Delinquency and Opportunity: A Theory of Delinquent Gangs

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9780029055908: Delinquency and Opportunity: A Theory of Delinquent Gangs

As the United States turned into the decade of the 1960s, an increasing amount of attention was paid to the issue of social and economic inequality. President John F. Kennedy spoke of a "new frontier," while Lyndon B. Johnson called for a "great society." The civil rights movement was taking hold and would soon capture the attention of the entire society. The time was ripe for a book that linked delinquency to disadvantaged youths' denial of opportunity. Such a thesis resonated with the times. Thus, when Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd E. Ohlin published Delinquency and Opportunity: A Theory of Delinquent Gangs in 1960, it met with a receptive audience. They were conveying a message that those inside and outside criminology were prepared to hear. Gang delinquency is not spread evenly across American society. Cloward and Ohlin thus explained that Delinquency and Opportunity "is about delinquent gangs, or subcultures, as they are typically found among adolescent males in lower-class areas of large urban centers". In their view, accounting for the concentration of gangs in this social location meant that two related, but distinct, issues had to be addressed. First, they wished to know why the motivation for delinquency was high in lower-class urban areas. To answer this question, they relied on the work of Robert K. Merton, whose paradigm is often referred to as strain theory. Second, they wished to know why delinquency assumed a collective form and manifested certain subcultural content. To answer this question, they relied on the work of theorists in the Chicago School of criminology such as Edwin Sutherland, Clifford Shaw, and Henry McKay. The consolidation of these two perspectives was important because Merton's work and the Chicago School were generally seen as rival explanations of criminal behavior. Cloward and Ohlin were offering a fresh integrated theory of gang delinquency, which increased its significance still further.

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Richard A. Cloward, Lloyd E. Ohlin
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