Crime and Deviance: Functionalism

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  • Crime and Deviance: Functionalism
    • Durkheim
      • Crime is an inevitable and normal aspect of social life because not every member of society can be equally committed to the collective conscience of society. This may be due to:
        • Conflicting subcultures
        • Poor socialisation
        • Anomie
        • A certain amount of crime is a sign of a healthy society.
          • Crime and deviance can also perform certain positive functions for society.
            • However, too much crime can have negative consequences e.g. consensus may be threatened.
              • A large amount of crim is a sign of an anomic and dysfunctional societ6y.
      • Positive functions of crime and deviance
        • Boundary testing
          • Sometimes as attitudes change the law no longer reflects the will of the majority.
        • a warning device
          • Shows that society is not working properly. May also point to underlying social problems such as racism that need to be addressed.
        • A safety valve
          • Releases stress on society. Such acts might be seen as an outlet for expression of discontent avoiding wider more serious changes to social order.
        • Strengthens collective values
          • Media publicity of terrible crimes draws innocent people closer together.
      • Evaluation
        • Support
          • Davis - prostitution acts as a safety valve for the release of men's sexual frustration without threatening the monogamous nuclear family.
          • Polksy - *********** safely channels sexual desires awaytfrom alternatives such as adultery.
          • Durkhiem can be useful in showing the ways in which deviance is necessary for society and how deviance might be said to have hidden fnctions.
        • Criticism
          • He makes no attempt to explain how much deviance would be the right amount for society.
          • Functionalists ignore the impact of crime on the individual.
          • Crime doesn't always promote solidarity. It may have the opposite effect. In some cases it makes people feel isolated.
    • Mertion: Strain Theory
      • All members of society share the same values. However, if they are unable to reach socially approved goals e.g. wealth and individual may resort to criminal means of getting what they want
      • The American Dream
        • People are encouraged through socialisation to want certain things out of life.
          • Institutionalised means that American Society provides to achieve cultural goals are not sufficient to ensure that everyone can obtain the desirable goals that are socialised to want.
            • A 'strain' develops between goals established by society and the means available to achieve them.
              • As people desire success, yet are effectively denied it, anomie develops. People find other, less legitimate, means towards the desired ends.
      • Five adaptions to strain and anomie
        • Conformity
          • Accept both cultural goals of success and socially- legitimised means to achieve them.
        • Innovation
          • Accepts the cultural goals of society, but uses potential deviant means to attain them.
        • Ritualism
          • Strongly socialised to conform to social norms preventing them turning to crime. So give up trying to achieve success.
        • Retreatism
          • Reject both cultural goals and legitimate means of achieving them and 'drop out'.
        • Rebellion
          • Reject cultural goals and the legitimate means of achieving them but replace them with new ones to create a new kind of society
      • Evaluation
        • Support
          • Merton demonstrates how both normal and deviant behaviour is influenced/ driven by a desire to achieve the same goals.
          • Merton's arguments can be supported by the patterns shown in official statistics.
        • Criticism
          • Merton is over-deterministic in arguing that the working class face the most 'strain'
            • He takes official statistics at face value, many sociologists argue that they over-represent working class crime.
          • Taylor, Waltona nd Young, think that Merton underestimates the amount of middle class and upper class crime.
          • Ignores the possibility that some may not share these goals
          • Marxists criticise Merton for ignoring the power of the ruling class to make and enforce laws in ways which criminalise the poor and not the rich.
          • It only accounts for utilitarian crime and therefore does not explain crime such as vandalism


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