A.K. Cohen: Status Frustration

Cohen agrees that deviance results from WC inability to achieve mainstream goes by legitimate means. He criticises Merton’s explanation:

Merton sees deviance as an individual response to strain, ignoring the group deviance of delinquent subcultures. Merton also focuses on utilitarian crime for material gain. He ignores non-utilitarian crime which may have no economic motive.

Cohen notes that WC boys face anomie in the MC ed system:

  • They are culturally depriving and lack the skills to achieve, leaving them at the bottom of the official status hierarchy. As a result, they suffer status frustration. They resolve it by rejecting mainstream MC values and turn to others in the same position to form a subculture.
  • This subculture then proves an alternative status hierarchy where they can win status through deviant and illegitimate actions. Its values are spite, malice, hostility and contempt for those outside it, the subculture inverts mainstream values.

However, unlike Merton, Cohen offers and explanation of non utilitarian deviance, but he assumes WC boys start of sharing MC success goals, only to reject them when they fail. He ignores the possibility they never shared these goals and therefore wasn’t reacting to failure.