subculture of violence | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminology

Subculture of violence refers to a set of values, norms, and attitudes that legitimize the use of violence as a means of resolving conflicts within a particular group or society.

The concept of a subculture of violence was first introduced by Marvin Wolfgang and Franco Ferracuti in their book “The Subculture of Violence: Towards an Integrated Theory in Criminology” (1967). They argued that there are certain groups or subcultures within society that have a higher tolerance for violence and are more likely to engage in violent behavior.

According to Wolfgang and Ferracuti, subcultures of violence develop in response to specific social, economic, and cultural conditions, such as poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and a lack of social mobility. These conditions create a sense of frustration, hopelessness, and alienation among individuals, which can lead to the adoption of violent attitudes and behavior as a means of coping with their situation.

In a subculture of violence, violence is not only accepted but also glorified and rewarded. It becomes a symbol of power, status, and masculinity, and those who use violence are respected and admired. Violence is seen as a legitimate way of settling disputes and maintaining social order, and those who fail to use it may be viewed as weak or cowardly.

Subcultures of violence are often found in marginalized and disadvantaged communities, such as inner-city neighborhoods, where poverty, crime, and social disorganization are prevalent. However, they can also exist in other social groups, such as gangs, organized crime, extremist groups, and even some sports teams and military units.

The subculture of violence theory has been criticized for its narrow focus on individual-level factors and its neglect of structural and systemic factors that contribute to violence. Critics argue that subcultures of violence are not unique to particular groups or communities but are instead a reflection of broader societal values and beliefs about violence, power, and masculinity.

Despite its limitations, the subculture of violence theory has been influential in shaping criminological research and policy, particularly in the areas of gang violence, organized crime, and domestic violence. It highlights the importance of addressing the underlying social and economic conditions that give rise to violent behavior and the need for interventions that target the root causes of violence rather than just its symptoms.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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