Functionalism and Crime

Durkheim and the Inevitability of Crime

  • crime is a normal aspect of society
  • not every member of society is equally commited to the collective sentiments 

 The two causes of crime and deviance are;

  • not everyone is equally and effectively socialised into shared norms and values 
  • diversity in lifestyle and values

Boundary Maintenance 

  • modern society is in anomie 
  • behaviour is governed weakly 
  • the collective conciousness is weakned 
  • punishment shows condemnation of a wrongdoer and shows commitment to norms and calues thus reaffirming rules 
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Durkheim continued

Adaption and Change

  • change starts with an act of deviance 
  • this gives people a chance to challenge norms 
  • too much deviance threatens the consensus in society 
  • too little deviance means that society is repressing and controlling its members too much 


  • shows that crime is integral
  • assumes norms and values are universal
  • doesnt see deviance as problematic 
  • doesnt examine how the justice system works 
  • ignores free will 
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Merton and Strain Theory

  • we are blocked from achieving sucess by lawful means 
  • there is a strain between socially acceped goals and socially approved means of achieving them 
  • explains crime in a structural manner, not everyone has an equal chance of success and this leads to anomie 

American Culture 

  • there is a cultural goal of meterial success and lack of opportunity to attain it 
  • 'strain to anomie'

5 adaptations 

  • conformity, not making it, still striving for success
  • innovation, turning to deviance,cheating on a test 
  • ritualism, losing sight of the goal, teachers
  • retreatism, lose sight of the goal and the means to achieve, drug addicts
  • rebellion, goals and means are rejected and then replaced, terrorism  
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Strain Theory Evaluation

  • early structural attempt
  • moved away from psychological and physiological beginnings
  • supports official stats
  • too much emphasis on stats 
  • too deterministic 
  • doesnt acknowledge collective crime 
  • doesnt explain crime for non monetry gain 
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Status Frustration

  • cirtises Merton 
  • instead of turning to crime beause opportunities are blocked, people channel their frustration into outlets 
  • subcultues invert normal norms and values and allow deviance to become normal 
  • structural theory 


  • working class boys 
  • the boys rejected mainstream middle class values in education 
  • respect is inverted, truancy and disrespect is now normal and good 
  • alternative hierarchy 


  • explains non utilitarian crime like fighting and vandalism
  • assumes that everyones starts with the same values
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Cloward and Ohlin

  • not everyone who experiences frustration responds with innovation 
  • different subcultures act differently 

The 3 Subcultures 

  • The criminal subculture - occurs in areas with criminal activity, provides an illigitimate opportunity structures, leads to proffesional crime 
  • The Conflict subculture - occurs in areas with a high turnover population, leads to people becoming angry and leads to gang violdence and earning status this way
  • The Retreatist subculture - occurs with double failures, they can not achieve success legitametely or illegitametly and leads to retreat into alcohol or drugs 


  • develops Merton and Cohen 
  • ignores overlaps
  • some retreatist subcultures are successful
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Status Frustration Evaluation

  • explains strong links between failure and crime 
  • explains juvenille crime 
  • explains non utilitarian crime
  • has limited reach 
  • has difficulty in explaining why those who are frustrated dont resort to utilitarian crime 
  • doesnt explain the many people who do not turn to crime despite being frustrated 
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