By David Smith (auth.)
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Extra resources for Criminology for Social Work
In policy terms, strain theories suggest a progressive, redistributive agenda which deserves to be defended against more repressive alternatives; while their diagnosis may be faulty, their prescriptions can still be helpful, even though, as we will see, the same policy agenda can be derived from apparently distinct theoretical traditions. ' That is, whereas strain theories take conformity for granted, control theories treat it as problematic, as something to be explained. Hirschi (1969) suggests that while strain theories assume a 'moral man' (sic)- that is, that people are disposed to behave wellcontrol theories assume not necessarily 'an amoral man', but 'variation in morality' (p.
The basic categorisation, whose terms are those used by Hirschi (1969), is useful for purposes of discussion and, despite crossovers and ambiguities between theories, does indicate differences in the basic assumptions of each type. Similarly, there is no neat dividing line between the predominantly sociological theories discussed in this chapter and some of the predominantly psychological ones discussed in the next: some sociological theories, for example those which emphasise the importance of family ties, can sound quite psychological.
In so far as the bond made up of these four interacting elements is weak or broken, we are free to offend, because there is nothing to prevent us. Hirschi's work, which he has continued to elaborate since 1969 (Hirschi, 1979; 1986) represents a strong version of control theory in that he regards the control approach as thoroughly incompatible in logic with other types of theory, and wishes to avoid contaminating assumptions from either strain or cultural deviance (subcultural) theories. Other writers who share some control theory assumptions, such as David Matza, have been more accommodating to both strain and subcultural ideas (Sykes and Matza, 1957; Matza and Sykes, 1961; Matza, 1964).