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In this presentation, you are being asked to identify a theory from the materials for this week and to present that theory. This should be in your own words and in simple terms – do not use exact phrasing, complicated language, or specific examples from the book or notes. Rather, read about the theory, think about it, and then explain it as if you were to be talking about it with people you know. That doesn’t mean that this should be completely informal and and not comprehensive, but, rather that you should strive to explain the theory in your terms, and, in doing so, illustrate your understanding of it. In explaining the theory, you are being asked to include at least one example to help your explanation of the theory, and to walk through how your example relates to/illustrates the theory. For instance, you may choose to talk about anomie theory and explain how technology and the use of social media has increased anomie. Maybe you want to explain how labeling theory helps us to understand why people recidivate and how things like felony disenfranchisement contribute to this, all because of labeling. Or, perhaps you want to talk about how differential association helps us understand drug use. Whatever example you chose is up to you, but you need to pick an idea and then relate that idea to the theory you have selected. You can even pick a news item/current event as an example and briefly explain what happened before relating it to the theory. You can use other sources than the readings and notes (cite them if you do), but the big objective here is to show that you understand and can explain the theory on your own.

Presentation structure: There is no exact amount of slides that you must have. The slides themselves should not be blocks of texts, but should have smaller digestible points, and the text should not match word-for-word what you are saying in the presentation itself (i.e., do not type what you are going to say on the slides and then read directly off the slides). The presentation must include a comprehensive but concise explanation of your chosen theory and you must include an example. Otherwise, I am not giving you specific prompts or directives – you are free to construct the presentation as you see fit; however, do remember, your grade is dependent on how well you clearly explain the theory using your own words/ideas.

you need to type what you would say in the presentation in the notes of the presentation itself or in a separate document. 

Use files to help with picking theory !!!

W&M Chapter 5: Differential Association Theory

1. Introduction
a. Two versions of the theory – first in 1939, second in 1947
b. Sutherland wanted to propose a general theory of criminal behavior and

believed that criminal behavior was learned in a social environment.
i. All behavior is learned in the same way. Major difference between

conforming and criminal behavior is in what is learned rather that in how
it is learned.

ii. Previous assumption/position of most crime theory into the 1930s was
crime was the result of biological and psychological defects/issues.

1. Sutherland criticized this and advanced sociological criminology.
a. More cohesive/less complex approach to studying crime

and delinquency that was based in evidence.
2. The Heritage of the Theory

a. The Social Heritage
i. Insights come out of the 1920s/1930s

ii. Uniform crime report provides evidence certain categories of people are
more criminal than others. This also matches Chicago School data on the
ecology of crime.

1. Official statistics support the sociological position rather than

iii. Great Depression – Sutherland sees people committed crime out of
because of impoverished conditions. Others who fared better in the
Great Depression took advantage of the situation.

1. Crime and other criminal behaviors obviously not born into
people or a result of a defect/lack of intelligence – rather,
criminality was the product of situation, opportunity, and values.

iv. Prohibition and the criminalization of drug use
1. These forms of crime show that crime is in part a product of the

legal environment – individuals who engaged in behavior that was
not criminal at one point could become criminal by engaging in
the same behavior subsequent to the mere passage of law.

2. Focuses on crime as defined by the legal cods important to
Sutherland because he saw society continually evaluated conduct
in terms of adherence to the law.

a. Sutherland saw he practical importance of working within
legal parameters.

b. The Intellectual Heritage
i. W.I. Thomas – interactional sociology

ii. George Mead – symbolic interactionism
iii. The Chicago School (crime ecology), Parks and Burgess, Shaw and McKay

1. The examination of statistical information and life history

a. The life history approach – Sutherland used to analyze
thieves. First time Sutherland uses the terms “differential

2. Criminal values being transmitted.
3. Three major theories – ecological and cultural transmission

theory, symbolic interactionism, and cultural conflict theory
a. Allowed Sutherland to make sense of the varying crime

rates in society (culture conflict approach) and the process
by which individuals became criminal (symbolic

b. Wanted to explain both individual criminal behavior and
the variation in group (societal) rates of crime. He had to
take into account that (1) criminal behavior is not
necessarily different from conventional heavier, (2) values
are important in determining behavior, and (3) certain
locations and people are more crime prone than others.

3. The Theoretical Perspective
a. Criminology

i. First version of Sutherland’s box contains discussions of the importance
of interaction among people and the conveyance of values from one
person to another.

ii. First suggestions of differential association theory came in the second

1. “First any person can be trained to adopt and follow any pattern
of behavior which he is able to execute. Second, failure to follow a
prescribed pattern of behavior is due to the inconsistences and
lack of harmony in the influences which direct the individual.
Third, the conflict of cultures is therefore the fundamental
principle in the explanation of crime.”

a. Evident that Sutherland viewed cultural conflict as
producing social disorganization (the inconsistencies and
lack of harmony”) and, thus, crime.

iii. First full versions of the theory published in 1939 (third edition of the

1. Referred to systematic criminal behavior and focused equally on
cultural conflict and social disorganization and on differential

a. When Sutherland used the term “systematic,” he meant
either “criminal careers or organized criminal practices.”
The references to organized criminal practices seems to
have meant those behaviors with supporting definitions
readily available in the community and not just organized
crime as we think of it today.

