Cohen argued that working class boys strove to emulate middle-class values and aspirations, but lacked the means to achieve success.This led to status frustration: a sense of personal failure and inadequacy.The first stage is the decision by the police to stop and interrogate an individual.This decision is based on meanings held by the police of what is ‘strange’, ‘unusual’ and ‘wrong’.This officer will have a picture of a ‘typical delinquent’ in his mind.Factors associated with a typical delinquent include being of dishevelled appearance, having poor posture, speaking in slang etc.Cicourel argued that this difference can only be accounted for by the size, organisation, policies and practices of the juvenile and police bureaus.
Marxists argue that while working class crime does exist, it is a rational response to crimogenic capitalism.
Consensus theories generally accepted the fact that crime rates were higher among the lower social classes and set out to explain why – two theories which explicitly focused on the differences between working class culture and crime were Strain theory and Status Frustration theory.
Robert Merton: Strain Theory, Blocked Opportunities and Working Class Innovation Robert Merton argued that crime increased when there was a strain (or gap) between society’s success goals (achieving material wealth) and the available opportunities to achieve those goals through legitimate means (having a well-paying job).
Merton called this imbalance between goals and the ability to achieve them ‘anomie’.
Merton argued that crime was higher among the working classes because they had fewer opportunities to achieve material success through legitimate means and were thus more likely to adopt innovative cultural responses in order to achieve material success through criminal means – through burglary or drug dealing, for example.