Social Disorganization


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When trying to explain what motivates criminal behavior, criminologists concern themselves with a number of things. Over time, sociologists have tried to link a wide range of social environmental factors with criminal behavior and in doing so; they have come up with a number of social structure theories. In this text, I concern myself with the social disorganization theory.

Social disorganization

Social disorganization according to Vito et al. (2006) is a theory that suggests that the weakening of social controls and their effectiveness is basically as a result of communities that are largely disorganized and can be brought out by amongst other things residential mobility, population heterogeneity as well as poverty. Henry D. McKay and Clifford R. Shaw were the pioneers of the social disorganization theory.

According to Siegel (2008) argues that when social control mechanisms are weakened, the occurrence of crime is largely inevitable. It hence follows that there is a strong link between social disorganization and organized crime and its evolution. The communities ability to solve problems was largely eroded as a result of the weakened social controls and with this in mind, organized crime escalated. McKay and Shaw at the time of coming up with the theory concerned themselves with Chicago and the various problems (social) that were a norm rather than a rarity not only in Chicago but in other suburbs as well. They soon discovered that organized crime is shaped by ecological conditions in the neighborhood.

When it comes to how well social disorganization meets the criteria for organized crime and its various relationships, it is important to note that organized crime is largely facilitated by social disorganization. This comes about once a criminal subculture is well entrenched in a way that goes a long way to nurture further criminal behaviors. Siegel (2008) notes that social disorganization as well as the trashing of values and norms at the societal level motivate most of the criminal subcultures. This is a fact that is further reinforced by Vito et al. (2006) who is of the opinion that increasing rates of delinquency in a normative society can almost always be blamed on social order disruption. It is important to note that even then, the development of criminal subcultures continues and with time, they are entangled in the normative society’s disorganization even in instances when the social norms that are dominant remain present.

In regard to the correlation of corrupt political machines and social disorganization to the development of organized crime, it can be noted that politics indeed play a huge role when it comes to nurturing social injustices as well as social unrest.  Indeed, a look at history shows a clear correlation between organized crime and corrupt political machines. This is particularly for the period starting in 1920 going all the way to 1930. it can be noted that over time, criminal organization members have often held positions of influence in politics and government. In that regard, they are largely able to act with impunity as they have power over social control instruments. In this regard, legitimate organizations are utilized to hide motives that are largely illegitimate.


In conclusion, it is important to note that societal moral decay motivates social disorganization. It is here that a large portion of the society accommodates criminality by slowly disregarding conformity to societal norms.


Vito, G.F., Maahs, J.R. & Holmes, R.M. (2006). Criminology: theory, research, and

policy. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Siegel, L.J. (2008). Criminology. Cengage Learning


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