b. Differential Association

i. By differential association Sutherland meant that “the contents of the
patterns presented in association” with others would differ from
individual to individual. Thus, he never meant mere association with
criminals would cause criminal behavior. Instead, the content of the
communications from others (the “contents of the patterns presented”)
was given primary focus.

ii. Sutherland viewed crime as a consequences of conflicting values; that is,
the individual followed culturally approved behavior that was
disapproved (and set in law) by the larger American society.

iii. “Systematic criminal behavior is due immediately to differential
association in a situation in which cultural conflict exist, and ultimately to
the social disorganization in that situation.”

iv. As an individual-level explanation, differential association theory is
entirely a product of the social environment surrounding individuals and
the values gained from important others in that social environment.

c. Differential Social Organization
i. Sutherland used the concepts of differential social organization and

culture conflict to offer an explanation of why rates vary from group to

1. Believed that culture conflict is rampant in society. This conflict, in
part a product of a disorganized society separated into many
groups, creates many values an interest among the different
societal groups. Inevitably, many of these values comes into
conflict, and some of them deal with values about the law. Groups
with different values about the law (and lawful behavior) come
into conflict with the authorities more often, resulting in higher
rates of crime and delinquency.

2. The probability of differential association itself (and thus the
learning of conflict definitions) is a “function of differential social

d. The Final Version of the theory
i. Second and final version of the theory proposed in fourth edition of

Principles in 1947.
1. In this version, Sutherland expressly incorporated the notion that

all behavior is leaned and, unlike other theorists of the time,
moved away from referring to the varied cultural perspectives as
“social disorganization.” He used the term “differential social
organization” or “differential group organization” instead. This
allowed him to more clearly apply the learning process to a
broader range of American society.

2. Nine points
a. 1 – Criminal behavior is learned.
b. 2 – Learning takes places “in interaction with others in a

process of communication.”

i. This process involves all types of contacts and
exchanges – overt/subtle and indirect/direct.

ii. Key is that content of exchange is meaningful for
the participants who held shared values.

c. 3 – Teaching/learning takes place in “intimate personal

d. 4 – Learning process can be simple or complex
i. Two things are learned: techniques for committing

criminal behavior and the definitions (values,
motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes)
supporting such behavior

1. A relationship must exist for skills and
values to be transferred.

2. Techniques are the “how” or the content of
an act and the definitions are the “why” for
doing it.

e. 5 – Criminal mentors provide definitions, drives, and
motives favorable to the breaking of the law.

f. 6 – Criminal behavior results when there is an excess of
definitions favoring criminal behavior, as opposed to those
definitions favoring conventional behavior.

i. Excess of definitions does not refer to quantity but
to weight of definitions – determined by the quality
and intimacy of interaction (frequency, duration,
priority, and intensity).

ii. Resulting behavior often may be determined not
only by the persons to whom one is exposed but
also by the absence of alternative (criminal or
noncriminal) patterns to fall back on.

g. 7 – association that provide the opportunity to learn
criminal behavior vary in frequency, duration, and
intensity – interaction that are more intense or those that
occur more regularly and for longer periods of time are
thought to have more of an impact on participants.

h. 8 – The process/mechanisms of criminal behavior learning
are the same as any other learning.

i. 9 – Criminal behavior is an expressions of general needs
and values, but is not explained by those needs and values,
since noncriminal behavior is an expression of the same
needs and values.

3. Theory focuses on definitions provided by associates. Once
techniques are learned, values can be learned from anyone.
However, definitions provided by close /intimate others are most
important weight/determinant.

a. Different social organizations to which individuals belong
provide the associations from which a variety of criminal
behavior (both opposing/supporting) norms can be
learned. Differential association implies individuals are
exposed to differing associations that people attach
different importance to, and they will learn more from
others they spend more time/are more frequently with.
Once certain definitions exist, people tend to be more
susceptible to those definitions – i.e., people will be more
or less likely to view crime in certain ways when
confronted with new or different situations.

e. Classification of the theory
i. Positivist theory – focuses on criminals and their behavior not law

ii. Microtheory when looking at etiological issues of criminal behavior.
iii. Conflict theory – focus on conflicting values though, not groups/classes.

Sutherland realized that a large number of different values/definitions
existed in a society.

iv. Theory of process, not structure
1. Focus on the behavior and the process operating to create

criminal behavior rather than conventional behavior.
4. Summary

a. Major points of the theory
i. Criminal behavior is learned in the same way as any other behavior

ii. Learning takes place in social setting and through what the people in
those settings communicate.

iii. The largest part of learning takes place in communication with those who
are more important to us.

iv. The intimate social environment provides a setting for learning two
things: the actual way to accomplish a behavior (if necessary) and the
values of definitions concerning that behavior.

v. These values about certain behavior may be in opposition to the
established legal codes. The extent we receive many statements about
values, the weight of those statements (the importance and closeness of
those who convey them) is more important than the actual number of

vi. Criminal behavior takes place when the weight of the values concerning a
particular behavior is in oppositions to the legal codes.

vii. The great number of groups and cultures in society makes possible the
learning of different types of values or definitions. The greater the
number of groups and cultures in specific areas, the greater is the
likelihood of learning definitions conducive to criminal behavior.

viii. Some groups in society have more values in opposition to the legal codes
than others (some are in more conflict); thus, some groups have higher
crime rates than others.

