How Important And Relevant Are Mertons Strain Theory Criminology Essay

In this essay I will analyze the importance and relevancy of a structional functionalist position of aberrance seen through the lens of strain theory and a symbolic interactionalist position through the usage of labelling theory. Strain Theory efforts to explicate why offense is resolute amongst the lower categories who are subjected to the least chances for economic accomplishment ( O ‘ Connor 2007 ) . It focuses on the places that persons occupy in a societal system, non on the features of the person. Labeling theory explains why sustained delinquent behavior stems from destructive societal interactions and brushs ( Siegel & A ; Welsh 2008 ) . These theories work in harmoniousness as the former theory explains why aberrance begins and the latter gives an account as to why aberrance continues through the lifetime. I will be depicting and measuring these theories to farther reply the inquiry of: merely how of import are these two theories for the understanding aberrance?

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“ The sociology of aberrance is the systematic survey of societal norm misdemeanor that is capable to societal countenance ” harmonizing to ( Henry 2009 p.1 ) . Aberrant behavior is behaviour that does non follow common perceptual experiences, when people are aberrant they do non conform to outlooks. It is hard to give an exact definition of aberrance as many major theoreticians have cast a huge assortment of positions on what it truly is. Some sociologists believe that aberrance is the misdemeanor of any societal regulation, whereas other sociologists argue that aberrance does non hold to be a existent behavior for it to be labelled aberrant ( Thio, Calhoun & A ; Conyers 2008 ) .

Downes & A ; Rock ( 2003 ) province that aberrance is everyplace and non merely that but it leaves hints everyplace. Theories of aberrance are seldom catapulted into political scenes to be accepted or rejected in their entireness ; instead they ‘trickle ‘ in from many beginnings. The influence of thoughts is ever altering due to the instability of political fortunes ( Downs & A ; Rock 2003 ) .

The addition in aberrance may be due to the fact that people are confused about the correct values and ethical motives to keep. As a consequence of this of all time germinating universe there are new fluctuations of aberrant behavior happening on a day-to-day footing, runing from minor misdemeanors of the jurisprudence such as non paying a telecasting license to major aberrance like maltreatment dirts in respect to the Catholic Church. These Acts of the Apostless are considered to be aberrant as they are Acts of the Apostless which the remainder of society deems as unacceptable ( Tierney 2006 ) . Traditional values such as spiritual positions have been shattered to pieces because of ongoing dirts in the Catholic Church. Individual pursuits drive people ; faith has no impact on the expected criterions of people in today ‘s materialist driven society, which in bend leads to an addition in aberrant behaviors.

The Functionalist position stems from the work of Durkheim who believed that people ‘s societal functions or maps hold society together ( Flynn 2009 ) . In contrast to this is the Symbolic interaction attack where the accent is on the manner people construct the significance of others Acts of the Apostless ( Becker & A ; McCall 1990 ) . Durkheim believed that offense is non merely functional but it is necessary, it merely become dysfunctional if the rates are either excessively high or excessively low ( Covington 1999 ) . The functionalist analysis of aberrance Begins with society as a whole ; it looks for the beginning of aberrance in the nature of society instead than in the psychological nature of the person. Durkheim believes society is held together by shared values, and if these values are non invariably reaffirmed through the coevalss it may mean the prostration of society.

One may set forward the statement that shared values are non a cardinal portion of society today. It proves hard to reaffirm values through coevalss when the household when parents are working long hours. Parental influence over kids has declined ; due to this kids seek values from available beginnings such as the telecasting or cyberspace, ensuing in the publicity of mercenary values which are in bend the ‘norms ‘ today.

If the community collapsed, and the corporate scruples failed the consequence was a province of anomy ( Covington 1999 ) . In kernel anomy represents the jobs in society caused by societal deregulating. Merton developed an anomy theory based on Durkheim ‘s earlier work which referred to a deinstitutionalization of norms that happens when there is a disjuncture between the importance of cultural ends and institutional agencies ( Featherstone & A ; Deflem 2003 ) .

