In order to identify the similarities and differences between gangs and fraternities, it is vital to examine their structure, rules, and goals which these organizations try to achieve. In the vast majority of cases both of them can be called secret societies; they are inaccessible to the outsiders. Secondly, its members are selected according to certain criteria like shared interests, social, educational, cultural and even racial background, the level of income etc (Weisel, 2002, p 11; Baird, 2009).
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These groups of people normally have central leadership which usually belongs only to one person with some charismatic qualities. Most importantly, as secret societies they are governed by unwritten laws, which prohibit any disclosure of information and promote devotion to this inner community. Each violation of these rules is punished by either exclusion or even death especially if we are speaking about a gang of criminals. These are the most obvious simulates, yet there are more subtle details.
It should be pointed out that in both cases every new-comer has to pass through the process of initiation or test. Sometimes this procedure involves humiliation or doing something which is rather unpleasant to this individual. As regards criminal organizations, new participants have to prove their readiness and ability to commit felony; they also need to show their entire dedication to the band (Weisel, 2002, p 5). Apart from that, gangs and fraternities have their symbols.
These signs only emphasize their privileged status, independence or impunity. This decoration includes tattoos, jewelry, or even emblems (Ownby & Heudhues, 2003; Baird, 2009). Another feature, which immediately attracts attention, is the attitude towards sexuality. These communities are predominantly male, while the representatives of the opposite sex are not allowed. The only exceptions are parties or binge drinking. This dangerous habit is very widespread among college fraternities, and this leads to violence and abuse.
As for the differences between them we should pay attention to the decision-making in these groups. Gangs are characterized by hierarchical or top-down structure. The relations between partakers are strictly subordinated. Naturally, fraternities also have chairmen or presidents but other members are more or less equal in their rights. Furthermore, each partaker can leave them at any time and this is utterly impossible in criminal organizations, where departure is synonymous of betrayal (Wiesel, 2002).
We also need to discuss the objectives targeted by these people. Criminals pursue only enrichment or power, whereas the goals of a fraternity are more diverse: first they may want to set stress on their privileged position. Such brotherhoods put on the air of mystery in order to appear more luring to others. Sometimes the goal is to downgrade those who do not belong to the brotherhood. The outsiders are not eligible for entry because they can lack of knowledge, money, courage, preparation and so forth. The rules of a gang must be followed to the letter while the rules of a brotherhood are formalistic.
This discussion shows that brotherhoods and bands have several common features:
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- limited accessibility;
- prejudiced attitude towards the opposite sex:
- the ritual of initiation.
However, they can be distinguished from one another: fraternities are more symbolic, which means that their statutes or laws have practically no power over the members. Gangs are hierarchical with strict subordination, while fraternities are more liberal.
Baird W. R (2008). American College Fraternities BiblioBazaar, LLC Ownby D. Heudhues M. F. “Secret societies” reconsidered: perspectives on the social history of modern South China and Southeast Asia. M.E. Sharpe.
Weisel D. L. (2002). Contemporary Gangs: An Organizational Analysis. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing.