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Culture Conflict, Subcultural, and Differential Opportunity

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Culture conflict theory says that the cause of criminality is caused by different views between socialized groups over what behavior is right or wrong. According to Thorsten Sellin, expectations for human behavior within a social group is acquired early in life through childhood. The clash of these expectations is what results in crime. Sellin describes two types of culture conflict, primary conflict, and secondary conflict. Primary conflict is when a fundamental clash of cultures occurs. Secondary conflict is when smaller cultures within the primary one clash.

Subcultural theory is a sociological perspective that emphasizes the contribution made by variously socialized cultural groups to the phenomenon of crime. Subculture is different than the larger cultures because they claim a smaller group of people. According to Walter Miller, subcultural crime is the consequences from specific values of the subculture. Trouble and crime are most likely to occur in a lower-class culture. The individuals within the lower-class tend to get into trouble, therefore, it is a focal point for those members. Fighting and gambling are crimes often made in a lower-class culture because those who commit these crimes are an excitement for those individuals.

Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin published a report on the activities of juvenile gangs that blended the subcultural thesis and the ideas from strain theory. They identified two types of socially structured opportunities, illegitimate and legitimate. Illegitimate opportunities are when individuals commit crimes when the chances of getting caught are low. Cloward and Ohlin also describe three types of delinquent subcultures, criminal subcultures, conflict subcultures, and retreatist subcultures. Criminal subcultures are when criminal role models available for adoption by those being socialized into the subculture. Conflict subcultures are when participants seek status through violence. Lastly, retreatist subcultures are where drug use and withdrawal from the wider society predominate.

General Theory of Crime

The general theory of crime, also known as self-control theory of crime, focuses on the lack of an individual’s self-control. The general theory of crime looks at the individual’s childhood and whether or not their parental upbringing. It suggests that children under the age of ten did not have good parenting in their life are more likely to have less self-control than those who had good parenting. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi children with behavioral problems tend to grow up to be delinquents because the path of crime comes early in life. Therefore, children who have loving parents who raise and punish them accordingly will develop a sense of self-control. Whereas, those who do not have loving parents tend to impulsive, aggressive, and act out by committing crimes. When an individual’s personal interest is conflicted with a long-term interest, those with a lack of self-control will want the desires of the current moment.

Gottfredson and Hirschi also argue that the lack of self-control is not a necessary condition for crime to occur. They believe that there may be other possibilities of the situation that would affect the individual’s likelihood of committing a crime. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, the belief that a well-developed social bond will result in the effective mechanisms of self-control.

The link between crime and self-control depends on the situation that the individual is in. According to Per-Olof H. Wikstrom’s situational action theory, an individual’s ability of self-control is the outcome of the interaction and situation that they are involved in. One downfall of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theory is that it is just a general view of crime and ignores the complexity of the criminal process.

General Strain Theory

General strain theory is the thought that social structures within a society pressures citizens to commit a crime. Individuals that are experiencing extreme amounts of stress may turn to crime as a coping mechanism. Strain theory is thought of like a pressure that individuals feel to reach a socially determined goal. As a consequence to strain, crime tends to arise because some individuals feel pressured to be successful. However, the tools they need to be successful does not come easy to them, therefore, some individuals turn to crime. For example, individuals who stress about financial stability may feel the pressure to rob a bank to get the money they need to be successful. Objective strains are events or conditions that are disliked by most individuals in a given group. Subjective strains are events or conditions that are disliked by the people who are experiencing them. An emotional response to an event is linked to subjective strain. Therefore, the subjective strain is distinct from an emotional reaction to strain. Two individuals can evaluate an event the same way, meaning, they both can dislike the event at an equal amount. Therefore, they have the same amount of subjective strain. Although they may experience the same dislike, the emotional response may be different. For example, one individual may feel angry in response to the strain. Whereas, the other individual may feel depressed in response to the strain.

Convict Criminology

Convict Criminology is a blend of writings by credentialed ex-inmates and critical criminologists who joined together in distrust of mainstream criminology. It is when ex-convicts become criminologists. Convict Criminology gives a perspective with regards to the justice systems. The convict criminologists have the criminal background and give incite to the inside perspective. Ethnographic is the preferred method used by convict criminologists. They study the culture of inmate society. Ethnographers used their experiences that they lived and write about them. In this case, the convict criminologists have lived the life of a convict. Therefore, they are now writing about their experience. Luckily, they hours that an ethnographer usually spends learning and experiencing the culture they are studying, the convict criminologists do not have to spend because they have already experienced it because the subject is themselves. Convict Criminology is a source for improving the justice system.

Convict Criminology is often critiqued because many say that the authors are white men and some of them are not ex-convicts. Also, most groups of convict criminologists are partisans and activists, therefore, it is a biased approach. Convict criminology differs from other theories discussed in this course because it has the first person view on the inside and is written down based on the criminologist’s point of view.

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