Social Disorganization Problem Analysis


The society is a complex system, which is organized through healthy interrelationships of its constituents. An organized society is characterized by coordination in institutions, associations, and groups interactions in such a way that conflict does not arise during their normal functioning. Earnest Jones defined social organization as the system through which the different parts of society relate to each other and to the whole society in a meaningful way (Sharma, 1998). It is characterized by unanimity of members, promptness in accepting status and roles, and control of society on the activities of individuals which maintains the society at equilibrium. However, if the interrelationships in an organized society are interrupted, there emerges disequilibrium which results in social disorganization.

What is social disorganization?

Elliott and Merrill defined social disorganization as the process through which the relationships between members of groups in the society are broken down or dissolved (Sharma, 1998). Social disorganization refers to the disturbance in the patterns of associations and interaction operating in the society. When a society becomes disorganized, roles attached to particular statuses become disorderly, social relationships become disorganized and the structure of institutions is altered leading to general lack of responsibility, diminishing social values, social ideal become degenerate, and the entire social structure progress towards a chaotic state (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003). In this view, social disorganization is a continuous process rather than a condition which temporarily disrupts existing social order leading to emergence of a new social structure (Sharma, 1998). Social disorganization is characterized by conflict of morals and of institutions, transfer of functions from one group to another, personal individuation, and disruption in the social structure (Sharma, 1998). It results from cultural lag, change in social values, occurrence of crisis and war in society, social change, as well as changes in social attitudes.

How Social Disorganization Relates To Organized Crime and Its Evolution

Social disorganization is often characterized by lack of consensus between various groups in society which results in conflict. In addition, social disorganization weakens social institutions resulting in moral degradation and high crime rates. In their social ecological study of geographical distribution of crime and delinquency in Chicago, Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay equated social disorganization to weak community control. The scholars found out that geographic area highly determined the level of law violating behavior among people in the society (Winfree &Abadinsky, 2009). They further established that once high crime rate became prevalent in a particular geographical location, the rates remained high in the subsequent generations. This is especially evident in the United States cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago where organized crime continues to be practiced and despite the long history of its existence, many neighborhoods remained unaffected until recently (Lyman & Potter, 2007). Historical emergence of organized crime can be attributed to elements of social disorganization. For instance, street gangs in the US emerged as a result of urbanization, foreign immigration, and as a result of socio economic factors such as race, social class, and poverty (Lyman & Potter, 2007).

How Social Disorganization Meets the Criteria for Organized Crime

In a socially disorganized society, conflict between various social groups is inevitable. Organized crime groups conflict with state government, religion, and the economy among other social institutions through their activities (Harris, 2003). In addition, socially disorganized societies promote changing values and attitudes which may promote criminal activities in the society. These attitudes and values are then transmitted from generation to generation leading to persistence of crime in such societies. Social disorganization disrupts the structure of institutions and weakens the relationships between these institutions just like organized crime undermines state legitimacy, negatively impact on local economies, and poses threat to security of the society which further disrupts the equilibrium of an organized society (Kubrin & Weitzer, 2003).

Correlation of Corrupt Political Machines and Social Disorganization to Development of Organized Crime

Organized crime groups operate in complex economic markets which are heavily dependent on the legal system, political climate, and the community environment in which they have established their consumer base (Mallory, 2007). Organized crime evolves as a result of social disorganization but in the absence of state. This is because it entails the formation of an economic system based on prohibited activities such as drug trafficking. Strong criminal organizations emerge in times of political and economic crisis. For instance, an organization such as Hells Angels was formed by First World War veterans and continues to be the most powerful organized crime gang in United States (Mallory, 2007). Criminal gangs thrive in modern society through state corruption which leads to continuous expansion of an illicit economic system (Harris, 2003). Consequently, the major issue that arises in trying to understand why these groups continue to persist in the lies not in the collaboration among organized crime groups, but in increased political corruption resulting from weakening political and legal institutions which continue to illegally protect these gangs.


Social organization is essential for proper functioning in the society. However, incidences such as wars and crisis disrupt such order leading to social disorganization. Social disorganization disrupts relationships within the society and may result in the emergence of organized crime gangs. Organized crime gangs persist in modern society due to institutional weakness, corruption and malpractices in the legal and political systems of modern society. Societies should therefore strive to maintain social order in order to strengthen their institutions and fight against crime.

Reference List

Harris, R. (2003). In And Beyond the Nation State. UK: Routledge.

Kubrin, C. E & Weitzer, R. (2003). New directions in social disorganization theory, journal of research in crime and delinquency. New York: Sage publishing.

Lyman, M. D., & Potter, W. G. (1997). Organized Crime. New York: Prentice Hall Publishers.

Mallory, S. (2007). Understanding Organized Crime. London: Jones and Bartlett Learning.

Sharma, K. R. (1998). Social Disorganization. New Delhi: Atlantic publishers and distributors.

Winfree, T. L., & Abadinsky, H. (2009). Understanding crime: essentials of criminology theory. New York: Cengage learning.