Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories


Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Functionalists argue that in order to achieve its solidarity, society has two key mechanisms:

* Socialisation - insists the shared culture into its members. 

= this helps to ensure that individuals internalise the same norms and values, and that they feel it right to act in the ways that society requires

* Social control - mechanisms include rewards (or polite sanctions) for conformity and punishments (negative sanctions) for deviance. 

= these help to ensure that individuals behave in the way society expects 

1 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Other functions of crime 

Kingsley Davis (1937;1961) 

-argues that prostitution acts as a society valve for the release of men's sexual frustrations without threatening the monogamous nuclear family 

Ned Polsky (1967) 

-argues that *********** safely 'channels' a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives such as aldultery, which would pose a much greater threat to the family 

Kai Erikson (1966) 

-argues that if deviance performs positive social functions, then perhaps it means 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 

2 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Two reasons why crime and deviance are found in all societies 

1. Not everyone is equally effectively socialised into the shared norms and values, so some individuals will be prone to deviate

2. 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 

3 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Durkheim - neither a very high nor a vey low level of crime is desirable 

* Too much crime threatens to tear the bonds of society apart

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

4 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Strain theories argue that people engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means 

The first strain theory was developed by the functionalist Robert K. Merton (1938)

Merton's explanation combines two elements: 

*Structural factors - society's unequal opportunity structure 

*Cultural factors - the strong emphasis on success goals and the weaker emphasis on using legitimate means to achieve them 

5 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

For Merton, deviance is the result of a strain between two things: 

*The goals that a culture encourages individuals to achieve 

*What the institutional structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately 

6 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Conformity - individuals accept the culturally approved goals and strive to achieve them legitimately

Innovation  - individuals accept the goal of money success but 'new' illegitimate means such as theft or fraud to achieve them 

Ritualism - individuals give up on trying to achieve the goals, but have internalised the legitimate means and so they follow the rules for their own sake

Retreatism  - individuals reject both the goals and the legitimate means and become dropouts

Rebellion - individuals reject the exisiting society's goals and means, but they replace them with new ones in a desire to bring about revolutionary change and create a new kind of society 

7 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

The American Dream 

Americans are expected to pursue this goal by legitimate means: self-discipline, study, educational qualifications, and hard work in a career. The ideology of the 'American Dream' tells Americans that their society is a meritocratic one where anyone who makes the effort can get ahead - there are opportunities for all 

8 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

Deviance = not as serious/not really a crime (eg. downloading music)

Anomie = a state of normlessness 


*How much? 


*Did we create crime? 

9 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories


1. Safety valve 

- prostitution 

- *********** 

2. Boundary maintainance 

- London riots 

3. Warning 

- knife crime 

4. Adaptation + change 

10 of 11

Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories

5. Jobs 

- security guards/police 

Where does crime come from? 



11 of 11




This post is exceptionally easy to peruse and appreciate without forgetting about any subtleties.

Escorts in Bangalore || Bangalore Model Escorts || Independent Escorts in Bangalore || Bangalore Escorts Service





Very great post. I just found your blog and needed to say that I have truly delighted in perusing your blog entries.

Independent Escorts in Bangalore || Bangalore Escorts Service || Escorts Service in Bangalore || High Profile Bangalore Escorts || High Profile Call Girls in Bangalore || Model Bangalore Escorts

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Crime and deviance resources »