Neighborhood Ties and Collective Efficacy

Recognizing that the mere existence of social bonds may be insufficient for the exercise of social control, Sampson and his colleagues (Morenoff, Sampson, & Raudenbush, 2001; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997) have proposed the concept of collective efficacy. The concept of collective efficacy compliments and expands earlier work that merely stated that the existence of social bonds would reduce crime (Hirschi, 1969). Collective efficacy refers to the willingness and capability of residents to mobilize their efforts in order to achieve common goals and exercise social control. Sampson (2006) emphasized that the existence of social networks may foster the exercise of collective efficacy, but it is not a sufficient condition; residents must actively utilize their social ties, be they private, parochial, or public.

Neighborhood Violence and Subculture

The link between social disorganization, collective efficacy and crime does not obviously lead to an expected association with violence, per se. Nonetheless, studies of communities have focused on violence, and violent crime rates are highly concentrated in particular neighborhoods (Peterson & Krivo, 2010). If the traditional theories of social disorganization and collective efficacy do not help us understand why violence, in particular, is especially high in certain neighborhoods, where do we turn? One route is through theories of neighborhood subculture.

Subcultural theories of community violence trace their origin to the work of authors such as Wolfgang and Ferracuti (1967). These authors posited the existence of subgroups that are distinguishable from the broader, mainstream culture by their willingness to engage in violence in response to aggravating stimuli. Wolfgang and Ferracuti proposed that the violent values of subculture members are learned through a process of differential association with like-minded peers. They predicted that individuals who possess violent values will (1) be more likely to interpret a variety of interpersonal interactions as attacks and (2) respond with aggression and violence. Although Wolfgang and Ferracuti were among the first scholars to specifically focus on violent values, we note that Shaw and McKay (1942) posited a similar process of differential association and diffusion of deviant values amongst youth in disorganized communities. Later scholars developed the idea that violent values shape the manner in which individuals react to situations in their environment, and they hypothesized that subcultures of violence would be most common among young adults, males, African-Americans, lower-income persons, and urban residents (Felson, 1978; Luckenbill & Doyle, 1989).

Though fierce criticisms have been leveled at cultural deviance theories over the years (e.g., Costello, 1997), scholars are beginning to revive cultural theories by focusing on the interaction between values and environment (Bruce, Roscigno, & McCall, 1998; Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003a). For example, scholars such as Anderson (1999) and Black (1983) propose that a culture that emphasizes honor and the need to violently defend one’s honor against attack is most likely to arise in environments in which there is a vacuum of official, institutional social control. Similarly, other scholars emphasize that violence committed by inner-city residents (with a specific focus on African-American males) may be a form of pathological adaptation to the stresses associated with living in concentrated disadvantage (Bernard, 1990; Sampson & Wilson, 1995), dealing with structural racism (Oliver, 1994, 2003, 2006), or coping with repeated exposures to violence (Ng-Mak, Salzinger, Feldman, & Stueve, 2002). These scholars tie mico- and macro-theory together by arguing that environmental and structural conditions give rise to violent values, and these violent values then provide the motivation or impetus for individual violent behavior.

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