Right off the bat when reading the article it states that it’s the most widely read article in sociology. The author Robert K. Merton opens his paper by first challenging certain offenses that were popular in 1938. Most of the theories that Merton has analyzed mentioned “biological drives”. Some of the theorists view crime as “biological drives” in which our society comes to terms with restraining it.
What I found interesting, Merton doesn’t agree with other theorists, he, on the other hand, argues that a person or persons drive for crime is frequently shown to be stemmed from society itself. This is when his theory or argument splits into two parts.
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The article refers to his “anomie theory”. This hypothesis of his is looked to be explained why certain parts of societies have increased rates of criminal activity than let’s say, the other half of the societies in which they appear to have decreased rates of criminal activity. Merton focuses on the relative emphasis placed on this set cultural goals society has placed as well as the institutionalized norms for achieving these goals of society.
It is come to know some certain places in society have a high comparative prominence which is called cultural goals. Also, to have a low corresponding value of the norms or as well some gain the achievement of goals, which increases the rate of crimes. Merton characterizes these societies by using the terms anomie or normlessness, whereas it is explained from “the goal-seeking behavior”, Merton mentions. An individual is exposed to little commands or in other words law. This turns into a repercussion for persons employing the most beneficial values including that of criminal acts in order to achieve their once again prize.
The “strain” theory Merton discusses in this half of the article argues that some person and persons within a society are being exposed to “special” pressures that of criminal actions. Merton mentions that while it is urged as well as expected that people strive for financial riches, people of the lower class are prevented from achieving this goal. This leads to individuals to have pressure, but even then they can adapt to the strain or so-called pressures of values.
Continuing of Merton briefly discusses why some types of individuals are more likely to respond to strain with crime than others. Merton’s strain theory has been the subject of extensive commentary and researches the evidence for his strain theory which is mixed. Certain recent tests of this theory seem to be at it’s accurate as well as the anomie theory. The anomie theory proposes that criminal activity is most seen in those who place much emphasis on cultural goals and little on the norms for achieving the goals, meaning to be successful.
Before going into the article I made a note that has caught my attention about the author itself. Albert K. Cohen was a student of Robert K. Merton. I just found this to be very intriguing because some of his points or theories have been taken into account in Cohen’s articles. Cohen has a particular interest and focus of criminal societies.
To narrow it down, Cohen focuses more on the lower-working-class urban gangs of 1950, during that time they were the subject of attention. Cohen in the article poses a question of: “How can we explain the origin and content of delinquent subcultures?” Since he was a student of Merton as I said before he draws some of Merton’s theory to provide his own, collective answer to the question which is often outlined throughout the article.
In the first part of his theory, that is being stated in the first section of the article. Cohen provides a well-explained origin of deviant social groups. The second section applies that the theory to explain the origin and contents of man it has to be specified by gender. Cohen focuses on working-class males and urban gangs. While I was reading the parts of the article, I have noted and made some comparisons and contrasts with Merton’s strain theory.
Similar to Merton, Cohen argues that “goal blockade” is what causes delinquency. Now Cohen, on the other hand, argues that lower and working class males don’t concern themselves with the goal of cultural goals. Other than the obvious of not concerning themselves with achieving this success, they would rather concern themselves with the fulfillment of making it to the higher societal class.
The achievement of broader goals referred to the respect from the higher-ups in the financial success aspect of cultural goals. This was noted by Cohen to be crucial because of the difference in goals. It is said in the article that an individual can obtain financial riches through illegal activities such as theft, this is one of Merton’s adaptations of innovation. An individual can’t steal the status of a higher class, which makes perfect sense since it could lead to a huge consequence, which Cohen discusses throughout the article.
The consequence is that the lower and working class often have to evolve to the goal blockade by making an alternative plan. This is how someone, an individual would gain their true success. This is also noted to be very much alike to Merton’s adaptations of criminal behavior, in which was explained that these new goals and methods are basically being replaced for the previous goals instead of the new. From reading onward I made the connection that both the lower and working class share hostility towards the middle-class persons.
The hostility leads them to set up a status quo that values everything that the apparent middle class doesn’t concern itself with. Based on these very theories it is explained that the middle class values private property and respect for an individual. Now, this caught my attention because it made me question his theory. It’s suggesting that lower and working class boys don’t value such things.
Also, in the theory, it gives an example of what I was questioning. The example that was given was that while gangs of some sorts value the destruction and theft of any property probably more towards private property and leading more towards aggression towards others. Cohen then goes onto the explanatory origins and contents of the criminal social group. After getting towards the end of the article it states the definite features of his hypothesis.
Theorists have come to the main claim that the goals of criminal persons are not disagreeable to an idea of standard goals as Cohen has explained throughout his theory. Even though there has been a criticism the data shows and tends to often prove and support this argument. All of this information that was given by this theorist Cohen brings a fundamental contribution to criminal law.