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“structures and behavior are inseparable hence institutions and values go hand in hand”

October 13, 2012
English: Suburban tract house in California

English: Suburban tract house in California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I see it Conflict Theory, specifically the pluralistic conflict model described by Akers and Hawkins, (Akers & Sellers, 2009) best describes how institutions of wealth and power, (and the resultant accrued mores specified as [official] norms and their grievous counterparts deviancy (i.e. codified criminal definitions) as well as the basal causes of “persistent-poverty” are conserved and transmitted generationally by means of the social structures which have been created and are controlled by the dominant class(s) in a given society… such that once established the distinct boundaries marking class strata become nearly impassable in terms of climbing thru them.

In spite of significant efforts at social reform and what many refer to as the emergence of an “African American middle class” not only has the gap between the wealthiest and poorest Americans seen an overall increase it has at the same time been accompanied by key differences with respect to such correlated factors as race and ethnicity.  A reality undoubtedly caused by “long-standing socio-economic inequities” between various racial and ethnic groups throughout this country’s history, making it therefore much more likely a product of method versus one of chaos.  So if Cornell West is correct, “structures and behavior are inseparable hence institutions and values go hand in hand” there remains only one explanation for the preceding and current social structure.  It is intentional.

Particularly telling are the factors leading to the formation of what has been termed “the underclass” previously known as the “dangerous class” whose members were once peasant farmers that had been evicted off their small plots to make way for “a larger capitalist pasturage system.”  Now homeless they migrated to various population centers where they were quickly seen as a threat to the middle and upper class business and land owners of 16th and 17th European cities who fearing this influx of displaced persons enacted “Poor laws” in hopes of protecting their wealth (Krisberg, 2005).  Ironically now just as then the dominant culture sets the conditions which generates the under/dangerous class(s).

In fact today’s factors such as the bad (i.e. ineffectual schools), the secondary market jobs alongside increased opportunities for differential associations, the detachment from the values and aspirations held by greater society, the inadequate social buffers and diminished collective efficacy, i.e. really a dearth of the social and cultural capital required for well-being are not so different from those of the 16th and 17th European cities, nor is today’s response by members of the upper and middle classes.

This dearth of social and cultural capital present themselves as sets of conditions explicitly confined to a particular area or areas that are not currently nor have ever been hidden or unknown to the public at large… (In fact we have many useful sometimes colorful names for them like slums, ghettos, projects, shantytowns, favelas, and the like, they are also known as hotspots, hangouts, territories, case makers, roughs, the no-go, the street etc. all depending on one’s perspective.)

…factors owing their existence to “a given [unalterable] collective social circumstance a person or persons finds themselves known as Social Structure.


(Walker, Spohn & Delone, 2012).”

Krisberg, K. B. K. (2005). Juvenile justice redeeming our children. California: Sage Publications.

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