W&M Chapter 6: Anomie Theory

1. Introduction
a. Anomie is associated with both Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton
b. Durkheim

i. Division of labor in society – describes a condition of “deregulation”
occurring in society.

1. The general rules of a society (the rules that say how people
ought to behave to one another) have broken down and that
people do not know what to expect from each other. This
deregulation/normlessness leads to deviance.

2. Central thesis in Division of Labor in Society was that societies
evolved from a simple, nonspecialized form (mechanical) toward a
more complex highly specialized form (organic)

a. Under mechanical solidarity, people think and act the
same. They do similar labor, work on group goal-oriented
tasks. However, as societies modernize, labor and relations
change (e.g., the change from a hunter gather society to a
more developed society).

b. Organic societies (modern societies) are characterized by
highly interactive relationships in which people specialize
in labor and goals. People depend on each other to
produce various items/services, but not all of these are
equal and the types of relationships between people are
not equal. Thus, Durkheim sees these societies are
contractual – people are no longer bonded by blood or
friendship, but rather because of contractual bonds that
can constantly change or dissolve.

i. Problem with these societies is that bonds are
continually broken.

1. Thus, the rules governing people and
relations between them are continually in
flux, social conditions are constantly in
danger of disruption, and when disruption
occurs, we have anomie.

c. Anomie refers to the breakdown of norms and a condition
in which norms no longer control the societal activity of
members. Without clear rules to guide them, individuals
cannot find their place in society and have difficulty
dealing with changing conditions of life.

ii. Suicide – uses anomie to refer to a morally deregulated condition in
which people have inadequate moral controls over their behavior.

a. A society that is anomic may have people who do not
know when to quit striving for success or how to treat
other people along the way.

iii. Regardless of Durkheim’s use, anomie is a breakdown in either the rules
of society or the moral norms – Durkheim was referring to a break down
in/disruption of normal social conditions.

iv. Durkheim saw economic crises, forced industrialization, and
commercialization as factors producing anomie, and Durkheim believed
that Western societies had reached a point of complexity that left them
in constant anomic states. Even in these constant states though, periods
of social disruption, like war or economic depression, would make
matters worse and result in greater anomie and more crime/deviance.

c. Merton (1938)
i. Merton did not think that changes and deregulation created anomie, but

the inability of the social system to exercise control in the form of social

1. Merton saw social norms (or values) coming in two forms: societal
goals and legitimate means. Anomie is the disjuncture between
societal goals and means because of how society is structured
(i.e., there is not equal access).

a. Deviance can be seen as a symptom of social structure in
which goals and means are separated. Thus, deviance is a
product of anomie.

2. Merton was focused on social structure and cultural disparities
and how these created anomie. Thus, anomie is a permeant
feature of the social structures of a society.

2. The Heritage of the theory
a. The social heritage

i. Merton did not see crime as an intrinsic part of a person – rejects the
individualistic view of pathology.

ii. Durkheim drew on the Great Depression and sociological insights of the

1. Durkheim believed that society coming out of the Great
Depression was in a state of deregulation.

a. Ecological data and work from the Chicago school
supported this idea – that is that certain segments of a
society were in a constant state of deregulation.

b. The intellectual heritage
i. Durkheim

1. Drew on Sorokin’s idea on “anomic suicide.”
2. Talcott Parsons ideas on structural functionalism.
3. George Simpson
4. Two strains of psychological/biological positivism – Freudian

psychotherapy and Hooton’s ideas on biological criminals.

ii. Merton
1. Obvious Marxist influence via the American dream and the

capitalist system.
2. Sutherland’s differential association theory is seen as a

complementary theory – anomie was a way to explain the
structural components of deviance from differential association.

3. The theoretical perspective
a. Merton

i. A theory of deviance that does not focus on criminality.
ii. General focus on deviance

1. Emphasizes well-structured goals for its members and equally
structured avenues to reach those goals. Deviance becomes any
behavior that does not follow accepted values.

iii. Merton explains that certain goals are emphasized throughout society, as
well as certain acceptable means (legitimate) to achieve those goals.

1. When goals are too strongly stressed, anomie is more likely,
because not every has equal access to legitimate means, and
people will search for alternative ways of achieving the same

a. Because of the way in which society is structured, certain
groups have more access to the means with which to
achieve. Thus, inequality exists because of the way society
is structured, even though the goals are said to apply to

iv. The U.S. is in a constant state of anomie. There is unequal access to
achievement, but there are agreed upon goals, and people are faced with
constant strain because they have to reconcile their aspirations with their
limited opportunities.

v. Legitimate means are not always that most efficient method of reaching

vi. Success of goals themselves are not necessarily applicable to all social
classes at the same time, and each class may have its own version of
goals/success, but there are cultural message about what upward
striving/mobility look like that are shared – the emphasis on reaching the
goals is what is important.

1. According to Merton, Sutherland’s definition from differential
association can be interpreted as values related to legal/illegal
means. Thus, at the neighborhood level, the presence of values
conducive to delinquency or crime essentially tells those who
believe there that legitimate opportunities are scarce and
encourage illegal means to reach goals. Conversely, conventional
values in the neighborhood support legitimate means.

b. The modes of adaptation

i. Merton presents five modes of adapting to strain caused by restricted
access the socially approved goals and means.

