Functionalist, Strain and Sub-Cultural Theories

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Durkheim (1893) - Inevitability and positive funct

"Crime is normal ... an integral part of healthy societies" There are two reasonse why crime and deviance are found in all societies:

  • Not everyone is effectively socialised into the same norms and values
  • Diveristy of lifestyle and choices

According to Durkheim there is also a tendency for a sense of anomie or normlessness - the rules that are governing behaviour become weaker and less clear cut.

Durkheim declares that every society needs a certain amount of deviance, however he does not specify what this certain amount is, ignores what effect crime can have on individyals and group and only focusses on society.

For Durkheim crime produces two important functions for society: Boundary maintenance and Adaption and Change.

Boundary maintenance - Crime prodyces a reactuib for society, explains the function of punishment with the purpose of reaffirming society's shared rules and reinforce social solidarity. 

Cohen (1982) examined the important role played by the media in the 'dramatisation of evil'. In his view media coverage on crime creates 'folk devils'

Adaption and change - all change starts with an act of deviance, e.g. Rosa Parks.

However, in the long run their values may give rise to a new culture and mortality, If those ideas are suppressed society will stagnate and be unable to make the necessary changes. Neither a high or low level of crime is desireable.

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Merton (1938) Strain Theory

Strain theores argue that people engage in devient behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means.

For Merton deviance is the result of two things:

  • The goals that an institution encourages a person to achieve
  • Institutional structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately.

Americans culture values 'money success' and Americans are expected to pursue this goal by legitimate means e.g. self discipline, educational qualifications and hard work in career. However the relaity is different many Americans are denied the chance to achieve legitimately with the strain between the cultural goal of money and success and the lack of opportunities to achieve produces fustration.

Merton argues that an individuals position in the social structure affects the way in which they respond to strain to anomie:

  • Conformity - Individuals accept the culturally approved goals and strive to achieve them legitimately.
  • Innovation - Individuals accept the culturally approved goals of money success and use new illegitimate ways to achieve
  • Ritualism - Individuals give up on trying to achieve the goals but have internalised legitimate means - follow the rules.
  • Retreatism - Individuals reject both the goals and the legitimate means and become 'drop outs'
  • Rebellion - Individuals reject the existing social goals and create new ones.
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Merton (1938) Strain Theory Evaluation

Merton explains the patterns of crime shown in offical statistics:

  • Most crime is poverty crime because American's value wealth so highly.
  • Lower-class crime rates are higher because they have least opportunity to obtain wealth legitimately.

However Merton has been criticised for taking officiatl statistics at face value, which over-represent working class crime. Deterministic to assume that because the working class experience the most strain they deviate, not all do.

Marxists argues that it ignores the power of the ruling class to make and enforce laws that criminalise the poor but not rich.

Assumes there is a value consenus of 'money success' but not everyone strives by this goal.

Only accounts for ulitarian crime and not crimes of violence.

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Subcultural Strain Theories - Cohen and Cloward an

Subcultural strain theories see deviance as the product of a delinquent subculture with different values of those of mainstream society. 

Cohen crticises Merton on two grounds:

  • Merton sees deviance as an individual response ignoring the fact that most deviance is committed in groups.
  • Focusses on ulitarian crimes committed for material gain and ignroes crimes such as assult and vanalism.

Cohen focusses on dveaince among working class boys and argues that they face anomie in the middle class dominated school system and suffer from cultural deprivation and lack the skills to achieve. As a result of not being able to achieve go through status fustration reject middle class values and turn to delinquent subcultures with other boys in same situation.

According to Cohen the subcultures values are characterised by spite, hostility and contempt for those outside. Cohen notices that the subcultures function is to offer an alternative status hierarchy in which they can acheive. Boys create own illegitimate opportunity structure in which they can acheive.

Cloward and Ohlin argree that working class youths are denied legitimate opportunities but not everyone in the situation adapts by turining to innovation, different subcultures respond in different ways to the lack of opportunity structures.

Criminal subcultures - Provide youths with an apprentership for a career in ultirarian crime.

Conflict subcultures - arise in areas of high population turnover.

Retereatist subcultures - not everyone who aspires to be a proffesional criminal or gang member succeds.

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Evaluation of Cloward and Ohlin

Deterministic, over-predicts the extenet of working class crime, ignores wider power structure of who makes and enforces the rules.

They do provide an explanation of different types of working class devaince in terms of subcultures, however they draw the boundaries too sharply between the different types. South (1997) found that the drug trade is a mixture of 'disorganised' crime and proofessional 'mafia' syle,

Reactive theory due to explaining deviant subcultures forming in reactance to the failure to achieve of mainstrem goals.

Matza (1964) argues that delinquents are not strongly committed to their subculture as strain theories suggest but merely drift in and out of delinquency.

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