Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Lower Class Culture as a Generating Milieu of Gang Delinquency

Walter Miller
Miller (1958, 1959) agreed with Cohen that there was a delinquency subculture, but argued that it arose entirely from the lower class way of life. There was a clear distinction in values between the two social classes. Whereas the middle class is achievement and social goal oriented, Miller thought that lower class parents were more concerned with ensuring that their children stayed out of trouble, e.g. sons avoiding fights and daughters avoiding pregnancy. Boys were expected to be tough and street-smart which gave them an incentive to join a gang. Given that their ordinary lives were boring, the excitement of crime was a welcome relief, bringing a sense of autonomy by denying the social controls imposed by the state. For the middle class, the most important institutions are family, work, and (for the child) school. For the lower class another institution plays a crucial role – the same sex peer group or gang is more important than family, work or school because it offers a sense of belonging, and a way to achieve status that they cannot easily achieve in mainstream society. Thus, delinquency was not a reaction against middle class values but rather a means of living up to their own cultural expectations for toughness and smartness. Indeed, the gang only recruited the most “able” members, so membership of a gang confirmed high status. Most delinquency is non violent and while thefts are more common than any kind of assault, they are, relatively rare. violence when it does occur is a response to apparent insults or rejection by specific people, not a random outpouring of senseless aggression

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