1. Conformity (most people) – accept both the means and the goals.
These people perpetuate the existence of society.

2. Innovation (most common of deviant adaptations) – accept the
goals but come up with new means (deviant but may/may not be

3. Ritualism – accept the means but reject the goals. These people
buy into the shared goals/signs of success but don’t care/aren’t
invested in the process of achieving them. So, this would be
someone who works in an office job that pays well and does not
care about the job/wanting to advance in their career.

4. Retreatists – reject both the goals and the means.
5. Rebels – come up with new goals and new means. These may be

able to alter the social structure.
ii. Merton’s theory explains how social structure contributes the creation of

deviance at all levels. However, the lower class is most likely to be
deviant or adapt with non-legitimate ways of achieving success, because
of how society is structured.

1. Real conformity would be found in those individuals for whom
there is no problem in accessing the means for achieving goals:
primarily the rich and elite.

2. It is in the interest of those for whom the social structure works
best (the real conformists) to keep a large share of the population
believing in the system and with some small degree of access to
legitimate means.

3. Merton believed that the increasing degree of deviance
precipitated by a class-structured anomic society would,
ultimately, result in a feedback effect. This effect would
essentially subvert the original norms justifying the institutionally
approved means resulting in more anomie and more deviance.

4. Classification of the theory
a. Positivist theory – locates pathology within the social structure.

i. The undue emphasis on goals in society without access to avenues for
success for all serves to create a strain in certain segments of society,
and, ultimately, a push toward deviance.

b. Consensus theory – believes that there is an agreement on what society values.
i. Society imposes on us right/wrong and there are agreed upon general

c. Structural theory – focuses on the way in which society is structured and how

structure serves to create deviance.
d. Macrotheory – Merton wants to explain variations in rates of deviance across


e. Functionalist – Merton uses the concepts of cultural goals and norms to explain
how they serve to produce both conformity and deviance within the social

W&M Chapter 7: Subculture Theories

1. Introduction
a. Criminological theories of the 1950s/60s focused on juvenile delinquency. Many

of the theorists set out to explain what they believed to be the most common
form of delinquency: gangs.

i. Culture studies at the Chicago School began to be referred to using the
new sociological term “subcultures.”

ii. Sociologists and criminologists combined these topics and began studying
gang delinquency and theorizing about delinquent subcultures.

iii. The works of the Chicago School were combined with Sutherland and

2. The heritage of the theories
a. The social heritage

i. 1950s was a prosperous time in the U.S. and lead to a rise in
consumerism. We also see a rise in the middle class, and the middle class
is seen as “normal.”

ii. Education and the right to education was also emphasized, and college
enrollment expanded significantly.

iii. Urbanization creates deteriorated center cities and the first suburbs
become popular.

1. The problems of the city are now seen as lower-class issues that
middle America was above – the middle class was seen as
superior to the lower class.

2. Poverty is seen as an individual level problem and these people
were seen as responsible for their own predicaments (i.e., did not
work hard enough).

b. The intellectual heritage
i. Both the Chicago School and the Mertonian concept of anomie.

ii. Solomon Korbin – found strong ties between political hierarchy in a
neighborhood and organized crime.

1. Integrated community – the degree of social control present
within a community is dependent on how well the criminal
element is organized as well as on the character of it’s
relationship with the community’s official leadership. A
community that is organized and integrated has greater social
control over the behavior of juveniles than a community where
integration is lacking. Control exists because organized crime
members reside in the community with their families. Thus, they
have an interest in controlling and preventing violence in the
community. Because they have power and participate in the
political arena, organized crime is able to use that political power
to have the police keep the streets in their neighborhood safe.

3. Cohen’s subculture of delinquency

a. Cohen’s The Culture of the Gang (1955) was the first attempt at solving the
problem of how a delinquent subculture could begin.

b. Cohen found that delinquent behavior was most often found among lower-class
males and that gang delinquency was the most common form.

i. Cohen determined that gang subcultures are characterized by behavior
that is nonutilitarian, malicious, and negativistic. So, there was no
rationale for stealing or doing other crime other than taking a delight in
the discomfort of others/knowingly violating middle class values.

1. Research characterized gangs as engaged in various forms of
delinquent acts (versatility), interested mainly in the present
(short-run hedonism) as opposed to the future, and hostile to
outsiders (group autonomy). These factors had to be explained by
a theory of delinquent subculture.

c. Cohen believed that all children (all individuals really) seek social status.
However, not all children can compete equally for social status.

i. Because of lower-class children’s position in the social structure, they
tend to lack both material and symbolic advantages. This becomes most
obvious in competitions with children from the middle class.

