Functionalist Explanations of Crime and Deviance

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  • Functionalist Explanations of Crime and Deviance
    • Durkheim saw that one way to strengthen the collective conscience was to challenge and test it's fundamental beliefs.
      • A limited amount of crime and deviance are therefore necessary.
    • Tierney suggests that crime and deviance are social facts and if found in an "average society" then they are normal.
      • Durkheim suggests there would even be deviance in a society of saints.
    • Deviance also performs a number of functions.
      • Enkson- boundaries need to be known by everyone, this occurs in the setting of the courtroom.
      • Cohen - Deviance can act as a safety valve  to show discontent and thereby protecting social order.
      • Cohen- deviant acts are a useful sign that society is dysfunctional or malfunctioning.
        • It draws attention to problem and thus leads to measures to solve it
          • eg The Jamie Bulger murder produced a lower jailing age.
    • Durkheim explains that there are also negative impacts of crime such as anomie.
      • Merton sees this concept as too vague and suggests an alternative definition to anomie.
        • Anomie: a situation where the socially approved goals of society aren't obtainable by a substantial amount of the population.
    • + This approach represented major breakthrough as it no longer saw criminals as "sick" or "abnormal."
    • - Durkheim offered no explanation why some people are more likely to commit crime.
      • Parsons argues that this is due to inadequate socialisation.
    • - Marxists challenge the idea that social behaviour is based on a consensus of values.
    • - There is also view that powerful groups can use the existence of deviance to curtail civil liberties.


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