Functionalism

In's and out's about Functionalism

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  • Created by: Beverly
  • Created on: 21-03-12 16:15

Functionalist theory

Functionalists see society as a stable system based on shared norms and values and that crime and deviance disrupt this stability + Value consensus= members of society sharing a common culture. They also see crime as inevitable and universal.

Important sociologists for Functionalism

  • Merton- Interested in the conditions that encourage crime and deviance
  • Durkheim- Crime is a normal part of society and there are two reasons why crime and deviance are found in all societies.
  • Cohen- Status frustration; Crime is mainly occurs in lower social classes . Cohen criticises Merton's explantion of deviance on two grounds.
  • Cloward and Ohlin-  They agree that working class youths are denied legitimate opportunities to achieve, therefore their deviance is a way of responding to this frustration. 3 different types of deviant sub-cultures that result in: criminal, conflict and retreatist subcultures.
  • Matza- Most delinquents drinft in and out of delinquency instead of being commited to their subculture.
  • Messner and Rosenfeld- Institutional anomie theory focuses on the 'American dream'.
  • Davis-
  • Erikson-
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Social solidarity and how to achieve it-

2 key ways..


Socialisation- helping/making individuals internalise the same norms and values so that when it comes to it they feel that its right ot act in the way society requires them to.

Social control- introducing rewards and punishments for conformity and deviance. This helps ensure that individuals act in the way society expects.


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2 reasons why crime and deviance is found in all societies

  • Not everyone is equally and effectively socialised into the same society, so some people are more prone to deviate.
  • Particularly in complex and modern societies since there is a diversity of lifestyles and values. What one culture regards as deviant, another might not.

Durkheim suggests that there is a tendency to normlessness or anomie in modern societies since the rules are becoming weaker and less clear cut.

Probably because modern societies are so complex.

Means that a shared culture or collective conscience is weakened which results in higher levels of crime.

Durkheim see's anomie as a major cause of suicide in modern societies.


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Positive functions of crime ting new idea

  • Boundary maintenance-  Crime produces a reaction from society. For Durkheim, this explains the function of punishment since to punish someone isn't necessarily to make the wrongdoer suffer or to mend his ways, but instead to reaffirm society's shared rules and reinforce social solidarity. This is usually done through the dramatic courtrooms that stigmatize offenders. In effect, this re-affirms values and discourages others from breaking the rules.
    Cohen says that the dramatization that the media does creates 'folk devils'. 
  • Adaptation and change- Durkheim suggests that deviance starts with individuals starting new ideas, values and ways of living must not be completely stifled. There must be some scope for change because in the long run, the values of the apparent deviant may give rise to a new culture and mortality and if these ideas are suppressed and society will stagnate and not make any required and adaptive change.

Therefore, for Durkheim, crime can't be too high or too low since too much crime could threaten society and tear them apart and too little crime would mean that society is repressing and controlling its members too much. preventing individual freedom and preventing change.

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Other functions of crime


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