1. First major status problem facing lower-class children are in the
school system. Lower-class children have to compete with middle
class children, but they are also evaluated using middle class
standards that are different than what they are exposed to in the
places in which they live/exist (i.e., schools and teachers use these
middle class standards and expect others to be aware/abide by

a. Standards include sharing, delaying gratification, setting
long-range goals, and respecting other’s property. All of
these things intrinsically relate to being brought up with
property of one’s own and to having parents who know
that hard work now pays off in the future. None of these
standards are necessarily obvious or self-evident to lower-
class parents and are not transmitted to lower-class

i. In this competitive framework, lower-class children
lose ground in the search for status, among both
other students and teachers. Those who most
strongly feel this suffer status-frustration. Cohen
speculated a hostile reaction to middle-class values
may occur.

d. Because many lower-class children are trapped in this status-frustration, various
adaptations to the middle class take place.

i. For some, adjustments to the middle-class standard results in a collective
solution to the problem of status. That is, status is achieved in a new way
outside of middle class standards – new norms and criteria for achieving

status is created – a new cultural form, a delinquent subculture is

1. It is this delinquent subculture that provides the nonutilitarian,
malicious, and negativistic character of gang delinquency.
Abandoning and inverting the middle-class value system, gang
members can achieve status simply by doing those things they do
well, such as showing toughness or standing up for themselves. As
long as the need for status exists, the delinquent subculture will
exist as an available solution for lower-class, male youths.

4. Classification of the theory
a. Usually referred to as a strain or structural theory – the source of the delinquent

subculture is strain and the theory focuses on the process by which the
subculture is created.

b. Bridging theory – Cohen borrows from strain theory an explanation of social
structure and proceeds to describe how delinquent subcultures come about.

c. Consensus – society emphasizes reaching goals in the accepted middle-class way.
It is only after frustration develops from an inability to reach status goals that
lower class children find a need for alternative means.

d. Sociological positivism
e. Major points of the theory

i. Members of society share a common value system that emphasizes
certain values over others (in the U.S., the middle-class).

ii. Most of these common values stress goals that result in the gaining of
status; therefore, status itself becomes a generally approved goal.

iii. Opportunities to reach these goals are more often available to the middle
class than to the lower class.

iv. Social institution, especially schools, reflect middle-class value goals and
use them to evaluate those who come in contact with the institution.

v. Because of their limited opportunities, lower-class youth are often
evaluated unfavorably by the school system, leading to frustration in
their pursuit of status.

vi. Unable to gain status through the use of conventional school
opportunities (grades, social standing), lower-class youths rebel
(reaction-formation) against middle-class values while still keeping status
as a goal.

vii. Over a period of time, lower-class youths collectively create a new value
system in opposition to middle-class values. The standards of this new
value system are mostly anticonventional and afford the youths
opportunities for gaining status.

viii. This “delinquent solution” is passed on through the transmission of
values from youth to youth and generation to generation, fostering an
ongoing delinquent subculture that provides status for behavior that is
negativistic, malicious, and nonutilitarian.

5. Cloward and Ohlin’s Differential Opportunity Theory

a. Both legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structures exist and can be used to
achieve cultural goals.

i. One’s position in society dictates the access that they have to either
legitimate or illegitimate avenues for success (i.e., people who occupy
different social positions and statuses have different access to both
normative and deviant ways of achieving culturally agreed upon goals).

ii. Cloward and Ohlin argue that the form of delinquent subculture depends
on the degree of integration present in the community.

1. In a community without a stable criminal structure, lower-class
juveniles would have no greater opportunity to success in life
through criminal avenues than they would through conventional
means. There would be no criminal “business” to join and to work
one’s way up through the ranks, no way to learn properly a
criminal trade and no way to become a “professional.”

iii. Cloward and Ohlin suggest that there would be three ideal types of
delinquent gang subcultures: criminal, conflict, and retreatist.

1. When communities are fully integrated, gangs act almost as an
apprenticeships group for the adult, organized criminal concerns.
In this criminal subculture, the primary focus would be on profit-
making activities, and violence would be minimal. These
subcultural gangs would practice the criminal “trades” under the
loose supervision of organized crime.

2. Criminal gangs exist where there is an integration of ages as well
as legitimate and illegitimate groups. Young juveniles learn by
watching and associating with older youths, who in turn learn
from the adults around them.

3. A nonintegrated community would not only lack a well-organized
and ongoing illegitimate structure but, according to Korbin, also
exercise very weak community control over juveniles. Thus, any
gang subculture that would develop in one of these communities
would exhibit unrestrained behavior. Primary focus would be on
gaining “respect.” Violence, property damage, and unpredictable
behavior would become the hallmarks of such gangs. This would
be the conflict subculture – these gangs would cause trouble
equally for the community’s adult criminal element as well as for
law-abiding citizens.

a. A socially disorganized community tends to create a gang
subculture that is equally disorganized.

4. In both integrated and nonintegrated communities, there are
juveniles who have access to neither opportunity structures.
These become retreatist subcultures – their primary focus is on
drugs and their gang related activities are designed to bring them
money for their own drug use.

a. Double failures are juveniles who cannot achieve sufficient
success in either the legitimate or illegitimate world.

i. Two possibilities for their retreat from the other
two types of subcultures

1. First, they may simply have internalized
prohibitions against violence or other
criminal activity.

2. Second, they may have failed to achieve
status (or other forms of success) in a
criminal or conflict gang.

ii. Not all double failures become drug users, but they
are more susceptible than others.