Merton ‘s strain theory argues that constructions in society may promote aberrance and offense, it is a structural functionalist account. Functionalist theories offers the footing for policies that are wide-ranging in their range ( Downes & A ; Rock 2003 ) , nevertheless Gouldner ( 1970 ) believes that Functionalism thinks of systems as reciprocally interacting variables instead than in footings of cause and consequence, therefore one may deduce that it is impossible to implement policy to halt a peculiar consequence if the cause is non highlighted.

Theories of aberrance are highly of import as Downes & A ; Rock ( 2003 ) believe that all theories of aberrance have deductions for policy devising. That said nevertheless the easiness of execution of constabularies may turn out hard. For illustration making something about anomy would be far “ more hard than undertaking hooliganism by proficient agencies ” ( Downes & A ; Rock p. 317 2003 ) However, Merton ‘s anomy theory is of great relevancy to the kingdom of policy as it infers a definite cause and consequence statement associating to the disjuncture between ends and agencies ( Downes & A ; Rock 2003 ) .

The chief rule of Social Strain Theory is that “ some societal constructions exert a definite force per unit area upon certain individuals in society to prosecute in non-conforming instead than conforming behavior ” ( Thio, Calhoun & A ; Conyers 2008 p.33 ) . This is non to state that certain societal constructions leave the person with no other pick but to turn to offense, instead unequal ordinance leaves the person with a different position on agencies to fiscal addition. I agree that this system is a great beginning of inequality and subsequent aberrance in our society today that the less powerful groups are labelled so negatively and punished badly. Every offense should be treated in the same mode, irrespective of whether they are from an underprivileged country or a high flight concern individual.

An impact of rhythm of lacking ordinance may besides be seen in Becker ‘s Labelling theory. This theory was greatly influenced by the symbolic interaction attack as it is people who determine and give intending to labels. The justness system operates on behalf of powerful groups in society ; hence one has to inquire the inquiry what behavior are condemnable?

The two strands of this theory are a concern to turn to how a peculiar behavior comes to be labelled as pervert and secondly what is the impact of this label. ( Becker p.9 1963 ) states that “ The pervert is one whom that label has been successfully applied: aberrant behavior is behaviour that people so label ” . In relation to deviance Labelling theory places the importance on the reaction to behaviour non the behavior itself ( Macionis & A ; Plummer 2007 ) . It was this belief that leads Becker to topographic point labels on types of behavior, but who are the people labelled as pervert in society. To set it merely, labelling theory is concerned with what happens to felons after they have been labelled, besides proposing that existent offense rates may be heightened by condemnable countenances.

Unlike the Functionalist position, Symbolic Interaction is concerned with the procedure that underline societal life and accordingly the mechanisms by which significances are given to those procedures. It centres on the creativeness capacity of worlds and their ability to portion interactions with others ( Walklate 2007 ) . In relation to deviance it is concerned with how certain behaviors come to be understood as pervert.

Becker argued that behavior of less powerful groups for illustration the hapless, or disadvantaged are more likely to be criminalized than those who are privileged such as the white and affluent. This happens because there is an premise that offense is a societal label – along with the creative activity of jurisprudence which are made by people in places of power and enforced on people without power ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) . The judicial system criminalizes less dominant and less powerful member of society, therefore Becker argues that some regulations “ may be cynically designed to maintain the less powerful in their topographic point ” ( Hopkins Burke p.137 2002 ) .

Becker ( 1963 ) disagreed with the impression that those who break the jurisprudence will be labelled as a felon. He brought our attending to the fact that in many instances the inexperienced person are accused, along with this lone some of those who break the jurisprudence are punished and brought through the system ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) . Becker used a construct developed by Merton called the ‘self carry throughing prognostication ‘ which is what labelling theory is most widely known for. When a state of affairs is given a false definition it evokes a new behavior in the individual which as a consequence makes the false premise comes through ( Hopkins Burke p.142 2002 ) . Becker felt that most felons were in the first topographic point falsely defined as a felon, non merely are their actions defined by society as pervert, the label is so extended to them as a individual ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) .

