Summary of theories on crime and deviance

feminism, subcultural theories, merton, durkheim, marxist, neo-marxists, left realism, right realism, interactionists

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Crime and deviance perspectives
Argue that crime and deviance are useful and necessary, it has a function in
Crime and deviance reinforces the consensus of values, norms and behaviour
of the majority of the nondeviant population.
Durkheim (1897)
deviancy allows for social change to occur.
Argues that all societies need some change to remain healthy and stable.
Crime moves from functional to dysfunctional when the level of crime is either
too high or too low. If crime is too high it threatens the social order. If crime is
too low there will be no social change.
Crime is inevitable and has two vital functions
Boundary maintenance ­ produces a reaction from society uniting it's members
in disapproval of criminals. This also explains the function of punishment which
is to reaffirm societies shared rules.
Adaptation to change all changes start with acts of deviance. Any new ideas
that are different to the shared norms and values will be seen as deviant.
Criticism of Durkheim
This theory does not explain why some individuals are more likely to commit
crime than others.
It also ignores the inequalities in power.
It fails to say who crime if functional for.
The functionalist approach ignores the victims of crime and only focuses on the
positive aspect to crime.
Strain theory Merton (1968)
Concluded from his American study that the vast majority of individuals share
the same goal of the 'American Dream' (financial success), however not all
individuals have the means to achieve this goal.
Argues that the 'American Dream' is achieved through institutionalised means
When individuals fail or are excluded from this system anomie (a lack of values
and feelings of normlessness) is created.
Individuals who fail innovate to reach the goal through crime.
Argue that there are five ways to respond to the 'American Dream'
1. Conformity, this is the response of the majority where individuals attend
school to achieve financial success.
2. Innovation, this can take legal and illegal forms. The illegal form is a criminal
response where crimes leads to a financial gain such as burglary.
3. Ritualism, this is a deviant response not criminal. This is where the individual
gives up on the 'American Dream'. For Example, when an individual no
longer seeks a pay rise.

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Retreatism, this is where an individual gives up on the 'American Dream' and
turns to alcohol and drugs. This is a deviant and a criminal response.
5. Rebellion, this is an attempt to replace the 'American Dream' with other
norms and values. This is also a criminal response.
Criticisms of Merton
Merton successfully linked strains in the structure of society to criminal
behaviour. That society values financial gain above all else and works well in
explaining crime crime that involves a financial gain.…read more

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The working class are not passive victims of capitalism and make their
own choices on how to react.
Hall et al, argues that the ruling class are normally able to rule the subordinate
classes through hegemony.
Gilroy argued that ethnic minority crime can be seen as a form of political
resistance against a racist society.
NeoMarxists see individuals as social actors who have free will in their actions
and are not simply governed by external structures.…read more

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Left realism
Lea and Young (1984) criticised Marxists for overlooking the reality of crime.
They argue that they put forward a realistic view of crime. They also claim that
street crime is constantly growing and is the sort of crime that most people are
afraid of.
Kinsey, Lea and Young (1986) suggested that changes in policing policies need
to be made. Policing policy needs to be centred on creating and maintaining
good communication between the police and local communities.…read more

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Right realists argue that police need to adopt a zero tolerance to crime. They
also say that minor crimes such as littering need to be stamped on hard so that
the benefits of committing crime no longer outweigh the costs.
Right realists also argue that tolerating one broken window in a certain area
sends a message to others that the certain area tolerates crime.…read more

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Frances Heidensohn have criticised male dominated criminology ('malestream
criminology') for ignoring the victimisation of women in studies and statistics
on crime.
British Crime Survey data indicates that women suffer a great deal more from
domestic violence than men do.
Feminists claim there are a large number of domestic crimes against women that
are simply ignored by official 'malestream' figures on crime, and perhaps even
victimisation surveys.…read more


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