Revision cards on functionalism in the Crime and Deviance topic

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  • Created on: 16-10-12 09:13


To achieve solidarity society has two key mechanisms

- Socialisation

Instills the shared culture into its members. It helps to ensure that individuals internalise the same norms and values, and that they feel it right to act in the way society requires

-Social control

Mechanisms include rewards for conformity, and punishment for deviance. These help to ensure that individuals behave in the way society expects

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Functionalism- The inevitability of crime

Too much crime destabilises society

However crime is inevitable and universal

Every known society has some levels of crime and deviance, a crime-free society is a contradiction in terms

Durkheim (1893) 

- Crime is normal... an integral part of healthy societies  

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Functionalism- Crime is universal

Two reasons why crime and deviance is found in all societies

- not everyone is equally effectively socialised into shared norms and values, so some individuals will be prone to deviance

-Particularly in complex modern societies, there is a diversity of lifestyles and values. Different groups develop their own subcultures with distinctive norms and values, and what the members of the subculture regard as normal, mainstream culture may see as deviant.

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Durkheim - Anomie and Normlessness

In modern societies there is a tendency towards anomie or normlessness - the rules governing behaviour becomes weaker and less clear cut.

This is because modern societies have complex, specialised divisions of labour, which leads to individuals becoming increasingly different from one another.

The diversity means that the shared culture and collective conscience is weakened and this results in higher levels of crime and deviance.

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Functionalism- positive functions of crime

Boundary Maintenance

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

Durkheim- the purpose of punishment is to reaffirm society's shared vales and reinforce social solidarity, not to make the wrongdoer suffer or remove crime from society.

Cohen (1972) examined the important role played by the media in the "dramatization of evil", in his view media coverage of crime and deviance often created a "folk devil"

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Functionalism - Positive functions of crime

Adaptation and Change

Durkheim- all change starts with an act of deviance

Individuals with new ideas, values and ways of living must not be completely stifled by the weight of social control.

There must be some scope for them to challenge and change existing norms and values and in the fist instance this will appear as deviance.

Thus neither a very high nor a very low level of crime is desirable

- Too much crime threatens to tear social bonds of society apart

- Too little crime means that society is repressing and controlling its members too  much, stifling individual freedom and preventing change

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Functionalism- other functions of crime

Kingsley Davis (1937;1961)

- Prostitution acts as a safety valve for the release of men's sexual frustrations without threatening the monogamous of the nuclear family.

Ned Polsky (1967)

- Pornography safely "channels" a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives such as adultery which would pose a much greater threat to the family

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Functionalism- other functions of crime

Albert Cohen

- Deviance is a warning that an institution is not functioning properly. For example high rates of truancy may tell us that there are problems with the education system and that policy-makers need to make appropriate changes.

Kai Erikson (1966)

- If crime and deviance perform positive social functions then perhaps it means that society is actually organised so as to promote deviance. The true function of agencies of social control such as the police may actually be to sustain a certain level of crime rather than to rid society of it. 

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Functionalism- Critisms

Durkheim says society requires a certain amount of deviance to functions successfully however he doesn't offer a way of knowing how much is the right amount.

Functionalists explain the existance of crime in terms of its supposed function e.g. to strengthen society. However just because crime strengthens society doesn't mean that it is the reason that crime exists in the first place.

Functionalism looks at what functions crime serves for society as a whole and ignores how it might affect different groups or individuals within society.

Crime doesn't always promote solidarity, e.g. forcing women to stay inside because they are scared that they will get attacked.

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