Cloward and Ohlin: Three Subcultures

C&O agree with Merton that WC youths are denied legitimate opportunities to achieve and their deviance stems from their response to this. But they note that not everyone adapts to a lack of legitimate opportunities by turning to ‘innovation; Some subcultures resort to violence; others resort to drug use.

In their view, the key reason for these differences is not only unequal access to the legitimate opportunity structure, but unequal access to illegitimate opportunity structures. For example, not everyone who fails at school can become a successful drug seller. Different neighbourhoods provide different illegitimate opportunities to learn criminal skills and develop criminal careers. They identify three types of subcultures as a result.

Criminal Subculture

These prove youths with an apprenticeship in utilitarian crime. These arise in areas where there is longstanding, stable crime culture and a hierarchy of professional adult crime. Adult crimes can select and train those youths with the right abilities and prove them with opportunities on the criminal career ladder.

Conflict Subculture

These arise in areas of high population turnover that prevent a stable professional criminal network developing. The only illegitimate opportunities are within loosely organised gangs. Violence provides a realise of frustration at blocked opportunities and an alternative source of status earned by winning land from rival gangs.

Retreatism Subcultures

The double failures who fall in both the legitimate and the illegitimate opportunity structures often turn to a retreatism or drop out subculture based on illegal drug use.

Evaluation of C&O : Like Merton and Cohen, C&O ignore crimes of the wealthy and the wider power structure and over predict the amount of WC crime. But unlike Cohen, they try to explain different types of WC deviance in term of subcultures. They draw the boundaries too sharply between different types of subcultures. Actual subcultures often show more characteristics than one type. Like Cohens theory, C&O is a reactive one- they explain deviant subcultures as forming in reaction to the failure to achieve mainstream success goals. This wrongly assumes that everyone starts of haring these same goals.

TOPIC 2 Interactionism and labelling theory