Functionalist Approach to crime and deviance

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Note: Focus on Sociological Approaches to Crime ­ you are NOT doing a
course in Psychology!
Functionalist Approaches to Crime
Haralambos Page 353
Structural Approach society wide, not concerned with the individual but
Society has shared norms and values consensus theory.
Social order based on shared norms and values.
Crime and deviance = a threat to social order we need social control
mechanisms to keep deviance in check.
However a certain amount of deviance is good. i.e. to set an example. It is
positive and contributes to society's well being.
Durkheim 1895.
Crime is functional and inevitable.
Crime is inevitable ands normal because not everyone in society is
equally committed to norms and values. We have different life
circumstances therefore it is impossible for everyone to be alike. {This
is the closest Durkheim comes to commenting on people as
However perfect the society is there will still be deviance. I.e. nuns
living in convents may still break the rules.
Deviance only becomes harmful or destructive when it is out of control.
Social change happens when something that was considered deviant
is no longer, i.e. divorce.
Societies need to change for progress therefore it is important for a
certain amount of deviance to occur so societies can change.
Durkheim regarded crime as an anticipation of the morality of the
future. I.e. terrorism and freedom fighters can represent the future,
Nelson Mandela.
Not trying to remove crime from society.
Heals collective conscience.
A.K. Cohen 1966
2 possible functions of deviance:
Safety value express discontent relatively harmless, i.e.
Warning device to say something in society is not working
properly, i.e. runaways, truancy.
American Dream financial success.

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Value consensus all agree about what is important and what we
should be striving for, but we don't all have the same chances of
Therefore society puts pressure of people to become deviant.
Social structure blocks the potential of many people so people adapt
to their circumstances therefore society generates crime.
Individuals adapt to what society has thrown at them.
Theory sometimes known as 'Strain Theory'. Anomie = state of normlessness
outside the norms of society. I.e. George Best.…read more

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