Contemporary Gang Changes

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When we think about what makes up a gang there is so many attributes that it could consist of, there is one thing for sure and that is that the majority of gangs share the three same desires which are money, power and respect and they’ll get it by any means necessary. This essay will focus on how contemporary gangs have changed tremendously from those of the 1950s and 60s. I will draw upon the work of many academics including that of Albert Cohen and his idea that gangs are made up of ‘delinquent boys’. I will mainly be studying gangs in the UK with reference to American gangs and will explore how they have changed over time in regards to ethnicity, class, gender, representations, crime types and the influence of technology.

A big change
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It has always been considered that working class delinquents make up a gang due to the fact that they are socially strained. In his book Delinquent Boys (1955) Albert Cohen described a gang as a ‘delinquent subculture’ and found that they tended to be formed by lower class boys who cannot meet the goals of society and so create their own value system which rejects mainstream societal norms. In agreeance with Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin (1960) feel that people are strained due to their class and feel anger at being excluded so the solution is to reject middle class means. Miller (1958) adapted the Cohen’s ‘delinquent’ subcultural theory and also agreed that gangs were an extension of the lower class. Therefore it can be assumed that due to being blocked by opportunities, gangs are formed as a criminal subculture and different values are adopted. However, these views do not explain middle/upper class individuals that are part of gangs, which could be due to them being rejected so they evolve “the delinquent gang solution to acquire status in a more accessible form and to hit back at the system that has branded them as failures. The gang takes the rules of respectable society and turns them upside down” (Downes and Rock, 2003: 146). In respect to whether contemporary gangs have changed since the 1950s in regards to the social class of…show more content…
Firstly, a big change has been language, with gangs being much more multicultural today, the language used to communicate with one another has also changed with terms used such as; ‘bruv, fam, peak, swag’ and so on being used. This is also down to societal changes and media influence such as music channels. Secondly, another way that has changed the way gangs represent themselves is through dress. Back in the 1950s gangs such as ‘The Krays’ were always smartly dressed in tailored suits and handmade shoes, “the Krays were acknowledged as ‘real gents’ and although from working class backgrounds the Krays looked like the movie stars whose company they craved” (Mackrill, 2003: 1). On the other hand gangs today may identify themselves by wearing or displaying coloured bandanas like that of the American gang ‘bloods’ who identify themselves through wearing red bandanas to represent blood. Another change that contemporary gangs have made is the use of logos to represent their values such as the EDL logo, some gang members may also get their gang logo tattooed on them so they can be identified, otherwise graffiti is often used to mark territory. Something that has not changed over the years in contemporary gangs and that is having gang names, this has always been the main way of recognising a
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