Social disorganisation theory was developed by the Chicago school of thought and Robert Park. It was expanded on by Shaw and Mckay, two of Park’s students. Social disorganization theory was founded on two key concepts: that this theory does not refer to all crime, and ecological factors foreshadow crime. In order to understand this theory on crime one must first understand ecology, which is a subset of biology that deals with studying how living things interact in their environment and live with one another.
Ecology is the study of ecosystems. The foundational concepts behind this theory lay the basis for understanding how ecology and crime mimic each other. In ecology we can see that when humans build in areas that used to contain animals, a social disorganisation for the animals occurs. Suddenly their homes are gone, and they must either move somewhere else, die, or learn to adapt to their new living conditions.
Many wild animals try to assimilate into their newly changed environment.
Racoons, when placed in an urban environment turn to stealing out of garbage cans. Cougars will come down from mountains to prey on small pets. Deer eat the leaves off of trees in yards to adapt to their normal food sources being gone. This continues until most wildlife leaves the area or dies out. Some important concepts to grasp are that location matters in reference to crime, and can be just as important as age, gender, or race. This location usually has high levels of high school drop outs, unemployment, a deteriorating infrastructure, and an increased amount of single parent homes.
These conditions allow for a neighbourhood to become detached from surrounding areas, making it a “bad” part of town. Businesses will refrain from building in these areas, and crime is a common aspect of life those who live in areas that fit this profile deal with. As the area becomes more and more detached from surrounding places, it falls deeper into disorganisation allowing for more crime.
The other foundational concept is the idea of invasion and succession. Invasion refers to a different person or group coming into an area that already has social normal and changing those norms. After the old norms have been uprooted and new ones planted, those who were originally in that area tend to leave while more of the new people move in. This puts society in a disorganised state until the new societal standards have been accepted and put in place. As from the ecological standpoint I was discussing earlier, we can see how humans invade wildlife and disrupt nature’s societal norms. As humans build and take up more space for wildlife, the status quo for those animals is upset and they must find a new normal in order to survive. This was seen to be the same amongst humans during the early days of America. A specific type of people would claim an area and would move in. After a while, a different type of people, be that racially or religiously, would start to move in and bring new customs and beliefs with them. This upset those who were living in the area first and they would move out, causing the new status quo to take hold. This is why we have places like China town, and it has such a strong resemblance to Chinese culture because any previous societal norms left as Chinese immigrants moved in.