Crime and Deviance

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Functionalism sees society as based on value consensus

Society has two key mechanisms for achieving social solidarity:

  • Socialisation instils the shared culture into its members.
  • Social Control mechanisms include rewards for conformity, and punishments for deviance. 


Deviance is functionally necessary for 3 reasons:

  • reinforces what is right and wrong 
  • ...provides jobs
  • ...and brings about social change

collective sentiments: consensus. 

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Functionalists see too much crime as destablising society, HOWEVER they also see crime as inevitable and universal. 

Durkheim (1893)

'Crime is intergral part of all healthy societies'

Two reasons why crime and deviance is found in all societies:

  • Not everyone is equally effectivley socialised into the shared norms and values, so some individuals prone to deviate.
  • Particularly in complex modern societies, there is a diversity of lifestyles and values - Different groups form their own subcultures with distinctive norms and values. 

In modern societies: tendency towards anomie or normlessness......Durkheim sees anomie as a major cause of suicide in modern society. 

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For Durkheim, not only is crime inevitable; it also fulfills two important positive functions: Boundary Maintenance and Adaptation. 

  • Boundary Maintenance

Crime produces a reaction from society, uniting its members in condemtation of the wrongdoer and reinforcing their commitment to the shared nirms and values. 

  • Adaptation and Change

For Durkheim, all change starts with an act of deviance. Inidividuals with new ideas, values and ways of living must not be completely stifiled by the weight of social control. 

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Criticisms of Durkheim

Durkheim: society requires a certain amount of deviance to function successfully, but he offers no way of knowing how much is the right amount. 

Criticisms of Durkheims research Method:

  • not all crime is functional
  • theoretical data is potentially on unreliable source
  • purely theoretical; hard to test as is based on opinion
  • not helpful for victims of crime

Criticisms of Functionalism: 

  • Looks at what functions crime serves for society as a whole, HOWEVER ignores how it might affect different groups or individuals within society. 
  • Crime doesn't always promote solidarity, it may have the opposite effect. 
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A Subculture: 

A group that is seperate to mainstream society with different norms and values. This makes them deviant. 



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Techniques of Neutralization- MATZA

  • DENIAL OF RESPONSIBILITY the offender denies that it was their fault. "it wasn't me, it was the alcohol!"
  • DENIAL OF THE VICTIM the offender claims that in the particular case the victim was in the wrong e.g. in a **** case she 'led him on'
  • DENIAL OF INJURY the offender claims that the victim was not really hurt or harmed by the crime e.g stealing from a big company is fine because they will hardly notice
  • CONDEMNATION OF THE CONDEMNERS the offender feels a sense of unfairness of being picked on for something others have done and got away with
  • APPEAL TO HIGHER LOYALTIES the offender claims that the law had to be ignored because more important issues were at stake e.g "I had to protect the family honour"
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Brake: Marxist Subcultural Theory

  • Young people develop a cultural style as a means of coping with their circumstances- however its not just about coping, but also about showing contempt for the dominant values in society
  • This is a version of working class youth as the standard bearers of class struggle. 
  • Brake suggests that the soloutions that youth come up with do not alter much other than the satisfaction it provides for the youths concerned. 
  • Youth culture does nothing to alter the economic and power differences in society
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Merton - Strain Theory

Key Concepts: 

  • value consensus
  • anomie
  • cultural goals
  • institutionalised means
  • conformity
  • innovation
  • ritualism
  • retreatism
  • rebellion

Anomie: state of normlessness. 

Members of society are in different positions of the social structure; not everyone has the same relationship with the value consensus -----> some embrace it, some reject it. 

Merton used the idea of the 'American Dream' ----> places emphasis on material success. 

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Merton - Strain Theory

5 Responses to value consensus:

1) Comformists- accepting both the goals and the instituationalised means of achieving them. 

2)Innovators- Accepting the goals but rejecting the insitutionalised means.

3)Ritualists- rejecting the goals but going along with the insitutuonalised means (work + school)

4)Retreatists- rejecting both the goals and the means

5)Rebels- response that seeks to replace cultural goals and instituationalised means with new ones that meet the norms and values of their particular gropu or culture. 

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Labelling Theory

Lemery & Young- The Effects of Labelling: 

  • Once an individual is labelled, others may come to see him only in terms of the label. -------> Becomes his master status/ controlling identity. 
  • It is not the act, it is the hostile societal reaction by the social audience that creates serious deviance. 

