in explaining the formation and behaviour of criminal gangs
Subculture is defined in the The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology as ‘…. a system of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and life-styles of a social group which is distinct from, but related to the dominant culture of a society’. There are a great diversity of subcultures within modern society (Abercrombie, Hill & Turner,1984, p.245).
However, for the purpose of this essay the focus will be on subcultures in relation to crime. It will explain and identify subcultural theories of crime and discuss their strengths and weaknesses, paying particular attention to the formation and behaviour of criminal gangs.
Subcultural theory originated from America and was influenced by the work of the Chicago School Sociologists (Newburn, 2007, p.579). Their work was influenced by Emile Durkheim and brought about different explanations of crime. Suggesting that it was linked to social and environmental factors, rather than individual explanations such as biological and psychological factors (Jacobs, 2009, p.105). Their findings brought about a change in direction, focus and emphasis to understanding crime and deviance. They emphasised the social factors that generated crime. It brought about an understanding of the relationship between people and their social world and how it affected them (Jacobs, 2009, p.111).
Robert Merton’s work was built upon by subcultural theorists. Merton’s theory of anomie and strain explains the incompatibility between goals and legitimate means. Suggesting when an individual cannot achieve the goals of society in a socially acceptable way, they will turn to socially unacceptable ways to ensure success, they are in a state of normlessness, resulting in criminality (Smartt, 2006, p.36). He also looks at where individuals are placed in the social structure, their class position. He states that...