Functionalism and crime

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  • Functionalism and crime
    • Durkheim- the inevitability of crime
      • Too much crime would be destabilising for society, but it is inevitable and universal
      • Crime is found in every society because:
        • Not everyone is equally socialised into shared norms and values, some individuals are therefore prone to deviate
        • There is diversity of lifestyles and values. These are subcultures (groups with distinctive norms and values which may be seen as deviant)
      • He argues that modern societies tend towards anomie (sense of normlessness)
        • This is because:
          • Complex modern societies have a specialised division of labour, meaning there is greater individualism
            • This weakens the shared culture and collective conscience, meaning there is less social solidarity and more deviance
    • Durkheim- the positive functions of crime
      • Boundary maintenance
        • This explains the function of punishment, the reaffirm society's shared rules and reinforce social solidarity
        • Crime produces a reaction from society, leading to criminals condemnation and acting as a deterrent as it reinforces societies norms and values
      • Adaptation and change
        • All change starts with an act of deviance by challenging norms and values
        • Deviance helps society to evolve
    • Durkheim- conclusion
      • Too much crime threatens to tear the bonds of society apart
      • Too little crime shows that society is repressing and controlling it's members too much, preventing change
      • Crime may strengthen social solidarity but it does not exist for this purpose
      • Doesn't look at groups and individuals. Ignores the victims
      • Crime can lead to isolation instead of solidarity
    • Merton- Strain theory
      • People engage in deviant acts when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means
      • Combined two elements
        • Structural factors
        • Cultural factors
      • Deviance is the result of a strain between two things:
        • 1. The goals that a culture encourages individuals to achieve
        • 2. What the institutional structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately
      • The American Dream
        • Ideology of the 'American dream' society is meritocratic, 'opportunities for all'
        • Americans are expected to pursue this goal through legitimate means
        • Reality is different- people are denied opportunities, therefore there is strain to achieve goals so they turn to illegitimate means
        • The pressure to deviate is known as 'the strain to anomie'
        • An individual's position in society affects the way they adapt to the strain
          • Conformity
            • Accepting the culturally approved goals and strive to achieve them legitimately. Typical response
          • Innovation
            • Accept the goal of money success, use illegitimate means to achieve it- theft or fraud. Lower classes under most pressure to innovate
          • Ritualism
            • Individuals give up trying to achieve goals in society but have internalised the legitimate means and so follow the rules. Lower MC workers in dead-end jobs
          • Retreatism
            • Individuals reject both goals and legitimate means. They become drop outs, tramps
          • Rebellion
            • Individuals reject existing goals and replace them with new ones to bring about revolutionary change
      • Evaluation
        • Explains deviance as arising from the structure of society
        • Both normal and deviant behaviour can arise from the same mainstream goals
        • Official stats, most crime is property crime (material wealth)
        • Crime stats over represent wc crime. Too deterministic
        • Marxists- ignores the power of the ruling class to enforce law and criminalise the poor
        • Only accounts for utilitarian crime for monetary gain. Violence?


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