Part 1: Are the urban poor their own worst enemies? Answer this question from the perspective of both Rational Actor Theory and Structured Socialization Theory.
The perspective of the Rational Actor Theory and Structured Socialization theory differ on the issue of the whether the urban poor being the worst enemies to themselves. According to Rational Actor theory all social phenomenon existing in a particular social setting such as conforming and deviant behaviors, are explained in terms of how individuals with self interests make choices under the influence of their own preferences. It brings as a similarity between social change and economic change since there is an assumption that the aim of all individual parties is to maximize their advantage or gain and minimize their disadvantage or loss. Its major premises include that human behavior is based on an individual’s rational calculation and the aim of their choices is to optimize their pleasure. It therefore means that individuals must anticipate the outcomes from their alternative courses of action and determine the one that is best for them. In the end, individuals who are rational select the action that they are likely to derive the greatest satisfaction from it. The urban poor have a range of options to choose from to make their way of life either good or bad since they are normal reasoning people and should be rational. Rationality provides a mode of thinking in which unprivileged individuals are able to accurately distinguish means and ends and be able to find out what they want and what is available to them to obtain those ends. If they are rational actors they should calculate the costs and benefits of all their courses of action such that if the costs outweigh the benefits they refrain from those activities harming them. According to this theory it is not significant to consider the prior causes, background and prevailing structures but the rational judgments and calculations that each person should make with certain outcomes and preferences in a particular situation. The theory could therefore imply that the urban poor are the worst enemies of themselves since their choices led them to their present situation
The structured socialization theory suggests that the chances of people becoming criminals are influenced by the social economic structures they belong to. The poor people have a higher chance to engage in criminal activities because they are not able to gain ether monetary or social success in any other way. There exists three schools of thought in this theory; social disorganization, cultural deviance and strain theories. Social disorganization theory implies that those living under poor conditions like slum dwellers violate the law since they live in localities where social control has broken down. Stain theory has the view that crime results from anger individuals experience due to their inability to legitimately achieve social and economic success. Cultural deviance theories state that in lower class areas there exist a unique system of values that approve behaviors such as being tough, defying authority and never showing fear. Crime also results from these lower class areas due to people’s perception that they have limited opportunities for success. These theories are of the view that social structures differentiate the ability to achieve common values and beliefs shared by most people (Auyero 6). Structured socialization theory does not clearly support that the urban poor are their worst enemies because the existing structures that create forces of strain, frustration and disorganization resulted to the kind of behaviors they adopted.
Part 2: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these perspectives (Rational Actor Theory and Structured Socialization).
Rational Actor theory is commended as a cohesive framework that can be used to understand human behavior. It can be applied in any type of an environmental setting since the assumptions that relate to each type of actor in a particular circumstance are compatible to any other set of structural assumptions. It is easy to understand and apply when evaluating the choices of an actor since preference and believes of individuals are taken to be the only relevant variables that determine an action. It allows prediction because its decisiveness depends on the structural and the assumptions of an individual actor. The weakness of this theory is that it cannot explain social phenomenon such as self-sacrifice, reciprocity and trust among individuals since they do not stand to gain anything from such acts. It does not also explain why individuals join associations and groups voluntarily where the benefits pursued are collective and not individual.
The strength of the structured socialization theories is that it reveals certain truths regarding the behaviors and the high crime rate prevalent in some areas. Those people living in areas experiencing poor conditions and limited resources engage in criminal activities than those living in better neighborhoods and have adequate resources at their disposal (Liebow ch.1). However there are also some disparities in these theories for instance in reference to strains theory, people’s frustrations when trying to gain economic growth do not only result from stains but a mixture of several things such as homelessness, abuse and neglect. A person may be influenced to commit a crime by more than one factor and may encounter one of those factors and decide not to lead a life of crime. For example, an individual may face poverty but through instilled family values develop adequate resilience to make lawful choices of action. Another weakness is that the theory mainly highlights the factors and events that need constant attention since they lead to formation of gangs, drug trafficking as well as other crimes however do not highlight there other forces in the same settings fighting to counter crimes. There are therefore crime inspiring situations as there are ones that potentially foster crimes in those social structures.
Is there a middle ground?
In regard to the circumstances that led to the current situation of the urban poor, both the structured socialization theory and Rational Action Theory offers some insights. Existing systems surrounding the poor for a number of generations have been unfair and suppressing to them. There has been racial discrimination and profiling that have ensured they have limited opportunities to grow both economically and socially (Katz 192). This has resulted to the current social structure that has seen most of them being poor. However, there are those among this group of people who have made rational choices and managed to have a better life and improve their economic and social status.
Are there alternatives for these young black men living in Baltimore?
The young black men in Baltimore have other alternative choices. Although they are facing a myriad of challenges such as racial discrimination, unjustified police incarceration, racial profiling, high unemployment rates, they exists better solutions to solve their issues (Joe, 1). Their uprising resulted to more losses than gains to their community even if they communicated a message of a disgruntled people who felt they have been oppressed for long by the existing systems. Properly coordinated efforts to fight for their rights without the destruction of property could be more fruitful (Anderson 49). This can be done by electing good representatives in political offices that will champion for their rights and improve their existing structures. They could also form civil rights groups that would present their grievances to the right authorities and push for action (Lemieux 1). They should also ensure they do not engage in criminal activities like joining gangs and drug trafficking and ensure they complete their education to be able to secure jobs or engage in other helpful economic activities.
Anderson, Elijah. Code of the street: Decency, violence, and the moral life of the inner city. WW Norton & Company, 2000. 56-145.
Auyero, Javier. “Born amid bullets.” Contexts 12.1 (2013): 1-7.
Joe. “Baltimore Uprising in Context”. Darkwhite WordPress. 27 April. 2015. Web
Katz, Michael B. “Why don’t American cities burn very often?.” Journal of Urban History 34.2 (2008): 185-208.
Lemieux, Jamilah.”Baltimore Been Burning”. Ebony news & Views. 28 April. 2015. Web. n d.
Liebow, Elliot. Tally’s corner: A study of Negro streetcorner men. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. .