Merton ‘s construct of strain refers to coerce the lower economic categories feel when they try to accomplish society ‘s ends of pecuniary success ( Flynn 2009 ) . Merton felt that in society, people were focused on accomplishing high fiscal success which although exceptionally productive on one manus, on the other was a direct beginning of emphasis and strain for the person ( Cohen 1966 ) . In consequence there is a deformation between culturally induced aspirations for economic success and structurally distributed possibilities of accomplishment. This is in conformity with labeling theory position where the people who commit aberrant Acts of the Apostless are likely under strain from society to accomplish pecuniary success. An illustration of this would be in relation to higher instruction, people without the agencies or cultural cognition to draw a bead on to respected professions are more likely to prosecute in pervert behavior than those with entree to accomplishing their ends ( Flynn 2009 ) .

Within labelling theory there are two of import constructs, those of primary aberrance and secondary aberrance. Merton thinks that the sense of strain that work forces experience is an accretion of defeat, desperation and unfairness ( Cohen 1966 ) . Structural and Individual strain are the two chief types of strain in society that promote aberrance and offense. The former refers to the rhythm of lacking ordinance in society that has a negative impact on how an single evaluates their demands, agencies and chances ( Flynn 2009 ) . The latter construct is defined by O’Connor ( 2007 ) as clashs and strivings experienced by the person as they look for ways to run into their demands.

Primary aberrance in labeling theory involves Acts of the Apostless committed by person without a condemnable individuality such as an minor drinker. This act provokes small reaction from others around us, therefore it does non hold any impact on the individuals self construct ( Macionis & A ; Plummer 2007 ) . Secondary aberrance develops through peoples ‘ actions towards the individual perpetrating the pervert act they may be pushed off and stigmatized doing the offense worse, it is caused by the condemnable label ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) . It evolves from primary aberrance being labelled, which is more likely to go on if you are from a less powerful group ( Macionis & A ; Plummer 2007 ) , therefore mirrors Merton ‘s statement about deformation between economic success and possibility of accomplishment ( Flynn 2009 ) .

Merton noted that there were five possible responses or versions to strive that go on when people are non in a place to lawfully “ attain internalised societal ends ” ( Hopkins Burke p.107 2002 ) . This is a perfect illustration of how labels are the cause of farther aberrant behavior. Durkheim and Merton are one in believing that strain consequences in aberrant behavior, nevertheless Durkheim felt the chief causes of strain were alterations in society. Adapting through conformance is a self explanatory account whereby people both the cultural jails of society and the agencies of accomplishing them ( Burke 2002 ) , this ensures the continuality and stableness of society ( Thio, Calhoun & A ; Conyers 2008 ) , people do non interrupt Torahs when accomplishing their agencies. Retreatism is considered the most uncommon version by Merton, they reject societal ends and the agencies to achieve them ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) , their behavior is non normal and are considered “ true foreigners ” ( Thio, Calhoun & A ; Conyers p.37 2008 ) .

Ritualism is similar to conforming behaviors ; they adhere to regulations for their ain interest with an accent on agencies of accomplishment instead than outcome ends ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) . Invention is a response to the force per unit area placed on the person for success. The pioneer embarks on novel paths to accomplish success due to barriers for them to accomplish success by socially approved agencies. They have the possible to be seen as pervert ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) , as they engage in illegal agencies to accomplish success. The concluding response is rebellion, whereby people non merely reject but besides want to alter the bing societal system and its ends ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) . The really word ‘rebellion ‘ connotes negative significance therefore demoing the being of labeling and stigma as used by Merton. Peoples are stereotyped as being incapable of following normal behaviors and the general population treats them otherwise, ensuing in favoritism in employment, and in many other countries of societal life The internalisation of labels by wrongdoers may really good bring forth a calling in criminalism because of the negative reactions they receive ( Hopkins Burke 2002 ) . However, in contrast as Merton argued & A ; Cohen agreed that the root cause of the original outgrowth of delinquent behavior was the economic chase of ‘money success ‘ ( Downes & A ; Rock 2003 ) .

