Skip to main content
Log in

The Study of Deviant Subcultures as a Longstanding and Evolving Site of Intersecting Membership Categorizations

  • Theoretical / Philosophical Paper
  • Published:
Human Studies Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Intersectional scholarship has become increasingly important, largely because it is more nuanced than scholarship emphasizing only class, race, or gender. Much intersectional scholarship is limiting, however, in curtailing our conceptualizations of how many intersecting identities might be relevant for explaining crime. The older literature on deviant subcultures, including gang studies, actually addressed issues of intersectionality, and in a less restrictive manner, also acknowledging the importance of youth and neighborhood ecology. Drawing on early and more recent subcultural scholarship, the theoretical importance of Weberian and ethnomethodological themes is illustrated, suggesting the value of closely empirical research sensitive to theoretical issues including how social categories are used in explaining crime and how patterns of offending are carried by individuals subject to categorization.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. The quote is from the first edition of Parsons’ The Structure of Social Action (1937) specifically the essay “The Role of Ideas in Social Action,” reprinted in Parsons (1954).

  2. While it is well beyond the scope of this paper to examine the historical or biographical factors which led Merton to identify his famous analysis of deviance in terms of anomie rather than in other terms reflecting some of the other resources drawn upon in his analysis, it certainly makes good professional sense when given a choice between emphasizing alternative traditions of social thought, for a sociologist to cite Durkheim’s notion of anomie, which had already been adapted to sociological research on deviance and had already been accepted as a topic in the ascendant positivistic tradition of social science, rather than, e.g., Freudian psychoanalytic theory or Weber’s obscure, pessimistic sociology of religion, drawing on comparative historical methods and cultural analysis.

  3. The ethnomethodological attention to multiple category incumbency in this context also bears some interesting similarities with a central insight of Wirth’s influential early article on culture conflict and misconduct, that scholars should investigate delinquency with reference to the existence of multiple group memberships and the individual interpretations and adaptations which manage these issues, illustrated through members’ “naïve utterances” (Wirth 1931: 490), i.e., vernacular, practical language use.

References

  • Bell, A. (2010). The subculture concept: A genealogy. In S. G. Shoham, P. Knepper, & M. Kett (Eds.), International handbook of criminology (pp. 153–183). New York: CRC Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Cloward, R., & Ohlin, L. (1960). Delinquency and opportunity. New York: Free Press.

  • Cohen, A. (1955). Delinquent boys: The culture of the gang. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press of Glencoe.

    Google Scholar 

  • Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics, (Vol. 140, pp. 139–167). Chicago: University of Chicago Legal Forum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cullen, F., & Messner, S. (2011). The making of criminology revisited: An oral history of Merton’s anomie paradigm. In F. Cullen, C. Jonson, A. Myer, & F. Adler (Eds.), The origins of American criminology (pp. 89–119). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction .

    Google Scholar 

  • Downes, D., & Rock, P. (2003). Understanding deviance: A guide to the sociology of crime and rule breaking. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Faris, R. (1948). Social disorganization. New York: Ronald Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garot, R. (2010). Who you claim: Performing gang identity in school and on the streets. New York, NY: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gordon, M. (1947). The concept of the sub-culture and its application. Social Forces, 26, 40–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grabham, E., Cooper, D., Krishnadas, J., Herman, D. (2009). Introduction. In E. Grabham, D. Cooper, J. Krishnadas & D. Herman (Eds.), Intersectionality and beyond: Law, power and the politics of location (pp. 1–17). New York, NY: Routledge-Cavendish.

  • Hawkesworth, Mary. (2006). Feminist inquiry: From political conviction to methodological innovation. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kalberg, S. (1994). Max Weber’s comparative-historical sociology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Katz, J. (1990). Seductions of crime: Moral and sensual attractions in doing evil. London: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lynch, M. J. (1996). Class, race, gender and criminology: Structured choices and the life course. In M. Schwartz & D. Milovanovic (Eds.), Race, gender, and class in criminology: The intersection (pp. 3–28). New York: Garland.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matza, David. (1964). Delinquency and drift. New York, NY: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCall, L. (2009). The complexity of intersectionality. In E. Grabham, D. Cooper, J. Krishnadas, & D. Herman (Eds.), Intersectionality and beyond: Law, power and the politics of location (pp. 49–76). Routledge-Cavendish: New York, NY.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meehan, A. J. (2000). The organizational career of gang statistics: The politics of policing gangs. Sociological Quarterly, 41(3), 337–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Merton, R. (1938). Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review, 3(5), 672–682.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Messerschmidt, J. (1993). Masculinities and crime: Critique and reconceptualization of theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller, W. (1958). Lower class culture as a generating milieu of gang delinquency. In D. Arnold (Ed.), The sociology of subcultures. California: Glendessary Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moerman, M. (1974). Accomplishing ethnicity. In R. Turner (Ed.), Ethnomethodology: Selected readings (pp. 54–68). Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Owen, D. (1994). Maturity and modernity: Nietzsche, Weber, Foucault and the ambivalence of reason. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, T. (1954). Essays in sociological theory, Revised Edition. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reamer, F. (2003). Criminal lessons: Case studies and commentary on crime and justice. Columbia: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schluchter, W. (1981). The rise of western rationalism: Max Weber’s developmental history, (Trans: G. R. Berkeley), California: University of California Press.

  • Sharrock, W. W. (1974). On owning knowledge. In R. Turner (Ed.), Ethnomethodology: Selected readings (pp. 45–53). Baltimore, MD: Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shaw, C. R. (1929). Delinquency areas: A study of the geographic distribution of school truants, juvenile delinquents, and adult offenders in Chicago. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Short, J. F. (1968). Introduction: On gang delinquency and the nature of subcultures. In J. F. Short (Ed.), Gang delinquency and delinquent subcultures (pp. 1–21). New York: Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sutherland, E. (1939). Principles of criminology 3rd ed. Philadelphia: J.B. Lipincott.

  • Sykes, G. M., & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664–670.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thrasher, F. M. (1927). The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Weber, M. (1946). From Max Weber: Essays in sociology, (trans: and Ed. Gerth, H. H., Wright Mills, C.) New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Wirth, L. (1931). Culture conflict and delinquency. I. Culture conflict and misconduct. Social Forces, 9(4), 484–492.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

I have tried in these observations and arguments to effectively apply insights on deviance, identity, theory, and method which stem in large part from the scholarship of Jeff Coulter, and to continue a tradition of ethnomethodologically informed scholarship on crime, deviance, and criminal justice which includes the work of Egon Bittner, Aaron Cicourel, Harold Garfinkel, and scores and scores of others, past and present. Thanks to Bob Garot and James Messerschmidt for thoughtful comments.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. J. Berard.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Berard, T.J. The Study of Deviant Subcultures as a Longstanding and Evolving Site of Intersecting Membership Categorizations. Hum Stud 37, 317–334 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10746-013-9305-x

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10746-013-9305-x

Keywords

Navigation