Just Sociology

Challenging Consensus Subcultural Theory: New Insights into Gang Dynamics

Consensus subcultural theory explains that certain subcultures exist within society due to the drive of individuals to belong to a group that shares common interests, beliefs, and practices. These subcultures are formed as a reaction to mainstream culture, which they reject.

These subcultures may have values that are in contrast to the beliefs held in mainstream culture. This theory focuses on deviance as resulting from the culture of the subgroups, not as a characteristic of the individual.

Critics of consensus subcultural theory have argued that the theory is inadequate in explaining the complexity of subcultures, especially street gangs. Gangs in the United States, for example, are composed of individuals who share common values about being physically and emotionally strong, having respect, and defending their honor.

Gang members also share similar experiences in their communities, including poverty, lack of opportunities, and exposure to violence. Consensus subcultural theory, however, does not explain how these shared experiences lead to the formation of a gang.

Research on gang membership challenges traditional understanding of the dynamics of gangs that consensus subcultural theory portrays. Interpretivist ethnography is an approach that seeks to understand the meanings and significance of social phenomena from the perspectives of those involved.

This approach has been used by some researchers to analyze the social world of gangs. For example, researchers have used interpretivist ethnography to understand the dynamics of a gang in Glasgow.

The study found that members of this gang join and leave the gang due to contingent and situational factors. The researchers found that there was no fixed or stable membership in this gang.

Members joined and left depending on their relationships with other members, their sense of place, and physical immobility. This finding contradicts the portrayal of gangs in consensus subcultural theory, where members are believed to be committed to their gang.

Furthermore, the study found that violence was much less prevalent in the gang than typically portrayed in the media. Rather, gang members sought status by engaging in battles of one-upmanship, such as displaying more tattoos or wearing more expensive clothing.

Additionally, the researchers found that the gang members’ sense of identity was rooted in their physical locality and local history, rather than gang culture. This finding contradicts the portrayal of gangs in consensus subcultural theory, where gangs are believed to have a strong sense of identity and culture.

While interpretivist ethnography has provided new insights into the dynamics of gangs that challenges traditional theories, it has limitations. The research on gangs in Glasgow only focused on one gang, and it may not be applicable to all gangs.

Further research is needed to determine whether the principles discovered through interpretivist ethnography are applicable to other gangs. Moreover, consensus subcultural theory’s portrayal of gangs may not be accurate for all gangs.

Critics have argued that subcultures may not always reject mainstream values, but instead, they can exist as a parallel culture. For example, some gangs may share common goals with mainstream culture, such as economic success.

Therefore, consensus subcultural theory may not accurately capture the complexity and diversity of subcultures, including gangs. In conclusion, consensus subcultural theory has limitations in explaining the dynamics of gangs.

Ethnographic research has challenged the traditional understanding of gangs as portrayed in consensus subcultural theory. Further research is needed to determine the applicability of the principles discovered through interpretive research to other gangs.

In summary, the article has explored various theories to understand the complex dynamics of gangs and subcultures in society. Through this exploration, we have discovered that traditional theories such as consensus subcultural theory may not accurately capture the complexity and diversity of subcultures, and gangs.

Ethnographic research – an interpretivist approach – has challenged traditional theories and provided new insights into the dynamics of gangs. Overall, our understanding of gangs and subcultures in society must move beyond traditional theories and rely on more nuanced approaches.

FAQs:

Q: What is consensus subcultural theory, and what are its limitations? A: Consensus subcultural theory argues that subcultures exist within society due to the drive of individuals to belong to a group that shares common interests, beliefs, and practices.

Limitations of the theory include its inadequacy to explain the complexity of subcultures and street gangs, particularly in terms of shared experiences. Q: How does interpretivist ethnography challenge traditional theories?

A: Interpretivist ethnography is an approach that seeks to understand the meanings and significance of social phenomena from the perspectives of those involved. This approach has been used by researchers to analyze the social world of gangs, which has seemingly challenged the traditional portrayal of gangs in mainstream media and theories.

Q: What is the significance of understanding the dynamics of gangs and subcultures in society? A: Understanding the dynamics of gangs and subcultures is crucial for the development of effective strategies to address and prevent criminal behavior.

It can also help develop policies and programs aimed at reducing inequality, marginalization, and social exclusion. Q: Why does consensus subcultural theory not accurately capture the complexity of subcultures and gangs?

A: Critics argue that subcultures may not always reject mainstream values, but instead, they can exist as a parallel culture. Furthermore, research suggests that the dynamics of gangs are more complex than traditional theories portray, with membership being contingent, situational, and unstable.

Q: What is the importance of accurately representing individuals and communities in the media and by officials? A: Accurately representing individuals and communities in the media and by officials is crucial to avoid negative stereotypes and the internalization of negative identity, which leads to criminal behavior.

It is also important to avoid judgements and to remain neutral when representing complex ideas and social realities.

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