Applying Social Process and Culture Theories to Fight Club
Applying Social Process and Culture Theories to Fight Club
Fight Club was no doubt one of the most controversial and popular films in 1999. Regarding Hirschi, Sellin and Miller’s works, the motion picture was more than a just a film, but a feature that sought to explain delinquency among the youth. The social process and culture theories are used to analyze the criminal and deviant behavior in the movie.
The control theory seeks to answer how people, despite the desire to engage in criminal and deviant acts, have the ability to refrain from criminal acts. According to Hirschi (1969), social relationships have a role in shaping an individual behavior. The control theory assumes that delinquent actions result when one’s connection or bond to the society is weak or severed. Thus, no motivational factors are necessary for a person to be delinquent; the only prerequisite is the deficiency of control that allows the person to be free to scrutinize the gains of crime over the disadvantages of the similar delinquent acts. Consequently, Hirschi attaches four variables that comprise the social bonds, which are the determinant of crime in the society. The social bonds are cemented from childhood hence affect the actions of a person. The first variable, attachment, refers to the extent to which a person is attached to others. Deviant behavior decreases when one becomes more attached to others. For instance, children who are more attached to their parents or guardians tend to exhibit greater social control since changes in their behavior can be easily noted and worked on. The second variable, commitment, refers to the rational thinking involved when making decisions. When a person thinks of committing deviant acts, he or she must consider the gains and losses of such a decision. If one wants to develop a positive reputation, engaging in crime will result in loss because of legal violation. Thus, a person cannot only be committed to conformity by what he or she has obtained, but the anticipation of attaining goods through conventional means can buttress one’s obligation to social bonds (Hirschi, 1969). The third variable, engrossment, allows a person to be adequately involved and occupied in conventional activities to prevent engagement in crime. For instance, children involved in co-curricular activities can become occupied such that there is no time for them to be idle. Involvement in such activities reduces their susceptibility to engage in deviant behaviors and enhances their control over committing deviant acts. The final variable, belief, refers to a person’s ability to conform to social norms depending on the magnitude of confidence in the value system. Hirschi asserted that individuals differ in profundity and enormity of their belief and this difference is contingent upon the level of attachment to structures representing the subject beliefs. For instance, belief in the rules exerted by society differs from one person to another. Thus, a person who has a low level of belief in the current legal system is attributed as deviant despite him or her exercising moral superiority over the system.
Rather than conceptualizing deviance as a problem of the strain related to social control, Sellin’s theory on crime and deviance was based on social inequality and rivalry of the social system. Sellin asserted that criminal law is an expression of the regulations of the dominant culture. His theory, popularly known as the Culture Conflict theory, argues that culture conflict occurs when the regulations encompassing criminal law collide with the requirements of societal norms. In a much simpler sense, deviant behavior is a normal process resulting from the struggle for dominance between cultural groups with conflicting interests, values and emergent norms. Additionally, Sellin emphasized the multiplicity of cultures in a modern society. He stated that law encompassed the normative configuration of the prevailing culture group. The criminal law contains the criminal norms, improper behavior and its castigation, reflecting their interests and values of the groups triumphant in attaining control of the lawmaking process. The conduct norms of less influential groups reflecting their social conditions and experiences frequently conflict with the crime norms. This results in the fabrication of criminal and deviant behaviors entailing the routine behavior of the individual members of the less powerful groups. Sellin added that as society becomes more diversified, conflict and deviance increases (Sellin, 1938).
Walter Miller’s Theory
Walter Miller asserts that crime and deviant behavior is attributed to cultural classes in the society. Miller emphasizes on the lower class culture. He states that the lower class in the society creates and develops an independent subculture with its individual set of values and regulations. The norms of the created subculture eventually collide with conventional values. Consequently, deviant behavior, according to Miller, is attributed to the youths of the lower class who are mostly males. Moreover, the lower class youth are socialized to inculcate middle class ideas and objectives, which hinder proper socialization. Furthermore, Miller identifies specific factors that cause the lower class youth engage in crime. These factors, known as focal concerns, define delinquent behavior. They comprise the desire for excitement and thrill, toughness, smartness, autonomy, fate and trouble. Hence, clinging to such concerns promotes criminal behavior among the lower class (Miller, 1958).
Fight Club, directed by David Fincher in 1999, connects the control theory throughout the film. It is a complex feature delving on a single person’s criminal behaviors arising from discontentment. Miller’s theory on gang delinquency is applied vehemently whereby young men are attracted by the violence between Durden and the Narrator leading to the formation of an underground fight club. The fight club formed from the fight between Durden and the Narrator attracts other young males eager to engage in deviant acts. The gang is comprised of young males who are eager to display their toughness, smartness and thrill by taking part in violence. Such focal concerns force the youth to engage in criminal and violent behaviors such as street fights. The ability to engage in deviance among the youth indicates the degree of social control, which is influenced by the focal concerns. Thus, social control is low among the males since they do not conform to the rules put in place by the current legal system. Miller’s theory applies because the fight club composed of low class males is in conflict with the prevailing system. This is indicated where the group’s attraction to deviance leads to the formation of a violent revolution which engages in criminal behavior such as kidnapping.
The control theory is efficient in determining crime and deviant behavior in the societies. Despite the criticism of the theory that it focuses only on youth deviance, it still outlines the causes of such behavior by involving the role of adults in shaping the attitudes of the youth. Furthermore, applications of the control theory have been utilized in various educative programs especially in schools to understand deviant behaviors in students.
Hirschi, T. (1969). Causes of delinquency. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Miller, W. B. (July 01, 1958). Lower Class Culture as a Generating Milieu of Gang Delinquency. Journal of Social Issues, 14, 3, 5-19.
Sellin, J. T. (1938). Culture conflict and crime. New York: Social Science Research Council.