American history is rich with contexts of Gangsters and mob intervention. Among the noteworthy names, John Gotti earns his special place as the head of the Gambino family and one of the worst criminals in US history. Being always on the run and escaping the clutches of law, John Gotti earned the name of Teflon Don. John Gotti was apprehended after being convicted of several crimes, ending with a sentence of life in prison. He spent his last days in prison, dying on 10th June 2002.
John Gotti, notoriously known as Teflon Don, was born on October 27, 1940, in South Bronx, New York. Gotti was the fifth child among thirteen children, belonging to a struggling family where everyone was reliant on the father’s (J. Joseph Gotti) unsteady wages. The family was always on the move before finally settling down in East New York, around the time when gang activity was very proactive. At age 12 Gotti started working for an underground club, being the errand boy. The underground club belonged to Carmine Fatico, who served as the captain of the Gambino family. The club was Gotti’s starting point in the life of crime, under the tutelage of Aniello Dellacroce (Davis 1993).
It was not too long before Gotti became responsible for a gang named Fulton-Rockaway Boys and led the group in many carjacking and robberies at the time. At the age of fourteen, Gotti lost his toes while stealing a cement mixer and this soon became his trademark gait as well as adding to his list of petty crimes. Gotti was always a bully in his school and dropped out at the age of sixteen. At the age of eighteen, Gotti earned his place in the world of crime by being ranked as a low-level criminal, as a crew member in the Fatico.
In the field of criminology, the inclusion of subcultural theory is the result of the intensive study conducted by the Chicago School that studied gangs, and their behavior and by employing the use of symbolic interactionism school. This study was helpful in studying certain attitudes and values in society that gave birth/rise to criminal and violent tendencies in individuals (Downes 2013).
The subcultural theory states that an individual is likely to turn to a life of violence and crime based on their interaction and association with the social group they are part of. The theory further explains the grounds for becoming a deviant is stemmed from the individual’s social group following norms and values that are different from the main society. Similarly, it can be seen John Gotti’s social groups played an important role in his deviance, converting him to a life of crime. Being raised in a socially low-income family and getting exposed to gangs at an early age, played a dominant role in his crime life.
Subcultural theories in relation to John Gotti
Exploring the case of John Gotti from the perspective of Subcultural theory, the theory of Deviant Subculture Theory fits the scenario properly. The theory states the criteria for criminal activities to be related to youth, belonging to lower class families, exemplifying their subculture values to be an their rebellious acts against the regulations imposed by the middle class (Hagan 2010). The reason behind their rebellion is solely based on their frustration, originating from their failure to attain success (Blackman 2014). As soon as the frustration levels exceed normal capacity, these individuals then rebel against the in-place societal norms.
Criminal behavior from the perspective of Deviant Subculture Theory provides an insight based on an individual’s criminal acts, their rebellious acts towards the system, and the reasons associated with it. John Gotti was a similar case, belonging to a low-income family. He saw the system around him and found it crushingly insufferable to live with the present societal norms and long for dreams of success. Involving himself in a life of crime, he was able to attain success through his own means.
Downes, D., 2013. The Delinquent Solution (Routledge Revivals): A Study in Subcultural Theory. Routledge.
Davis, J.H., 1993. Mafia dynasty: The rise and fall of the Gambino crime family. HarperCollins.
Hagan, F.E., 2010. Introduction to criminology: Theories, methods, and criminal behavior. Sage.
Blackman, S., 2014. Subculture theory: An historical and contemporary assessment of the concept for understanding deviance. Deviant behavior, 35(6), pp.496-512.