Crime and Deviance

functionalist, strain and subcultural theories

labelling theory

marxists theories

realist theories

gender, crime and justice

ethnicity and crime

crime and media

globalisation, green crime, human rights an dstate crimes

control, punishment and victims


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  • Created by: lucky
  • Created on: 19-01-12 11:21

Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories

Value consensus - members of society as sharing a common culture. Sharing the same culture produces social solidarity - bind individuals together                                                                                                       Society has two key mechanisms:

  • Socialisation - instils the shared culture into its members
  • Social control - mechanisms include rewards for conformity  and punishments for deviance

The inevitability of crime: Functionalists see crime as destabilising society, they also see crime as inevitable and universal.                                                Durkheim (1893): why crime and deviance are found in all societies:

  • not everyone is equally effectively socialised into shared norms and value
  • different groups develop their own subcultures and norms, yet mainstream culture may regard deviant.        

Anomie: the rules governimg body are becoming less clear cut.

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The positive functions of crime

Crime fulfils two positive functions for society:                                            

  • Boundary maintanance: crime produces a reaction from society, uniting its members in condemnation of the wrongdoes and reinforcing their commitment to shared norms and values.                                                                         
  • Adaption and change: all change startd with deviance. There must be some scope for them to challenge and change existing norms and values. However if new ideas are suppressed, sciety will stagnate and be unable to make necessary adaptive changes.


  • Too much crime threatens to tear the bonds of society apart.                             
  • Too little means that society is repressing and controlling its members too much - preventing change.
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Other functions of crime

Kingsley Davis (1937;1961): prostitution acts as a safety valve for release of mens sexual frustrations without threatening monogamous nuclear family.

Ned Polsky (1987): *********** safely 'channels' a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives such as adultery - threat to family.

Albert Cohen: deviance - warning that an institution is not functioning properly

Kai Erikson(1966): crime and deviance perform positive functions for society.  Maybe society if organised to promote deviance. Agencies of control sustain a level of crime rather than rid off completley.

Society also manage and regulate deviance than eliminating it. e.g demonstrations, student rag weeks etc.

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Society requires a certain amount of deviance but no way of knowing how much.

Society doesn't actually create crime in advance with the intention of strengthening solidarity. In other words just because crime does these things is nit necessarily why it exists in the first place.

Functionalism looks at fuctions crime serves for society as a whole and ignores affect of different groups and individuals.

Crime does not always promote solidarity, may have opposite effect. e.e. forcing women to stay indoors for fear of attack.

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Merton's Strain Theory

People engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means.

Robert K. Merton (1983):                                                                          

  • Structual factors: society's unequal opportunity structure.                       
  • Cultural factors: strong emphasis on success goals and weaker emphasis on using legitimate means to achieve them
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