Theories of Crime

A range of different theories reffering to crime and deviance

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  • Created by: Juliet M
  • Created on: 04-11-11 11:15
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Theories of Crime.
Functionalist- Durkheim.
Sees crime as universal (exists everywhere) and as inevitable, meaning that it is always going to
Reasons for its inevitability;
Too much social control
We aren't all the same (self-expression/individuality) e.g. graffiti
`Laws are there to be broken' idea
Inequality; Aiming to be in a higher social class/economic position. Links with Merton
He believes that in the modern society, there is a tendency towards ANOMIE meaning that
boundaries are becoming weaker and norms and values are becoming less defined due to lifestyle
changes etc. Subcultures develop their own norms and values too.
The positive functions of crime;
Boundary Maintenance
Crime produces a collective agreement from society's members; united in the punishment of
the wrongdoer. `Social solidarity- shared norms and values'
Adaptation and Change
A deviant act must take place for the law to move forward and to avoid society stagnating
(coming to a halt). Example of this is the Baby P case
Criticisms of Functionalist views on crime:
The naivety of functionalism with victims and cases.
They believe that for real good to take place that bad needs to happen.
The way in which crime affects social groups high varies.
Merton's Strain Theory- Merton (1938).
People engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by
legitimate means.
What is a strain theory?
Reaching goals, and reaching them illegitimately
The two elements of his theory; structural (unequal) and cultural (emphasis on goals) factors.
Deviance is the result of strain between...
The encouraged cultural goals for individuals AND what the institutional structure of society allows
individuals to achieve legitimately.
The American Dream
American culture emphasises on achievement and success: meritocracy.
Strain occurs when these goals cannot be achieved legally.
`Strain to Anomie (normlessness)' is a situation whereby anything goes in relation to
achieving material success, which includes crime and deviance.
Evaluation of Merton's views on crime:
Useful because it's a sociological explanation combing both cultural and structural idea.
Does not explain why some people turn to crime and others do not.
Crime and deviance is not always motivated by a desire for monetary success e.g vandalism.
Too heavily focused around Utilitarian crime.

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Subcultural Strain Theories- Cohen/Cloward and Ohlin
See deviance as the product of a delinquent subculture (e.g. chavs) with different values from those
in mainstream society.
Deviance is a working class phenomenon as the lower class struggle to achieve mainstream goals.
Social deprivation and a lack of social skills leave these people at the bottom of the status hierarchy.
Criticism of Merton:
Too much focus on Utilitarian crime; money based.…read more

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Effects of Labelling- Lemert (1951)
Primary & Secondary Deviance....
Primary Deviance is an act that has not been publically labelled, that is generally not the deviant's
way of life; so therefore they do not have a master status.
Secondary Deviance is an act labelled due to society's reactions and the deviant is actually named a
criminal. ­ Shamed, excluded or humiliated by others in society. E.g. publically recognised paedophile
due to media and display.…read more

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A full social theory of deviance...
A theory, by Taylor et al, aiming to change society for the better by understanding crime and
deviance.…read more


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