Functions of Crime

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  • Functionalists Perspective on Crime
    • Social Control
      • Most sociological theories of crime aim to explain why particular social groups commit crime. 
      • Some focus on ‘social control’ and look at why most people don’t commit crime. 
      • Theories of social control examine the process of persuading + enforcing conformity to cultural values, norms + laws. 
    • Mechanical solidarity
      • Durkheim argued traditional societies had little crime and deviance due to strong social controls. 
      • He saw traditional societies as underpinned by mechanical solidarity: agencies socialise members into clear consensus faced severe + public punishments individuality was regarded as deviant. 
    • Organic solidarity
      • Agencies less influential + members of society are exposed to ideas that challenge traditional + authority. 
      • No longer clear agreement about what is right + wrong behaviour. 
      • Formally deviant acts become socially acceptable punishments grow weaker + no longer deter.
      • Crime has risen due to weakening social controls which has undermined consensus + led to deter/socially control people from committing criminal/deviant acts. 
    • Evaluation of Durkheim
      • Anomie has been very influential + inspired range of theories of crime e.g. Robert Merton + Albert Cohen. 
      • Marxists argue crime caused by inequality + conflict Durkheim effects of crime on victims. E.g. how does **** benefit society? 
      • Marxists argue Durkheim neglects role of powerful in shaping/fixing consensus about crime so activities not defined as criminal. 
    • Functions of Crime
      • 1.Boundary Maintenance - Punishment reaffirms value consensus + public faith in social controls. Boundary between acceptable + deviant behaviour is clear, discouraging offending. 
      • 2.Functional Rebellion - Some ‘deviance’ may enable much-needed social change e.g. suffragettes.Horrific crimes (e.g. terrorism) may create public outrage + draw diverse communities closer together. 
      • 3.Social Cohesion - Horrific crimes (e.g. terrorism) may create public outrage + draw diverse communities closer together. 
      • 4.Early Warning System - Deviance may act as a warning that a social institution is not working + needs changing.
      • 5.Safety Valve - Some functionalists argue relatively minor crimes may act as a safety valve because they prevent more serious crimes.


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