Estrangement, Machismo, and Gang Violence

60 Social Science Quarterly 235 (1979)

Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1313

16 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2014

Date Written: September 29, 2014


The Subculture of violence thesis sees values relating to violence as playing an important causal role in the generation of violent behavior. Subcultural values, it is argued, define certain circumstances and stimuli that appropriately evoke physical aggression,especially on the part of young black and Hispanic males. Within the subculture, failure to respond violently to physical or verbal challenge may well lead to negative sanctions, while violent response to such challenges is said to be supported, encouraged and at times directly required (Wolfgang and Ferracuti, 1967).

By and large, the literature relating to the subculture of violence thesis has concentrated on two questions. The first of these is an empirical question: Can the hypothesized value differences be demonstrated? What little evidence exists on the issue is mixed; several studies (e.g., Ball-Rokeach,1973; Erianger, 1974) suggest that the differences do not exist, while others suggest that they do (e.g., Ferracuti et al., 1970; Ferracuti and Wolfgang, 1973). The second question is more theoretical: Assuming that the value differences do exist, should they be regarded as the product of a semiautonomous subculture (as implied, although not unequivocally, in the work of Wolfgang and Ferracuti [1967]), or should they be regarded as an adaptation to situational exigencies induced by social structure (a position explicitly taken by Cloward and Ohlin [1960] in their discussion of the "conffict subculture" and by Curtis [1975] in his elaboration of Wolfgang's model)? This paper attempts to advance discussion on both of these questions, in the specific context of the Chicano barrios of East Los Angeles. It concludes that, while subcultural values of the barrio may be different from those of Anglo society and may exist independently of Anglo society, they do not directly require or condone violence. Rather, behavior is a product of the way in which structural conditions limit the expression of these values.

Keywords: Gang Violence, Machismo

Suggested Citation

Erlanger, Howard S., Estrangement, Machismo, and Gang Violence (September 29, 2014). 60 Social Science Quarterly 235 (1979); Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1313. Available at SSRN: or

Howard S. Erlanger (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States


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