5. In sum, differential opportunity theory extends the anomie theory
of Merton and adds the community-based observations of the
Chicago School. It also suggests that subcultural patterns
determine the form of delinquent behavior.

a. Differential opportunity theory, then, assumes strain in
the lower class as a given and attempts to explain the
existence of various forms of delinquency as adaptations
to strain, based on the stability of the community and the
availability of adult role models. Because of this, the
theory’s major focus is on the learning mechanisms
available to produce the ongoing forms of delinquent

b. Classification of the theory
i. Strain theory. Has elements of both structure and process but leans more

toward structure.
ii. Bridging theory, but also macro

iii. Both positivistic and consensus oriented – explains how behavior is
developed and transmitted and also assumes there is a primary emphasis
on reaching culturally shared goals.

c. Major points of the theory
i. Members of society share a common set of values that emphasize the

desirability of certain life goals, especially that of success.
ii. There are standard avenues (both legitimate and illegitimate) for

achieving these goals.
iii. These two general avenues (opportunity structured) are not equally

available to all groups and classes of a society.
iv. Members of the middle and upper classes have primary access to the

legitimate opportunity structure (business, politics), while members of
the lower class have primary access to the illegitimate opportunity
structure (organized crime).

v. In any urban, lower-class area, the degree of integration of these two
opportunity structures determines the social organization of the

community. The less the integration, the more the community is

vi. Communities with well-organized and integrated illegal opportunity
structures provide learning environments for organized criminal
behavior. In such communities, the male delinquent subculture takes on
either of two ideal forms that are dependent on the degree of access to
the illegitimate structure:

1. When an opportunity to participate successfully in the illegitimate
structure is available to young males, the subcultural gang type
most commonly found will be a criminal gang. This form of gang
serves as a training ground for the form of illegitimate activity
found in the community.

2. When opportunities for joining the illegitimate structure are
limited as are those for joining the legitimate structure, the most
common form of subcultural gang will be a retreatist gang. Here
the gang members are basically withdrawn from the community
(they are “double failures”), and they solve their problem of
access to drugs.

vii. Disorganized communities exert weak social controls and create
disorganized gang subcultures. When young males are deprived of both
legitimate and criminal opportunities, the common form of gang
subculture will be a conflict gang. Such gangs engage in violence and
destructive acts against both opportunity structures.

6. Other subculture theories
a. Miller’s lower-class focal concerns

i. Based on ethnographic work
ii. Miller concluded that middle class values were less important to gang

delinquency than Cohen and others thought. Miller stressed differences
in social-class lifestyles to a greater degree than did the consensus model
of Cohen and of Cloward and Ohlin.

iii. Miller saw a society composed of different social groups or classes, each
with a subculture resembling those of other groups in some respects and
differing in others

iv. Focal concerns are the things important to subcultures and require
constant attention and care. Behavior related to focal concerns, such as
they “trouble” concern in lower-class subculture, can be either valued or
disvalued, depending on the situation and the people involved.

v. The lower class have distinctive features that differ significantly from
those of the middle and upper classes

1. The legal system and norms in the U.S. adhere more to middle
and upper class standards of behavior.

2. Lower class subcultures provide models appropriate for male and
female behavior.

3. Criminal behavior in lower-class communities, as in other
communities, approximates the general characteristics of
noncriminal behavior.

vi. There are focal concerns that underlie and motivate common forms of
behavior in the lower class.

1. Most lower-calls crime and delinquency result primarily from
efforts to conform to lower-class subcultural standards rather
than a deliberate flouting of middle-class standards.

2. Miller described six focal concerns characterizing the subcultures
of low-skilled laboring populations in the United States: trouble,
toughness, smartness, excitement, fate, and autonomy.

a. Trouble represents a commitment to law violating
behavior or “being a problem” to other people.

b. Toughness is Machismo and being brave, fearless, and

c. Characteristics of smartness include being cunning, living
by one’s wits, and deceiving and conning others.

d. Excitement means living for thrills, doing dangerous things,
and taking risks.

e. Fortune and luck are part of the focal concern of fate.
f. Autonomy signifies independence – not having to rely on

others as well as rejecting authority.
3. These concerns play a role in the commissions of activities that

may be legal or illegal, depending on the circumstances. In lower-
class subcultures, incentives for engaging in crime are generally
stronger, and incentives for avoiding crime are weaker than in the
other classes.

4. From miller’s viewpoints, then, the behavior of lower-class gang
members is consistent with the special set of concerns, valued
qualities, and life goals characteristic of many American lower-
class communities.

b. Major points of the theory
i. Society is composed of different social classes whose lifestyles or

subcultures have both common and differing features.
ii. The subcultures of the lower, middle, and upper classes differ in

significant respects from one another.
iii. Because the dominant culture is the middle class, the existence of

different values often brings the lower class into conflict with the
dominant culture.

iv. Lower-class values serve to create young male behaviors that are
delinquent by middle class standards but are normal and useful in lower
class life.

v. Lower-class subcultures place special emphasis on a set of issues or “focal
concerns” that influence customary behavior. These include trouble,
toughness, smartness, excitement, fate, and autonomy.

vi. Many lower-class males are raised in fatherless homes. Learning behavior
and attitudes appropriate to adult male roles thus poses special

vii. Youth ganga provide a context for learning important elements of adult
male roles for many lower-class youth. Gangs also provide psychological
benefits such as a sense of belonging, opportunities for gaining prestige,
and enhanced self-esteem.

viii. Gang crime that seriously victimizes the larger community is in part a by-
product of efforts by lower-class youth to attain goals valued within their
subcultural milieu.

