Functionalism & Crime!

Functionalism & Crime - Durkheim, Cohen, etc. Brief but hopefully useful.

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  • Created by: Sophie
  • Created on: 18-06-12 09:31


Society provides socialisation into norms and values & social control, e.g rewards for conformity, punishments for deviance.

Durkheim says crime is normal & an integral part of all healthy societies.

There are 2 reasons why Crime and Deviance are found in all societies-

  • Not everyone is effectively socialised into the shared norms and values
  • There is a diversity of lifestyles and values, e.g subcultures and they may be deviant as part of their lifestyle

Durkheim says in modern society, there is a trend towards anomie or normlessness (the rules governing behaviour become weaker and less clear-cut) and he argues this is a major cause of suicide in modern societies.

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Positive functions of crime

Kingsley Davis argued prostitution acts as a safety valve for the release of men's sexual needs without threatening the nuclear family.

Boundary Maintenance - crime reaffirms social norms and values and social solidarity as it unites members - e.g 9/11 shocked people and 'united' Americans.

Cohen argued crime can show flaws in institutions. E.g high rates of truancy may mean our education system is failing us.

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Durkheim offers no way of telling how much crime is 'right'.

It doesn't explain what causes crime in  the first place.

Crime doesn't always promote solidarity - e.g a rise in muggings may mean women stay at home more often, leading to isolation.

It looks at how crime affects society as a whole, but ignores individuals. E.G seeing a murderer punished may be functional for society as a whole, but may not be functional for the victim.

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