Key Question 3 Crime & Deviance

How can crime and deviance be explained?


Functionalism - Durkheim

  • Behaviour is functional if it serves collective purpose 
  • Crime is inevitable 
  • No agreed rules, too much crime, consensus breaks down = anomie
  • Social solidarity brings outraged people together - leads a community to police itself - sanctions ensure anyone who steps out of line knows its wrong 
  • Publicly punishing those who stray beyond boundaries means others learn right and wrong 
  • Deviance as a safety valve - e.g. prostitution provides a 'safe' outlet for sexual tensions with a couple which is less threatening to the family 
  • Crime only becomes dysfunctional when rates are too high or too low
  • Without punishment collective sentiments would lose power to control bahviour - crime would reach point where it becomes dysfunctional 
  • Healthy society requires both crime and punishment; both are inevitable and both are functional 
1 of 3

Evaluating Durkheim

  • Did not explain why individuals commit crime 
  • Why it happens 
  • Why some people do it more than others
  • Why different people deviate in different ways
  • Doesn't consider negative effects on individuals e.g. victims of crime
  • Doesn't look at issues such as who creates the law or who has power to evade the law - Marxists would challenge 
2 of 3

Merton and strain theory

  • Argues defined goals and means to acheive them - designed to regulate behaviour 
  • Crime and deviance occurs when goals emphasised more than the acceptable means 
  • Lower down in society = restricted goals 
  • Modes of adaption: 

Conformity - Successful from legitimate means 

Innovation - Criminal or deviant behaviour to achieve success

Ritualism - Deviant because they have rejected success goals held by most members of society 

Retreatism - Not participating in normal life at all, pursuing self - destructive deviant behaviour 

Rebellion - reject societys goals and replace them with alternatives 

3 of 3


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Crime and deviance resources »