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General Strain Theory as Applied to Thomas Shelby of the Peaky Blinders

Autor:   •  August 6, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  4,504 Words (19 Pages)  •  253 Views

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General Strain Theory as Applied to Thomas Shelby of the Peaky Blinders

Robert Muñoz

California State University, Long Beach

Author Note

This was paper prepared for CRJU 304, Sec 02 4568, taught Dr. Vickovic


Peaky Blinders is a television series on the popular internet streaming service, Netflix. This show begins in 1919, just several months after World War I and is set in Small Heath, Birmingham, England. The Peaky Blinders is a small Irish family gang that makes its money as a book-keep for horse races, robbery, and selling/distributing alcohol and cigarettes. The gang is led by the Shelby family, most of which served in World War I in the British Army. At the start of the series, the Peaky Blinders are led by eldest brother Arthur Shelby Jr., but it is soon realized that Thomas Shelby is the brains of their operation. Thomas Shelby is a very ambitious and cunning character that thinks through his actions and plans how to expand the Peaky Blinders from a small book-keep to a large international criminal enterprise (Brinkman et al, 2013).

Thomas seems to be motivated to expand the family’s criminal business throughout the series. What the family has is never enough, and he uses his cunningness to exploit the weakness of his rivals, then strategically plans out how to overthrow them and take that business over. It can be argued that Thomas Shelby conducts himself this way because of his father's abandonment, and his vision of financial stability for his family. The experience that he had in the war leads to his symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. These factors, combined with watching his first love die in front of him causes significant tension in his life. These burdens will continue to grow as the series moves forward, as well as new pressures that push Thomas towards a life of crime. This paper will attempt to explain why Thomas Shelby has devoted his life to criminal activities through Robert Agnew’s (1992) general strain theory.

General strain theory (Agnew, 1992) can help explain why Thomas was motivated to commit different types of crime up to and including murder. This theory groups three main categories of strain and each category refers to the relationship of others in some way. First, theorist Robert Agnew suggest that one’s failure to achieve positively valued goals (1992), can lead someone to a life of crime, which is constructed on social class placement and how other individuals interpret what is considered fair, individual goals, and achievements. Secondly, theorists point out that the removal of positively valued stimuli from the individual produces strain (1992). Lastly, the presentation of negative stimuli or noxious (harmful) stimuli will also create strain (1992).


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