Term Paper: Compare and Contrast Theories

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Compare and contrast Theories

This paper discusses the social learning theory at the outset, and analyze the statement of whether social learning does have an impact on criminal activities and on deviant behaviors. Next, the paper will analyze the culture conflict theory, with suitable example, to find the inter-relationship that may exist between culture conflicts and criminal behaviors. The paper will quote from experts in the field, notably among them being Albert Bandura, who believed that people learnt through the basic human tendency to observe and assimilate information, and that they also tend to learn from one another, using the methods of observation, imitation, and modeling. The paper will then discuss conflict in detail, culture, and what role culture and conflict play in determining and leading to criminal behaviors and activities. Karl Marx and Max Weber, the two more eminent sociologists the world has even known will be mentioned, and Thorsten Sellin's thinking will be discussed, especially his theory that in cases where cultures co-exist together within the same area, there will naturally be some form of conflict or the other in the area. This would happen even if there was no real controlling entity. Frederick Thrasher's study of 1313 gangs will be discussed, and the manner in which the dominant culture imposes its own rules and norms on the less dominant one will be studied. A conclusion will then be made.

In order to compare and contrast the social learning theory, culture conflict theory and criminal activity, one must, at the outset delve into what exactly social learning theory is comprised of, and what its important tenets are. First, social learning theory proposes that an individual would be able to learn by observing others around him; that is, observance of people's behaviors, and also the observance of the outcomes of those behaviors. Learning can occur, states the theory, without a change in behavior. It must be remembered that behaviorists often state that learning will be represented by a change in behaviors, but according to social learning theorists, it is possible for people to learn completely through observation alone, and that this learning need not necessarily show through in their performances, in any capacity. What this in essence means is that learning need not lead to changes in behavior. Third, social learning theorists feel that cognition plays a very important in learning. This can be taken to mean that when individuals become more and more aware of future reinforcements of rewards, then these can bring in changes in their behavior, demonstrating the fact that cognition can influence an individual's behavior to a large extent. (Ormrod, 1999)

According to Albert Bandura, people, more often than not, tend to learn from one another, using any of the following methods: observation, imitation, and modeling. In other words, Albert Bandura felt that people learnt through the basic human tendency to observe and assimilate information; when a person observes how another reacts within a particular given situation, then he would try to adopt the same attitude, and also try to imitate and model his own reactions according to those that he had observed earlier. In Bandura's words, "Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions, this coded information serves as a guide for action." ("Social Learning Theory, Bandura, at learning theories," 2007) Therefore, it can be stated that the theory of social learning emphasizes on the fact that human behavior is in fact a continuous series of reciprocal interactions between the three main influences on an individual's behaviors: cognitive, environmental and behavioral. ("Social Learning Theory, Bandura, at learning theories," 2007)

As everyone is aware, education plays an extremely important role in today's society and as it is a fact that education can be considered the social institution that takes care of learning, social learning has gained in importance, and more time and resources are being expended on learning theories than ever before. (Illeris, 2002) in contrast, one can examine the culture conflict theory. Conflict is in essence a part and parcel of human society, and it is also a part of almost all social relationships that a human being can engage in. It is important to remember, however, that the manner in which one is able to conceptualize conflict can be extremely important in being able to determine the culture conflict theory that one tends to believe in, and is able to identify with. Similarly, the manner in which one is able to conceive of the causes of conflict can help in determining the importance of culture in one's theories and in one's practice of conflict resolution. Conflict can be defined as "a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources, a struggle in which the aims of opponents are to neutralize, injure or eliminate rivals." (Avruch, 1998) the resolution of such conflict would depend on the view that one takes of the conflict, say experts. (Avruch, 1998)

It must be noted that culture conflict theory encompasses the study of deviant behaviors as well, and in this context, conceptualizing deviant behavior as a problem that can be related to the stress and strain of weakened social control would be applicable, wherein the basic social context can be taken to include several different cultural groups with conflicting interests, values and norms. When taken within the context of conflict, deviant behavior can be explained as a normal process that takes place within a diverse group of people, in which there is a struggle for dominance, and this means that it need not be taken to mean abnormal behavior that has been caused by faulty socialization or normative ambiguity. Culture conflict theory was initially presented by Thorsten Sellin, who acknowledged that in cases where cultures co-exist together within the same area, there will naturally be some form of conflict or the other in the area. This would happen even if there was no real controlling entity. (Keel, 2005)

In essence, culture conflict theory encompasses these important tenets: it places emphasis on the fact that conflict is and always has been an inevitable and unavoidable part of social life in general. It also stresses on the point that all societies are characterized by basic inequality in all aspects, and this can mean that competition can produce conflict within the society. However, one must not forget the important point that conflict in itself is not at all a negative thing; conflict would produce great social change whenever it is present. This is especially true within a typical society which is made up of both dominant as well as subordinate groups of individuals, who try to compete constantly for available resources. These are the haves and the have-nots of a typical human society. The question that would be raised as an inevitable result would be this: who would benefit ultimately, and at whose expense? The more renowned sociologists through time are Karl Marx and Max Weber, and although it is believed that Marxism is a sub-theory closely related to conflict theory, it is a fact that it was Karl Marx who originally described the conflict theory, as well as the theory on class conflict, while placing emphasis on the principle that the basic economic system of a society was the primary determinant of a typical society. ("Traditional sociological paradigms," 2003)

When conflict theory is taken in relation to crime, criminal behavior, and the ways in which society responds to criminal behavior, it becomes obvious that culture conflict theory tries to shift the concentration away from individual pathologizing as one of the major causes for crime. This can be taken to mean that criminal acts can be taken to connote conflicts that occur between norms that are generally followed by an individual, as for example, everyone follows a certain set of individual guidelines or norms in which they follow what they think is right or wrong. Within a society, there can be several different norms for different activities and this means that the norms of conduct are divergent. Conduct norms are generally defined by the specific group that the individual belongs to, and it must be remembered that every single group that one may belong to, would have norms of one kind or another, and it is when divergent cultures happen to come into contact with each other within the same society that the result would automatically become conflict of whatever kind. ("Introduction to sociology," n. d.)

An important point to be noted here is that this conflict would be increased manifold if and when one particular culture happens to have its various beliefs and practices protected and safeguarded by being included in the criminal codes of the society, which is where the society's norms may be dominant. Therefore, this means that while dominant groups would be able to impose their own vision of cultural reality upon weaker groups, this can lead to people making the mistaken assumption that the behaviors… [END OF PREVIEW]

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