Cicourel- Who gets Labelled:

  • Middle class= less likey to be labelled as deviant due to sterotypical view of police- therefore W.C more likely to be labelled. ------> Class Bias!
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Evaluation of Labelling Theory:

  • Shows that the law is not a fixed set of rules to be taken for granted. 
  • Shows societies attempts to control deviance create more deviance, not less. 
  • Tends to be deterministic
  • Emphasis on negative effects of labelling gives the offender a kind of victim status. 
  • By assuming that offenders are passive victims of labelling, ignores the fact that individuals may activley choose deviance. 
  • Fails to explain why people commit primary deviance in the first place, before they are labelled. 
  • First theory to recognise the role of power in creating deviance, but it fails to analyse the source of thise power. 
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For marxists, Crime is inevitable in Capitalism because capitalism is crimogenic- by its very nature is causes crime.

Marxist Key Arguements:

  • Certain types of crime are dealt with more rigorously than others. 
  • Certain groups in the population are more likely to be on the recieving end of law enforcement. 
  • Selective law enforcement benefits capitalism. 
  • Working class suffer from exploitation and oppression from Capitalism. 
  • This causes working class to suffer with status fustration, leading them into crime. 

Ruling class= creation of rules and laws maintains their postion of power, wealth and advantage. 

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White Collar Crime: 

The crimes of the people in white-collar occupations. It includes occupationsal crime and corporate crime. 

Occupational Crime:

Crimes committed by employees at the expense of the organisation. 

Corporate Crime:

Crimes committed on behalf of and for the benefit of the organisation. 

State Crime: 

Crimes committed by the state or by agencies of the state on behalf of the state. 

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David Gordon (1976):

Crime is a rational response to the capitalist system and hance it is found in all social classes. 

Marxists see law making as benefiting Capitalism: 

Chambliss (1975): 

Argues that laws to protect private property are the corner stone of the capitalist economy. 

Laureen Snider (1993):

Capitalist state are reluctant to pass laws that regulate the acitivities of businesses or threaten their profitability. 

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Right Realism

Basis of Right Realism: negative view of human nature (that people are naturally selfish and greedy) 

Human nature needs to be subject to social controls and socialised into appropriate behaviour. 

Rational Choice Theory: 

Soloution to crime; developed by Clarke and Coleman (1980)- argues criminals will engage in crime if the benefit outweights the costs. 

Ernst Van De Haag: 

  • Sees punishment as necessary, as a deterrent. 
  • Argues that its reasonable for law to focus on the poor. 
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Left Realism

  • Takes crime seriously, particularly effects disadvantaged gropus who are its main victims
  • Understands 4 elements of crime

Victims, offenders, the police, the criminal justice system

  • Relative deprivation and individualism drive crime. 
  • exclusion of lower class by middle class
  • Media fuels relative deprivation. 
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Critique of Left & Right Realism


  • Pay too much attention to street crime
  • over predicting crime levels
  • relying on victim studies too heavily- limited data
  • Lea & Young (1984)- identified 3 related causes of crime- Relative deprivation, subculture, marginalisation. 


  • Some argue its lack of investment in deprived areas rather than incivilities that cause crime to rise
  • Its easy to pick on scapegoats
  • (marxist criticism) concentration on minor offences--->more serious crime gets ignored. 
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Gender Patterns in Crime

Frances Heidenson (1996)

observed gender differences are perhaps 'the most significant feature of recorded crime'

The Chilvary Thesis: 

Argues that most criminal justice agents-such as police officersm magistrates, and judges- are men, and men are socialised to act in a 'chilvarous' way towads women. 

Otto Pollak (1950) argues that mean have a protective attitude towards women and that 'men hate to accuse women...'

The criminal justice system is thus more leniant with women and so their crimes are less likely to end up in the official statistics. 

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Explaining Female Crime

Lombroso and Ferrero (1893)

Criminality is inate, but there were very few 'born female criminals'

Heidenson: Social control of women:

  • Marriage and domesticity provide powerful controlling mechanisms to ensure good behaviour----> girls: more wary of getting a bad reputation.
  • Identifies three types of female offence: 
  • Providing an alternative sourse of income
  • Political Statements
  • Subcultural Pressures                      response to social control
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Masculinity and Crime


  • Rejects biological theories
  • Rejects 'sex role theory'

Messerschmidts types of masculinity:

1) HEGEMONIC MASCULINITY - dominant type of masculinity, highly valued. 

2) SUBORDINATED MASCULINITY- less powerful, low status. 

Working class--> less chance of educational success, denied this route to hegemonic masculinity. -----> commit crime to get status. 