7. Wolfgang and Ferracuti’s Subculture of Violence
a. Members of a subculture hold values different from those of the central society.

Those in the subculture of violence learn a willingness to resort to violence and
share a favorable attitude towards the use of violence. This attitude, though
possible to hold at any age, is most common in groups ranging from late
adolescence to middle age. Persons who commit violent crimes buts are not
identified by any link to a subculture are distinctly more pathological and display
more guilt and anxiety about their behavior than do members of the subculture.

8. Summary
a. Cohen – question of how subculture could develop
b. Cloward and Ohlin – the attempt to explain the form a subculture might take.

i. Both Cohen and Cloward and Ohlin assume Merton is correct – certain
groups of people were disadvantaged in the great chase for success, and
the problem was to explain resulting deviant behavior.

c. Subculture is a culture by itself, with its own lifestyles, values, and concerns – For
Miller there was no need to use strain to explain the creation of a set of values in
opposition to the conventional ones.

d. Wolfgang and Ferracuti were more interested in outlining what subcultures
provide to their members. They assumed subcultures provide definitions for
behavior that, once learned, result in their members’ greater willingness to use

W&M Chapter 8: Labeling Theory

1. Introduction
a. Labeling theorists argue other theories place to much reliance on the individual

deviant and have neglected the ways that people react to deviance – this leads
to the societal reaction school.

b. By de-emphasizing the criminal, labeling is similar to the old Classical School in
focusing on official agencies and the making/application of the law.

i. This spurs interest in investigating the criminal justice process.
ii. Labeling sensitizes criminology to the relativity of its subject matter and

the middle-class values it has used to study criminals.
c. Labeling suggested criminologists had overemphasized the original deviant act as

well as the character of the deviant.
i. This is supported by the fact that definitions of crime change from time

to time and from place to place. Thus, labeling theorists question the
pervasive notion that because crime is bad, those who commit crime
must also be bad and a criminal act is naturally bad.

d. Some criminologists have debated the content of labeling theory and insist it is
not an actual theory.

e. Labeling has one or two parts based on perspective/scholar
i. Societal reaction school – argues that labeling is about the way in which

people react to and label others. Thus, the focus I son the reactors and
not the person labeled.

1. More historically correct camp
ii. The effect of the labeled on the person labeled is also part of the theory –

perspective asks not only about the reactors but also about how the label
affects the individual.

2. The heritage of the theory
a. The social heritage

i. End of 1950s – society is becoming more conscious of
inequality/segregation and civil rights and there is a focus on the

ii. Kennedy and Johnson administrations and the idea of the Great Society
in which everyone will be equal.

iii. Labeling and labeling theory answers the question of why some
people/statuses are more frequently negatively stereotyped.

b. The intellectual heritage
i. The Chicago School

ii. Herbert and Mead
iii. Becker
iv. Lilly, Cullen, Ball, and Merton

1. The self-fulfilling prophecy – believed that many delinquent who
may have started out as simply troubled youth felt that they may
as well commit the offended that they were going to be accused

of anyways. Living up to one’s reputation becomes part of the
adaptation of being labeled.

a. False labels can become the truth for those who are ready
to believe it.

b. Deviance is dependent on who views it.
v. Advent of self-report data/studies

1. Findings show those who are “officially” deviant may also just be
those who have come to the attention of authorities. This implied
reaction by authorities rather than actual deviance might also
explain the disproportionate number of lower class-youth in
various delinquency statistics.

3. The theoretical perspective
a. Early labeling theory literature

i. Frank Tannenbaum’s Crim and the Community
1. The dramatization of evil – suggests that deviant behavior was not

a product of the deviant’s lack of adjustment to society as it was
the fact he or she had adjusted to a special group. Thus, criminal
behavior is a product of the conflict between a group and the
community at large.

2. Labeling is the process of defining, identifying and segregating
someone and then making them conscious and self-conscious o
their faults and shortcomings.

b. Definition of crime
i. Unlike other theories of crime, labeling understands the relativity of

deviance – deviance can often be in the eye of the beholder because
members of various groups have different conceptions of what is right
and proper in certain situations.

ii. There must be a reaction to an act.
1. Deviance must be discovered by some group that does not share

a belief in the appropriateness of the behavior and it must
subsequently be called deviance. To the extend law reflects the
values of that group, the behavior is labeled crime and the
perpetrator a criminal.

a. Emphasizes that those who engage in criminal behavior
are not synonymous with those who are labeled criminal.
The question becomes “How do people get reacted to as
being deviant?”

c. Studying the reactors
i. Becker’s interest in organizations and careers was in large part

responsible for his defining deviance from outside the actor (those who
reacted to it). Becker believed it was necessary to study not just the
criminal but the audience and the criminal justice system.

d. Labeling as a result of societal reaction

i. Labeling approach to deviance has two parts: explaining how and why
certain individuals get labeled (i.e., what causes the label – this becomes
a dependent variable) and the effect to of the label on subsequent
deviant behavior.

ii. Creation of deviance (Becker)
1. Rules, circumstances, characteristics of the individual and

reactions to those in the audience serve to separate those acts
that are deviant from those that are not, even though they may
appear to be identical behaviors.

a. It is not even necessary the behavior exists, what is
important is the reactors believe in its existence. Thus, it is
the reaction to behavior that creates deviance. The
problem is to explain how deviants (outsiders) are chosen
and labeled.

