Anti-social behaviour by Andrew Millie

By Andrew Millie

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Sample text

The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviance is behaviour that people so label. (emphasis in the original) Downes (1979: 3) described Becker’s claim that ‘deviance is behaviour that people so label’ as, ‘superficially a banal and even trivial assertion’. And writing about youthful ASB, Squires and Stephen (2005a: 185) have more recently claimed, ‘the concept of deviance may not hold much currency nowadays’. Yet they add: ‘in failing to incorporate this notion into our explanatory frameworks for the contemporary governance of youth we throw the baby out with the bathwater because “anti-social behaviour” is such a highly problematic, value-laden, subjective and politically-loaded construct’ (Squires and Stephen 2005a: 185).

Merton 1996: 143) To apply this perspective to ASB may be stretching things, and especially to ASB in a British context. Furthermore, the assumption that all people have the same desires and dreams is simplistic. Yet, there is much in the ‘American dream’ that translates to contemporary consumerist/ individualist culture, wherever it may be. For Merton, the majority still conformed to the norm by accepting both cultural goals and the institutional means for achieving these goals; yet the ‘strain’ between goals and means (his perspective has become known as ‘strain theory’) led to four types of deviant: + + + + The innovator: accepts cultural goals; rejects institutional means The ritualist: rejects cultural goals; accepts institutional means The retreatist: rejects both cultural goals and institutional means The rebel: replaces both cultural goals and institutional means with something new.

This is not to say that ASB does not occur in more rural or out-of-town locations. Fly tipping in particular can be a significant problem in some country areas, and bored young people can get up to mischief in rural communities just like anywhere else. However, there could be something in the urban experience that makes ASB more likely. Further evidence is provided by analysis of the 2006/07 BVPI General Users Surveys5 in England, conducted by a team from Ipsos Mori (Ames et al. 2007). They rightly observed that ‘variations in perceptions of anti-social behaviour across England are vast’ (p.

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