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The rise in gang violence in major British cities has dominated the news on numerous occasions this year - usually showing the perpetrators and victims of knife crime as being young, black males. The rising statistics have seen possible explanations emerge that span across topics including gender, race, politics, and the class divide. Sociological theory and concepts can also be applied to try and understand the increase.
Critical race theorists could argue that the rise in gang violence is attributed to the institutions and structure that are created by white people for white people because it maintains the oppression of minorities and in turn criminality arises amongst minority communities.
In Britain, systematic racism is entrenched in our society. In terms of race, the differences in wealth, growth and opportunity are vast. If you come from an ethnic minority background you are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty and are less likely to reach further education or be employed in managerial roles (Osborne, 2016) so gang membership becomes more appealing as a way out of struggle.
From a Marxist perspective, crime is thought of as a capitalist product because capitalism contributes to poverty and inequality. Marxists could argue that the awareness of this disadvantage could cause the desire to be successful to outweigh the pressure to act within the law and thus lead to an increase in organised criminal activity. Being able to view the wealth and lifestyles of the 'superclass' (Rothkopf, 2008) through the media can lead to unrest. From this, violent crime and gang affiliation increases amongst marginalised groups because it encourages unity and with the idea of profit being made at the expense of others, rather than at the expense of themselves in a society where their labour only benefits the middle and upper classes.
Social conflict theorists could argue that gang membership is used as an avenue for social mobility and status which would be otherwise unachievable when sharing the norms and values of the dominant group because prospects, opportunities and success are seen to come from the exploitation and continuing disadvantage of the underclass.
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