Middle Class--> access to educational success/sporting prowess, i.e hegemonic masculinity.

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Ethnicity and Crime

Official Statistics: show some significant ethnic differences in the liklihood of being involved in crime. 

Victim Surveys: Ask individuals to say what crimes they have been victims of:    more personal views, acces to unreported crimes not visible in official statistics.   rely on vicitms memory and accuracy, only cover personal crimes, exclude under 16's. 

Self Report Studies: Ask individuals to disclose their own dishonest and violent behaviour.     Gives information on un-recorded crimes, Gives offender perspective.     Relies on individual honesty and memory, mainly covers personal crimes, offenders might refuse to answer. 

There are ethnic differences at all stages of the criminal justice system. 

  • Policing
  • Stop and Search
  • Arrests and caution
  • Prosecution
  • Trial, convictions & sentencing. 
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Explaining the differencing in offending

Left Realism:

Lea & Young: ethnic differences in the statistics reflect real differences in the level of offending by different ethnic groups. 

Neo Marxism:

Argue that statistics do not reflect real differences in the level of offending. 

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Crime & the Media

  • The media over-represents violent and sexual crime
  • The media portray criminals and victims as older and more middle class.
  • Media coverage exaggerates police success.
  • The media exaggerate the risk of victimisation. 
  • Crime is reported as a series of seperate event
  • The media overplay extraordinary events. 

Media as a cause of crime: 

  • Imitation
  • Arousal
  • Desensititation
  • Transmitting knowlege of criminal tecnhiques
  • As a target for crime
  • By stimulating desires for unaffordable goods
  • By portraying the police as incompetent
  • Glamourings offending
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Moral Panics

In a Moral Panic:

  • The media identify a group as a folk devil or a threat to societal values.
  • The media present the group in a negativem stereotypical fashion and exaggerate the scale of the problem. 
  • Moral entrepreneurs, editors, politicians, police cheifs, bishops, and other 'respectable' people condemn the group and its behaviour. 


Media produce an inventory or stocktaking of what happens when a 'folk devil' crime is committed, these inventorys have 3 elements: 

  • Exaggeration and distortion
  • Prediction
  • Symbolisation
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Cyber Crime

Browne (2009): 

Refers to a wide range of criminal acts committed via use of ICT- usually using the internet. -Fastest growing criminal activity in the world. 


4 types of cyber crime:

  • Cyber tresspass
  • Cyber deception and theft
  • Cyber ***********
  • Cyber violence

Macionis & Plummer (2005):

Cyber crime has created new forms of 'trouble' and 'new worlds of crime' e.g internet based crime, identity theft, hacking, money laundering. 

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Globalization and Crime

Browne (2009): Refers to a wide range of criminal acts committed via use of ICT- usually the internet 

Jewkes: 4 types of cyber crime

  • cyber tresspass
  • cyber deception and theft
  • cyber ***********
  • cyber violence

Macionis & Plummer: 

Cyber crime has created new forms of 'trouble' and a 'new world of crime' e.g internet based fraud, identity theft, hacking, money laundering. 

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Green Crime

Green Criminology: study of damage to the environment, resulting in harm to people and other organisms living in it, and it examines connected law breaking activities. 

Primary Crimes: crimes that result directly from the destruction and degration of the earth's resources. 

Secondary Crimes: crime that grows out of the flouting of rules aimed at preventing or regulationg environmental disasters. 

South (2004): suggests 2 types of secondary crime: 

1) state crime against oppositional groups

2) hazardous waste and organized crime

White (2008): Anthropmetric (human centered) view of crime

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State Crimes

State Crime: illegal or devaint activities perpetrated by or with the complexity of state agents,

can include genocide, war crimes, torture, imprisionment without trial, and assasination. 

Marxism: 'State crime illustrates the crimogenic nature of capitalism and shows the lengths ruling class are prepared to go to in order to protect their interests."

McLaughin: 4 categories of state crime: 

  • Political crimes- e.g corruption, censorship
  • Crimes by security- e.g genocide, torture
  • Economic Crimes- e.g violation of health and safety laws
  • Social and Cultural Crimes- e.g institutional racism

Interactionists: "The state is only criminal when it declares itself to be criminal"

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Human Rights and State Crime


Natural Rights: that people are regarded as having simply by virtue of existing, such as rights to life, liberty and free speech.

Civil Rights: such as the right to vote, to privacy, to a fair trial, or to education. 

From a Human Rights perspective, the state can be seen as a perpetrator of crime and not simply as the authority that defines and punishes crime. 

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Thanks so much for this :D

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