Durkheim's Functionalist Theory of Crime
- Crime is a normal part of a healthy society
- In every society some are inadequately socialised-prone to deviate
- People become different from one another-shared rules of behaviour less clear (anomie)
Crime fulfils 2 important positive functions:
1. Boundary Maintenance
- Crime produces reaction from society,
- Unites members against wrongdoer
- Reinforces their commitment to value consensus
- Function of punishment: reaffirm shared values & reinforce solidarity
2. Adaptation & Change
- For change to happen must start with deviant individuals with new ideas
- They must challenge existing norms and will appear as deviance at first
- If this is not ended society will not be able to make adaptive changes & will stagnate
Other Positive Functions of Deviance For Society:
- Davis- brings safety value, prostitution acts release sexual frustration by men without threatening the nuclear family
- Cohen-gives an indication where society is malfunctioning (institution in society) e.g. high truancy rates==education system
Criticisms of Durkheim
- Claims society requires specific amount of deviance in order to function normally as part of a healthy society.
- However, offers no explanation of how much is the right amount
- Durkheim & other functionalists explain crime in regards to its function e.g. strengthen social solidarity.
- However, just because crime does these things does not neccessarily mean this is why it exists in the first place.
Merton's Strain Theory
- Individuals turn to crime when they cannot achieve socially approved goals in a legitimate way.
- Deviance is the result of a strain between the goals of a culture encourages individuals to aim for & what the structure of a society actually allows them to achieve legitimately.
He combines his explanations in 2:
- Structural Factors- society's unequal opportunity structure
- Cultural Factors- strong emphasis society has on success goals & weak emphasis on using legitimate means to achieve them.
- Emphasis on money sucess. Americans expected to pursue this goal by legitimate means e.g. education, hard work.
- Ideology of it all- claims society is meritocratic (system based only on inidividual ability & achievement).
- In reality, poverty & discrimination block opportunities to achieve by legitimate means.
- This strain of not being able to achieve the cultural goals because of the lack of legitimate opportunities produces pressure & frustration to achieve such goals through illegitimate means.
- American culture only adds on pressure to achieve goals of money & being successful at any price even if it breaks the laws of society.
- Winning the game is more important than playing by the rules'.
5 Adaptations To Strain:
1. Conformity- accept cultural goals & work to achieve them legitimately
2. Innovation- accept cultural goals but use illegitimate means to achieve them e.g. theft.
3. Ritualism- give up on goals but still follow rules for own sake.
4. Retreatism- reject goals & legitimate means, drops out of society.
5. Rebellion- replace goals & means with new ones & aim to bring about social change.
Strengths & Weaknesses of Merton's Approach
- Shows how both normal & deviant behaviour can arise from the same mainstream goals e.g. innovators and conformists both pursue same goals but by different means.
- Explains patterns in official stats~~most crime is property crime because American society values wealth so much. Working-class crime rates are higher due to them having least opportunity to obtain wealth legitimately.
- Takes official stats at face value.
- Too deterministic, not all working-class people deviate.
- Ignores power of ruling class to make & enforce laws.
- Fails to explain crimes of the powerful
- Cohen- Merton sees deviance as an individual response ignoring group deviance of delinquent subculture.
- Ignores non-utilitarian crimes e.g. vandalism (no material gain) no economic motive.
Albert Cohen's Status Frustration Theory
- Working-class boys face anomie in the middle class education system.
- Culturally deprived, lack the skills to achieve leaving them at the bottom of the official status hierarchy.
- This results in status frustration, in order to resolve this they reject mainstream middle class values & turn to others in their same situation, forming a subculture.
Alternative Status Hierarchy:
- Provides boys with an alternative status hierarchy & an illegitimate opportunity structure
- They can win status through deliquent actions
- Values spite, hostility & hate for those outside the subcultural group
- Inverts mainstream goals (opposite goals) what society praises it condemns.
- For example, society values property, whereas boys gain status from vandalising it.
Strengths & Weaknesses of Albert Cohen's Theory
- Offers an explanation of non-utilitarian deviance among working-class unlike Merton who's theory only accounts for crime with a profit motive.
- Assumes all working-class boys start off sharing middle class success goals, only to reject them when they fail.
- Maybe they never even held these values in the first place so never saw themselves as failures.