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Gang Violence: Social Conflict Theory

Introduction & Sociological Background

It is clear in American society that minority groups often lag behind their white counterparts in terms of standard of living and other aspects of class stratification. As sociologist Joseph F. Healey argues in Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class, "minority group status affects access to wealth and income, prestige and power" (16). From a sociological standpoint, when various groups view themselves as being denied access to the conventional markers of upward mobility and status in society, deviance arises.

Feeling a lack of connection from white, successful social groups, African Americans turn to gang membership and violence (i.e., deviance) as a means of achieving solidarity, status and economic success. This fits in with Emile Durkheim's belief that weak bonds in society cause people to deviate from social norms and values, "In a society with strong solidarity, the members are likely to conform to share norms and values, but in a society with weak bonds among the members, people are more likely to deviate" (Robertson 197). It is this disconnect between social groups of different status that leads to deviance like gang formation and violence.

Social conflict theory best explains the rise of gangs in American society among minority youth that view themselves denied traditional routes of access to upward mobility. Social conflict theory maintains that there are limited resources available in any society. Those with the most power and wealth typically control the social institutions (i.e. government, education, workplace, etc.) that controls these resources, often allocating them to their own benefit to the detriment of less powerful groups. Among the lower classes, the strain of this conflict is likely to be more intense, leading to higher levels of deviance as disaffected youth turn to gang membership and violence as an alternative to the routes ...

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Gang Violence: Social Conflict Theory. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:38, May 20, 2019, from