A batch of labels come about through the stigmatisation of a peculiar behavior. ‘Stigma ‘ is powerful negative label that has the possible to radically alter a individuals ‘ ego construct ( Macionis & A ; Plummer 2007 ) , therefore it is an influential force in the field of labelling. Slattery ( 2003 ) notes that a stigma can either be ascribed or achieved, you can be born with one or gain one. Similar to this is strain theories focus on negative dealingss between people, concentrating on how the person is non treated as they would wish to be treated ( Agnew 2002 ) .

Labeling theory has several restrictions ; foremost because labelling is really comparative it does non take into history some behaviour like slaying which is condemned virtually everyplace. Consequently it is most utile to use to less serious behaviors like young person hooliganism. Second, labelling may be seen in two ways- it could promote more condemnable behavior of it could control it because of people do non like to hold a stigma attached to them. ( Macionis & A ; Plummer 2007 ) . Finally another restriction of labelling theory is that it does non state us what are the root causes of primary aberrance so how do these people become aberrant in the first topographic point? They can non be labelled aberrant if they have non engaged in that type of behavior. Both labeling and strive theory stress the function society has to play in offense. Aberrance is shaped in its minutess with events and people around it. Labeling theoreticians in peculiar have occupied themselves with the workings of the societal reaction to aberrance ( Downes & A ; Rock 2003 ) . Dissimilar to this is Durkheim ‘s position of aberrance as executing maps that are indispensable to society through, promoting societal alteration, advancing societal integrity by reacting to deviance, clear uping moral boundaries and confirming cultural norms and values ( Macionis & A ; Plummer 2007 ) .

Sumner ( 1994 ) argued that aberrance is non applicable to sociology today. He believes that the sociology of aberrance ‘died ‘ in 1975. Similarly Miller, Wright and Dannels ( 2001 ) claim to happen empirical support for it and mean the “ decease of aberrance ” in regard to the universe today. However, on the other manus Goode ( 2002 ) claims that at a certain phase in its history, the sociology of aberrance developed a big figure of thoughts, constructs, and theories that influenced related Fieldss. These thoughts included: stigma which influenced disablement and transgender surveies, anomy in societal theory, labelling in cultural surveies and the sociology of the underdog in fagot theory. Regardless of the fact that sociology of aberrance did non make these constructs, the field did assist project them onto the rational map.

Goode concludes that “ The societal building of aberrance is one time once more controversial, relevant, cardinal to our lives, and cardinal to our apprehension of today ‘s universe ” ( Goode 2002 ) . I must hold with this statement as non a twenty-four hours goes by without some type of offense or deviant behaviour brought to our attending.

Cohen ( 1966 ) believes that regulations in mundane life provide a design for every human gesture ; accordingly every regulation so creates potency for aberrance. However, as mentioned previously- are we truly all aware of social norms and values? I believe that society today has failed to supply a ‘blueprint ‘ or clear regulations for people to populate by, therefore taking to the unprecedented rates of offense and societal aberrance. Strain theory and labelling theory do non pay much attending to psychological factors involved in aberrant behavior, this is a restriction to both I feel. I would oppugn the generalizability of strain theory as it emphasises the focal point of philistinism for society today. However, much offense is committed by people who merely want to acquire by in life, to last. They feel they have no other option but to perpetrate offense to set nutrient on the tabular array. Crime may non needfully be about making the top in society, it may merely be about acquiring by. Labeling theory is a batch more single in its focal point ; it is more concerned with people ‘s reactions when placed in a designated function by society.


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