Consenseus theory - sociologists

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Believed that need to be socialised to accept majority values and the law, because social order benefits all. Durkheim called society’s constraints over individuals, social facts.

  • Durkheim observed that crime is present in all societies, because there will always be people who commit acts that offend others. In this sense crime is ‘normal’, but those who commit it are deviant.

  • Durkheim argues that crime and deviance are useful and necessary in society. It helps to reinforce the consensus of values, norms and behaviour of the majority non-deviant population, through the idea of outrage at crime which strengthens social solidarity. It also acts as a social dynamic which allows for social changes to occur and for social boundaries to be tested, ensuring that a society, its norms and values are changing as society goes rough new phases.

  • Anomie describes a lack of social norms or "normlessness". It describes the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community e.g. if under unruly scenarios resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values.

  • !Does not discuss the causes of crime and deviance only the outcome after it has been performed.

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  • Developed Durkheim’s idea of ‘anomie’ and as a functionalist took a macro view of society (generalised without always finding empirical evidence.)

  1. CULTURALLY DEFINED GOALS - Wealth and status that are held as legitimate objective for all or most members of society.

  2. REGULATORY NORMS AND LAWS - Controlling acceptable means of reaching for these goals.

Ritualism - Abandoning or scaling down ambitions because of the difficulty in realising them.

Retreatism - Vagrants, alcoholics, drug addicts and psychotics who have mentally dropped out of society.

Rebellion - Strive for new order with closer correspondence between merit, effort and reward.

Innovation - Crime, prepared to take risks if their aspirations outweigh their internalisation of moral values.

Conformity - The stable, law abiding core of society.


  • The strain towards anomie might not affect everyone, e.g. people who value non-financial success, such as artistic or academic achievement.

  • Acknowledged the need for further research, particularly into the children of failed parents.
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  • Echoed Durkheim’s belief that crime is inevitable & even performs necessary functions in society - in this case the crime is prostitution.

-> Helps maintain the traditional family structure by allowing men, who are naturally more sexually charged, an outlet to release this drive through a non-emotional physical interaction with another individual, thereby lowering divorce rates as the need for extramarital relationships is lessen.

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  • “A lack of bonds cause crime”

Belief - Those with weak beliefs in the moral validity of social rules are more likely to deviate.

Involvement - People busy studying or working lack the time for deviant activities.

Commitment - Fear of a damaged reputation & intereference in progress.

Attachment - Close bonds with parents, teachers and family.

-> Hirschi's version of control theory contrasts with Merton by exploring not why people deviate but the bonds that discourage deviation.

-> They also disagree whether ambitions encourage deviance (Merton) or conformity (Hirschi).

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