Assess the usefulness of consensus approaches to an understanding of the reasons for crime and deviance in society According to consensus approaches, every society shares a set of core values known as collective conscience. The behavior which is different from these core values is to be viewed as deviant. Crime and deviance can be explained by consensus approaches through several theories. One explanation of crime and deviance from the functionalist perspective was Merton’s strain theory. He said crime is a response to failing to achieve society’s cultural goals. According to Merton’s explanation, all society set their members certain goals and provides socially approved ways of achieving these goals. When majority of the population were unable to achieve the socially set goals by the socially approved ways, they became disenchanted with society and find alternative ways of behaving. Additionally, Merton described 5 forms of behavior which is a response to failing to achieve society’s goals.
Conformity and innovation are both accept the goals of society. Conformity also accepts the means of society and is non-deviant and non-criminal conformist citizen, while innovation means that the person will achieve those goals by using different ways (including deviance and crime). Ritualism and retreatism both reject their goals. Retreatism also rejects their means, depending upon drugs and alcohol and drugs. Ritualism accepts their means but has a negative attitude toward life. They may also rebel against society, and engage in protest and revolution to try and change society. Another explanation comes from Cohen’s subcultural theory. He claimed that today much offending behavior was not economically motivated, but done for the thrill of the act. Cohen suggests that working class youth try hard to accept and get the success goals of middle class, but lacked the opportunities to attain success. They feel they are denies status in society, known as status frustration. As the result, they reject the middle class values and developing an alternative distinctive set of values.
They release their tension through joining or creating groups which have alternative values for achieving status. Behavior deviant in society such as crime and drug-taking becomes normal and values in the subcultural group. The third explanation of crime and deviance is Cloward and Ohlin’s subcultural theory. Cloward and Ohlin combined the ideas of Merton and Cohen. The believed that there was a legitimate opportunity structure such as getting job and passing exam, and an illegitimate opportunity structure which means that some subcultures in society have an illegal way or career to obtain the goals of society. There are 3 possible adaptations or subcultures. The first one is that there are criminal gangs which provide youth with successful role models. The second one is that there is no local criminal subculture to provide a career opportunity. These groups are more likely to turn to violence.
They also said that youth who have failed in both the legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structure retreat from society and turn to drink or drugs. Strain and subcultural theories provide a good explanation to understand crime and deviance. However, they are also criticized in some aspects. In terms of Merton’s strain theory, he clearly explains deviance as the result of the structure of society. However, he said that society exist a set of goals and means which are accepted by majority people. But some people do not accept goals like financial success. Some people may prefer to get higher job satisfaction and help others rather than get high income. Secondly, he focuses on individual responses and ignores the fact that there is a social pattern of crime and deviance affecting whole groups of people like social class, age, ethnicity and gender. Thirdly, he doesn’t explain why most people who experience strain do not turn to crime or deviance. As regards Cohen’s subcultural theory, he provides a good explanation to understand working class male of crime and deviance. However, he is only discussion of male. He does not explain the crime and deviance of female.
On the other hand, he assumes that young working class delinquents accept the middle class values and develop alternative values only because they cannot achieve. But other sociologist said that working class has its own independent culture. It cannot claim that working class delinquents reject mainstream values because they never held them. In addition, according to Cohen, the young delinquents have to figure out what are middle class values and how to invert them. It does not match with reality. As far as the Cloward and Ohlin’s subcultural theory are concerned, they provide a good explanation of why working class delinquents will take different forms in different social environment.
However, he does not discuss about female deviancy. Additionally, it is difficult to divide clearly about different three categories in real life. Some crime might fit all three subcultures. For example, some drug addicts in retreatist subculture may also belong to criminal subculture. In conclusion, strain and subculture theory provide a good explanation to understand c rime and deviance through social structure, environment and different social class. However, they are also criticized by some people. They are more focus on male rather than female. In some aspects, they does not fit the reality.