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Durkheim's functionalist theory Merton's strain
Functionalism sees society as based on value consensus ­
members of society share common values and assumptions
and this produces social solidarity.
Other functions of crime
Davis argues that prostitution acts as a safety valve for
release of men's sexual frustration without threatening the
2 key mechanisms to achieve solidarity: nuclear family. Polsky also argues that it channels a variety
Strain theories argue that people engage in deviant
1) Socialisation instils shared culture into members of sexual desires away from alternatives such as adultery
behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially
meaning that they internalise the same norms and (poses more of a threat to the family).
approved goals by legitimate means. Merton argued that
values. Cohen argues that another function is to warn society that
deviance is a result of strain between:
2) Social control mechanisms include rewards for an institution is not functioning properly. For example, high
1) Goals that culture encourages people to achieve
conformity and punishments for deviance to try ensure rates of truancy tells us that there are problems with the
2) What institutional structure allows them to achieve
members of society behave in the right ways. education system.
Erikson argues that if crime and deviance perform positive
social functions then society might actually be maintaining The American Dream
The inevitability of crime crime. He argues that perhaps the police may be there to American's are expected to pursue this goal by means such
Functionalists see too much crime as destabilising to society sustain a certain level of crime rather than to rid society of as self-control, study, education and hard work. The
but also inevitable and universal. Durkheim said that crime it. ideology of an American Dream tells people that their
was an integral part of societies. Sometimes societies manage and regulate deviance rather society is meritocratic ­ anyone who makes effort can make
Not everyone is equally socialises into shared norms and than getting rid of it entirely. Things like festivals and progress and achieve.
values and in complex modern society there is diversity of carnivals may be there to give young people a way of coping Many disadvantaged groups, however, are denied
lifestyles and values ­ different groups develop own norms with the strains of transition from childhood to adulthood. opportunities to achieve legitimately ­ poverty, inadequate
and values which others might regard as deviant. schools and discrimination may block opportunities for
In modern society there is tendency to anomie ethnic and class minorities.
(normlessness) where rules are less clear cut. This is because Criticisms The resulting strain produces status frustration (frustration
modern societies have specialised division of labour which Durkheim says that society requires a certain level of at lack of legitimate opportunities) and this means that
leads to people becoming different from one another. This deviance but there is no way of knowing how much is the people feel under pressure to achieve by legitimate means.
diversity weakens the collective conscience which results in right amount. This is what Merton calls pressure to deviate.
higher levels of crime and deviance. Functionalists explain crime in terms of the supposed Pressure can be further deviated by the fact that American
function (strengthening solidarity). This doesn't mean that culture puts emphasis on achieving success at any price
Boundary maintenance society actually creates crime to strengthen solidarity ­ just than upon doing so by legitimate means.
Crime produces reactions from society and unites it because crime does this doesn't mean that this is why it
members against the offender ­ reinforces commitment to exists.
shared norms and values. Functionalism looks at what functions crime serves for Deviant adaptations to strain
This explains function of punishment ­ not to make the society as a whole and ignores how it can affect different Conformity ­ people accept culturally approved goals and
wrongdoer suffer but is to reaffirm societies shared rules groups within society ­ seeing a murderer punished for strive to achieve them legitimately (most likely among
and to reinforce solidarity. their crime might be functional for reinforcing solidarity in middle classes but seen by Merton as typical of all
May be done through rituals of the courtroom which publicly society but it isn't functional for the victim. Americans).
stigmatise the offender and reaffirms values whilst Crime doesn't always promote solidarity ­ can sometimes Innovation ­ people accept goals of money success but use
discouraging other people from offending. have the opposite effect leading people to be more isolated methods such as fraud to achieve it (more likely to be lower
(through fear of things like leaving their house etc). classes who are under more pressure).
Ritualism ­ people give up on trying to follow rules but have
Adaptation and change internalised legitimate means so follow rules for their own
All change starts with act of deviance ­ people with new sake (typical of lower-middle class workers in dead-end
ideas must not be stifled by weight of social control ­ needs jobs).
to be scope for them to challenge and change existing norms Retreatism ­ people reject the goals and legitimate means
and values. Therefore, neither a high or low rate of crime is and become drop outs (Merton includes outcasts and drug
desirable. addicts in this group).
Too much crime threatens to tear bonds of society apart but Rebellion ­ people reject existing goals and replace them
too little means that members of society are being repressed with new ones in a desire to bring about revolutionary
and controlled. change and create a new kind of society.…read more

