Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories 1

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  • Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories 1
    • Durkheim's functionalist theory of crime
      • Criticisms
        • Offers no way of knowing how much deviance is the right amount for society to function.
        • Explains crime in terms of its function but doesn't explain why it exists in the first place.
      • Functionalists see society is a stable system based on a value consensus. To achieve this society has two key mechanisms: socialisation and social control.
      • See crime as inevitable and universal, even though it disrupts social stability.
      • Sees crime as a normal part of all healthy societies because:
        • In every society, some individuals are inadequately socialised and prone to deviate.
        • In modern societies, there is a division of labour and a diversity of subcultures. Individuals and groups become different and shared rules of behaviour is unclear. = ANOMIE.
      • Crime fulfils two important positive functions: Boundary maintenance and Adaptation and change.
      • Boundary maintenance - Crime produces a reaction from society, uniting members against the wrongdoer and reinforcing the value consensus.
        • This is the function of punishment: reaffirming shared rules and reinforce solidarity.
      • Adaptation and change - For change to occur, individuals with new ideas must challenge existing norms, and will appear deviant.
        • If it's suppressed, society will be unable to make necessary adaptive changes and will stagnate.
      • Davis argued that prostitution acts to release men's sexual frustrations without threatening the nuclear family.
      • A. K. Cohen argues that deviance indicates that an institution is malfunctioning e.g. high truancy = problems in the education system.
    • Merton's strain theory
      • People are deviant because they cannot achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means.
      • This is due to structural factors - society's unequal opportunity structure, and culture factors - he strong emphasis on sucess goals but weaker on using legitimate means.
      • The 'American Dream'.
        • Emphasis on 'money success'. Expecte4d to pursue this goal by legitimate means, e.g. education, hard work.
        • Claims that American society is meritocratic, when really, poverty and discrimination block opportunities for many to achieve this legitimately.
        • Results in a strain between the cultural goal and the lack of legitimate opportunities that produces frustration and pressure to turn to illegitimate means.
        • American puts more emphasis on achieving the goals, therefore, 'winning the game is more important than playing by the rules'.
      • Argues that an individual's position in the social structure affects how the adapt to the strain to anomie.
      • Identifies five adaptations:
        • 1. Conformity - individuals accept the culturally approved goals and strive to achieve them legitimately.
        • 2. Innovation - accept the money success goal but use illegitimate means e.g. theft.
        • 3. Ritualism - giving up on the goal, but have internalised the legitimate means and follow the rules for their own sake.
        • 4. Retreatism - reject both goal and legitimate means, and drop out of society.
        • 5. Rebellion - replace existing goals and means with new ones with the aim of bringing about social change.
      • Shows how both normal and deviant ebhaviour can arise from the same mainstream goals.
      • Most crime i sproperty crime, because American scoiety values material wealth so highly.
      • W/C crime rates are higher because they have the least opportunity to obtain wealth legitimately.
      • It takes official crime statistics at face value. Therefore, it's too deterministic as not all w/c are deviant.
      • Ignores the power of the ruling class to make and enforce the laws.
      • Subcultural strain theories criticise Merton's theory. they see deviance as the product of delinquent subcultures, which offer l/c members a solution to the problem of how to gain status they can't achieve legitimately.


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