2. Typology of deviant behavior – considers whether a particular
behavior was conforming or deviant and whether the reactors
perceived the behavior as conforming or deviant.

a. Falsely accused – did not exist or were actually conforming
but the audience reacted as if they were deviant

b. Pure deviant – perception matched the reality of the act
c. Conforming – perception matched the reality of the act
d. Secret deviant – acts are those in which deviance had

indeed occurred but the audience ignored the acts or had
not reacted as if they were deviant. These are quite

e. This approach to deviance meant that several facts about
criminals needed explaining in a completely new way.

i. For example, arrest rates are not equally

1. Those from the societal reaction school
wanted to understand why officials reacted
more to some people than others.

2. Likelihood of reaction is greater if an
individual were less socially powerful, a
member with different group values than
the dominant group, or are relatively
isolated. Labeling theorists set about the
process of determining how and why these
types of people came to the attention of

e. Labeling as a cause of deviance
i. Labeling advocates were also concerned with the effect of labels on the

person who is labeled. When looked at in this way, labeling becomes an

independent variable – the labeling itself creates (or causes) the deviant

1. This happens in two ways
a. The label may catch the attention of the labeling audience,

causing the audience to watch and continue the labeling of
the individual.

b. The label may be internalized by the individual and lead to
an acceptance of a deviant self-concept.

c. Both of these may amplify the deviance and can create a
career deviant.

ii. A label can also create a subsequent reaction.
1. Individuals who have been labeled become more visible in the

sense that people are more aware of them. This awareness causes
them to be watched more closely and, thus, a second and third
discovery of deviant behavior is even more likely than the first

2. It is difficult for those once labeled, such as probationers,
parolees, or ex-offenders, to escape the attention of this
audience, and a subsequent behavior is likely to be identified and

iii. When the original label is more likely to be distributed among those with
lower-class characteristics, this attention serves to reinforce the image of
those individuals as deviants. People who are identified as “deviants”
then have fewer chances to make good in the conventional world.

1. Conventional avenues to success are often cut off because of a
deviant label and illegal means may become the only way left
open. Thus, labeling advocates argue the lower class bears the
brunt of the labeling process and is kept deviant through

iv. Courtesy stigma (Goffman)
1. Theorists concerned with the way deviant labels were applied to

youth who associated with delinquent peers even if they had not
themselves committed any offenses.

2. Goffman says that youth are cautioned to avoid others who were
viewed as delinquent, even if they are not engaged in
delinquency, so that they can avoid a delinquent reputation.

v. Labeling can have some positive effects
1. Positive labels can denote status and people strive to achieve

certain labels.
f. Lemert’s secondary deviance

i. The second form of labeling effect suggest that, in addition to audience
reaction, there is a possibility an individual will react to the societally
imposed label.

ii. According to Lemert

1. In any population there is differentiation – there are people who
deviate from the normal behavior and characteristics of the
general society (this can be obvious or hidden). And, it is the
societal or audience reaction to those deviants in some
circumstances, while not in others that determines whether the
internalization and adoption of that deviant role later occurs (this
is secondary deviance).

2. The initial act (primary deviance) may not matter to an individual.
That is, it may not affect their self-image. However, if their self-
image is not strong, they may accept the label and change their
self-image accordingly. The more often a person is labeled, the
more likely it is that this change will take place.

iii. Feedback is an important part of the process by which a new self-concept
is internalized.

1. Secondary deviance is gained through a trading back and forth
until the labeled person finally accept the label as a real identity.
This often results in the person joining a deviant subculture with
further deviance being the product of the subcultural lifestyle.

a. Future forms of deviant behavior are a product of the new
role itself. Deviance in its secondary form is quite literally
created by the labeling process.

2. Some criminologists have suggested the best approach to
reducing juvenile delinquency, and subsequent criminal behavior,
is to do nothing when delinquent acts are discovered.

a. Less drastic reactions might help lessen the secondary
effects on someone who is emotionally traumatized and
get them the help that they need in a less stigmatizing

g. Master Status and retrospective interpretation
i. Master status

1. Hughes and Becker
2. The idea that there are traits that are central to people’s identities

that blind us to other characteristics.
a. The traits that are most important are a master status

(gender, occupation, age)
b. Traits that are important but secondary are auxiliary

3. Where deviance is concerned criminal is a master status – this

makes it difficult for a person labeled as a criminal to drop the
label, even if they have reformed/changed.

ii. Retrospective interpretation
1. Helps us understand how identities can be reconstructed to fit a

new label.

2. Past events and behavior can be reinterpreted to fit new
identities – we start to reexamine these events and make sense of
them in light of new information.

3. Applies not only to people around the labeled person, but also to
an official agency’s interpretation of the person’s records.

4. Classification of the theory
a. Processual theory – concerned with the way that labeling takes place

i. Some structure in the types of people (underclass) more likely to be

b. Classical – emphasizes crime, law, and criminal processing rather than the
behavior itself. Labeling is more interested in rules and reactions.

c. Positivist/individualistic – labeling process can create/cause subsequent deviant

d. Conflict – labeling is similar to many conflict assumptions. Does not treat crime
as universal or explain how reactions are distributed in society.

e. Microtheory – focuses on the effects of societal reaction to the individual’s

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