Legitimate and Illegitimate Opportunity Structures

Legitimate and Illegitimate Opportunity Structures -...

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Legitimate and Illegitimate Opportunity Structures A second form of "reactive" sub-cultural theory is presented by the work of Cloward and Ohlin ("Delinquency and Opportunity", 1961) in which they discuss the idea that what they call " illegitimate opportunity structures " run parallel in any society to " legitimate opportunity structures ". What this rather complicated phraseology involves is a variation on Merton's "ends and means" ( Strain Theory ) argument. In basic terms: * People are socialised to value "success". * Those who have the means to achieve success do so legitimately (they follow "legitimate opportunity structures" - education, work and so forth). * Those who are denied legitimate means still desire success, so they pursue illegitimate means ("illegitimate opportunity structures" - crime, in simple terms). However, while the debt to Merton is clear, Cloward and Ohlin attempt to take Merton's basic ideas and develop them into an explanation of why different social groups (specifically working class groups) choose to adopt different forms of deviance. In order to do so, they produce a model of illegitimate opportunity structures that has three basic elements. 1. Criminal Sub-culture: This form of sub-cultural response involves the presence of three main conditions: a. A stable, cohesive, working class community: In this respect, the potential criminal will be able to develop contacts within both the mainstream working class culture and the criminal sub-culture (for example, stolen goods can be easily distributed through a wider mainstream culture that doesn't ask too many questions. ..). b. Successful role models: In this sense, there needs to be people of standing in the community who have "done well" out of crime. The young criminal can begin to model themselves upon such people - they represent tangible evidence of the fact that crime does pay and that crime is a potential route out of poverty, deprivation, low social status and so forth. c. A career structure for aspiring criminals:
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The importance of a stable community within which criminal enterprises can develop and flourish is significant here, since if a criminal sub-culture is to develop as a form of "illegitimate opportunity structure" it has to be organised in some way. In effect, it has to provide people with the opportunity for advancement ("promotion") as an alternative to the legitimate job market, for example. 2. Conflict Sub-cultures: Where this form of stable, working class, community / criminal sub-culture doesn't exist, Cloward and Ohlin suggest that a second form of sub-cultural response is possible. Young males in particular, denied financial rewards, status and so forth in the legitimate job market and unable to join a criminal sub-culture respond by forming gangs, for example. This form of sub-cultural response tends to be highly-organised around specific criminal objectives (drug-dealing being an obvious example). 3. Retreatist sub-cultures:
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This note was uploaded on 01/17/2012 for the course SCIE SYG2000 taught by Professor Bernhardt during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.

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Legitimate and Illegitimate Opportunity Structures -...

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