Inequalities and Strain Theories (Understanding Strain (Culturally…
Inequalities and Strain Theories
Inequalities in the riots
Of the adults prosecuted: - 35% were claiming out of work benefits, 42% claiming free school meals , 2/3rds from the most deprived areas in the UK. 2/3rds had special educational needs, 1/2 at expected level of English and maths, 11% in court with 5GSCEs
Themes so far
Marginalised and stuck , no social mobility
Cut off from dominant values of society
Especially wealth and status
What are strain theories - Merton's theory of strain (1938)
Distribution of crime in USA after the depression, crime rates increased. Higher rates of crime in poorer social groups - how do social structures make some people act in deviant ways? - mismatch between culture and social structure OR aspirations and reality
Culturally accepted goals - accumulation of wealth
Culturally accepted means: Hard work, honesty, deferred gratification, education
Not everyone has equal access to means and not everyone able to achieve goals so important means are a goal in themselves
If cultural values become unbalanced and wealth becomes more important than hard work and people cannot achieve it - this results in STRAIN
People in lower socio-economic groups are constrained by social structure and will find it harder to achieve wealth so are therefore more likely to experience strain
Strain arises when..
Culture places disproportionate emphasis on goal over means of achieving the goal - maintains it is available equally to all. BUT social structures restrict the possibilities of achieving it through hard work- contradiction between culture and social structure = strain or anomie
Anomie, relative deprivation and crime
Blocked access to opportunity structures, unable to realise goals legitimately- innovative NOT absolute poverty but relative deprivation
Strengths and implications
Shows how social, cultural and economic circumstances can create pressures that encourage crime
Links deviance to defining feature of capitalists society; desire to consume regardless of possibilities - does advertisement cause crime?
1964: Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty"
Work training programmes for those to poor to complete education - national job corps , community action programmes, employment incentives, established food stamps
Over-predictive? - why of some people innovate and some don't. How to explain womens lesser involvement in crime - ignores crimes of the powerful - Empirical challenges: low aspirations and high deviancy - are cultural goals always about wealth? - Can we really talk about consensus of cultural goals? - other barriers to achievement? - Is crime ALWAYS useful?
GST - Robert Agnew
conventional goal - culture promises these are available to everyone equally - if cultural goals are not met = strain leading to a variety of adaptions - one of which leads to crime
Conventional goals - fair treatment and justice - if not treated fairly = strains - lose something you value - treated badly - can't get what you want ADAPTIONS = anger (revenge)
Why do some people get angry and others don't?
Moving on from Merton
Strain not concentrated in lower socio-economic groups but across society - Not deterministic but introduces ideas of human agency and subjectivity - explains why some offend and not others - explains why some choose to be deviant and not others - connections between stressful life events and delinquency supported by research BUT it is too general