Social Disorganization Theory


I. W.l. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and the United States~ 1920

Setting of their work: Chicago at a time of massive immigration and high crime.

Their goal: account for the high levels of deviant and criminal behavior by Polish immigrants and their children.

Definition of social disorganization: the process by which the authority and influence of an earlier culture and system of social control is undermined and eventually destroyed.

Research in Polish villages as well as in Chicago, letters, diaries, interviews.

Social disorganization as a result of a two-fold change, from Poland to the United States and from rural village to big city... rural Polish society highly conformist, but in big-city Chicago, parent values and culture seem irrelevant and youth (especially boys) are largely beyond the reach of parental supervision.

Rapid Social Change>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Social Disorganization

"Solutions:" Thomas and Znaniecki emphasize that various Polish-American organizations which are sometimes viewed as part of the problem are really part of the solution... need to recreate a coherent culture that "works" in the Chicago setting.


II Frederick Thrasher; The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago 1927

'The gang is one manifestation of the disorganization incident to cultural conflict among diverse nations and races gathered together in one place and themselves confronted with a civilization foreign and largely inimical to them."

Notice slightly different definition of social disorganization, emphasizing conflict.

"It is not because boys of the middle and wealthier classes are native whites that they do not form gangs but because their lives are organized and stabilized for them by American traditions, customs, and institutions to which the children of immigrants do not have adequate access."

"Almost everything--history, geography, art, music and government--that is the commonknowledge of the schoolboy of the middle classes is entirely beyond~the ken and experience of the gang boy... He knows little of the outside world except its exteriors.He views it as a collection of influences that would suppress him and curtail his activities with law and police, cells and bars."

Cultural conflict/isolation>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>social disorganization

Gangs not inherently criminal but in fact, Thrasher concludes that most of Chicago's 10,000 professional criminals have gang backgrounds

III. William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged (1987)

Emphasizes the growth of concentrated poverty in America's innercities... neighborhoods where more than 40% are poor...

Two key causal factors: 1)deindustrialization 2)outmigration by middle class minorities

"The single most potent factor behind the growing misery of the ghetto would have to be the momentous economic transforrnation that have undermined the manufacturing base of the central city economies."

"Our basic theme then ... is that the outmigration of these families makes it much more difficult if not downright impossible to sustain such basic institutions in the inner city as churches, banks, schools recreational facilities and neighborhood associations in the face of massive and prolonged joblessness."

Concentrated povery>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>social disorganization

When Jobs Disappear, 1996

Social organization = extent to which neighborhood residents are able to maintain social controland realize their common goals

Concentrated and persistent.joblessness >>>>>>>>>>>>social disorganization

In 1970, 7 of every 10 black men worked full-time; by late 1980s, 5 of 10, and much less than that in the inner city... 1967-1987, Chicago lost 60% of its manufacturing jobs, and 60% of the new jobs generated in the Chicago area were located in the northwest suburbs, where African-Americans constitute 2% of the population.

Work not just a way to make a living... a framework for daily activities and patterns of interaction, because it imposes discipline and regularities..

What are the consequences than when young people grow up in an environment that lacks the idea of work as a central experience of adult life?

For example, look at statistics relating to violent crime; by late 20s, black involvement 4 times the rate of white involvement... BUT no difference for employed blacks and whites...

What about family disorganization? Black men born in the early 1940s twice as likely to marry as black men born in the late 1950s,and the rate continues to fall....

44% of African-Amer ican women with children in Chicago's inner city have no other adult living with them, vs. 6.5% of Mexican-American women....