Slide 2

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Merton's strain Alternative status hierarchy
Subculture's values are characterised by malice, spite and
hostility for those outside it ­ delinquent subculture inverts
Evaluation of Cloward and Ohlin
Agree with Merton and Cohen that most crime is working-
class therefore ignoring the crimes of the wealthy. Also
theory (cont) values of mainstream society. What society condemns, the
subculture praises. For example, mainstream culture
upholds regular school attendance whereas in the
their theory is too deterministic and over-predicts the
extent of working class crime.
Whilst they agree with Cohen that delinquent subcultures
subculture, the boys gain status from truanting. are the source of much deviance they provide an
Evaluation of Merton
The function of the subculture is to offer an alternative explanation for different types of working-class deviance in
Shows how both normal and deviant behaviour can arise
status hierarchy where they can achieve. Having failed in terms of subcultures.
from the same mainstream goals ­ conformists and
the legitimate structure they create their own illegitimate Drew boundaries too sharply between different types.
innovators are both pursuing money and wealth just one is
structure where they can win status through delinquent South found that the drug trade is a mixture of disorganised
legitimate and the other illegitimate.
actions. (conflict) crime and professional (criminal) crime. Also,
Explains these trends: most crime is property crime
A strength of this is that it offers an explanation of non- some retreatist users are professional deals which means
(American's value material wealth) and lower-class crime
utilitarian deviance among the working class. The ideas of they make a living.
rates are higher because they have least opportunity to gain
status frustration and alternative status hierarchy help Called reactive theories ­ start off assuming that all people
wealth legitimately.
explain non-economic delinquency such as fighting and start with the same shared goals which isn't always the
It does take crime statistics on face value ­ over represents
truancy. However, Cohen assumes that working-class boys case. Miller argues that the lower class has its own
working class crime (seen mostly as a working class
start off sharing middle-class success goals only to reject independent subculture that is separate from mainstream
phenomenon) and is also deterministic ­ not all of the
them when they fail ­ possible they never had these goals. culture which doesn't value success in the first place.
working class deviate.
According to Marxists, it ignores power of ruling classes who
make and enforce laws to benefit the rich and criminalise Cloward and Ohlin Recent strain theories
the poor. Agree that working-class youths are denied legitimate Argued that many young people might have pursued a
Assumer there is value consensus and that everyone wants opportunities to achieve `money success' and that deviance variety of goals other than wealth. These include popularity
wealth ­ this might not be the case. stems from the way they respond. with peers, autonomy from adults or the desire of some
Only accounts for utilitarian crime and not crimes of They note that not everyone in this situation adapts to this males to be treated like `young men'. They argue that
vandalism. Also hard to see how it could account for state by turning to innovation (such as theft). Different failure to achieve the goals might result in delinquency and
crimes like genocide. subcultures respond in different ways to the lack of that middle-class juveniles may also have problems
opportunity. Whilst the subculture that Cohen looked at achieving such goals.
Subcultural strain resorted to violence and vandalism, some centre on illegal
drug use.
Cloward and Ohlin attempt to explain why these responses Institutional anomie theory
occur. They say that there is also unequal access to Messner and Rosenfeld came up with the theory of
illegitimate opportunity structures. For example, not institutional anomie which argues that the `winner takes it
everyone who fails by legitimate means (such as at school) all' mentality of America exerts pressure towards people
Cohen: status frustration then has an equal opportunity to become a fraudster. They committing crime by encouraging anomic culture where
Deviance arises from an inability of the lower classes to need the opportunity to learn how to be successful. people are encouraged to adopt an `anything goes'
achieve mainstream goals by legitimate means such as They identify three types of deviant subculture: mentality.
educational achievement. He does however, criticise Merton 1) Criminal subcultures provide youths with an In America, economic goals are valued above all others and
in 2 areas: Deviance = individual response to strain and apprenticeship for a career in utilitarian crime and arise this undermines other institutions. For example, schools
ignores the fact that much crime is committed by groups and only in areas where there is a stable local criminal become more geared to preparing young people for the
the young & focuses on utilitarian crime and ignores things culture and established hierarchy of adult criminals. labour market at the expense of values such as respect for
like vandalism which may have no economic motive. 2) Conflict subcultures arise in areas of high population other people and this makes it hard for schools to exert
Focus on working-class boys in the middle-class dominated which results in social disorganisation and prevents a social control.
school system. They suffer cultural deprivation and lack skills stable professional criminal network developing. In Downes and Hansen offer evidence for this view ­ found
needed to do well. Their inability to succeed leaves them at these, violence provides a release for frustrations at that societies that spent more on welfare had lower rates of
the bottom of the hierarchy. This means they suffer status their blocked opportunities as well as status. imprisonment which backs up the idea that societies that
frustration and resolve this by rejecting mainstream middle- 3) Retreatist subcultures are in every neighbourhood ­ protect the poor from the worst excesses of the free market
class values, turning to other people in the same situation made up of those who fail in criminal and conflict have less crime.
and creating a delinquent subculture. subcultures and focus on illegal drug use.…read more


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