Strain Theory of Nathan McCall
What causes people to commit crime? This million dollar questions has place many criminologists and researchers searching for answers. In the past decades, people have tried to explain crime by referring to the earliest literature of criminal’s atavistic features to human biology. Recent studies have shows that crime is described in the social environment. While, no one theory can prove the causes of crime, strain theory has gain support in academic research for its five mode of adaptation.
To understand the development of Strain Theory which was developed by Robert King Merton, we first have to examine the history context from Emile Durkheim. The beginning of Anomie Theory evolves from the famous Sociologist name Emile Durkheim. The term anomie is the any social or rapid changes in society that threatens or weakens the collective consciences which disable people the inability to form the shared values, norms, and beliefs. Therefore, individuals are unable to regulate each other behavior which results in crime (Durkheim, 1897; quoted in Lanier & Henry, 2004:238). As a student who studies under Emile Durkheim, Robert Merton borrows the term Anomie and uses it in his own languages. Merton transforms Anomie into his own language by asserting that the social structures within society that is culturally defined goals may pressure individuals to commit crime through illegitimate mean when people is face with block opportunity for them to gain access to the American dreams (Merton, 1995; quoted in Lanier & Henry, 2004:240). Those who are able to achieve the American dreams is subject to owning a house, car, and providing comfort. Other person who is restricted to the opportunity becomes strain. Though, some people who experiences strain does not commit crime, others other who expose to strain adapt to strain by five modes of adaptation. These five modes of adaptation include conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. Those who do not turn to crime fall into the category of the conformist. Conformist accepts and embraces the cultural goals and institutional means. They do so to meet their ends and means legitimately. The second mode of adaptation of strain is innovation. People in this stage accept the cultural goals in society, yet they defraud themselves to meet the means such as the case with cheating on one’s exam. The third form of adaptation is known as ritualism. These people despise society goals and acknowledge institution means. For example, an individual consistently follow the work order, but have no goal oriented values. The fourth mode of adaptation is Retreatism. Retreatist ignores both the goals and means to society because their perception to success is not reachable. People who fall into the retreatism category can be identify as victimless crime such as the case with recreational drug users and who have several thoughts of giving up on life. The last mode of adaptation is Rebellion. Those who rebel not only accept both goals and means, but they also reject society values system and supplement with their own (Merton; 1938, quoted in Lanier & Henry, p.241, 2004). The story of Nathan McCall is about an African American man who lives in a working class neighborhood called the Cavalier Manor. Throughout McCall’s life, his former girlfriend from high school name Liz has been a part of his life because they had a kid name Monroe together. Because of his irresponsible life, his relationship and contact with Liz and his son have always been inconsistent. The neighborhood of Cavalier Manor is one of the eye opening window opportunities for crimes and delinquent behavior for young kids who lives within the block. Growing up in Cavalier Manor, McCall recall a few moment of racist hatred towards white people due to many experiences he has deals with by a majority of white people. While, McCall have experience many crimes in his life time, he is also a...
References: Lanier, M. M., & Henry, S. (2004). Essential Criminology (2rd ed.). New York: Westview Press.
McCall, N. (1994). Makes me wanna holler: a young Black man in America. New York:
Moon, B., Kwang, H., & McCluskey, J. D. (2008). Causes of School Bullying Empirical Test of
a General Theory of Crime, Differential Association Theory, and General Strain Theory. Sage, 57, 853.
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