Social order and social control

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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 14-04-14 19:32

Structuralist theorists - Durkheim

  • take a top-down or macro-view of society.Marx, Funct, control, feminists.

Functionalist explanations

  • Durkheim(1895) - people are persuaded to conform to norms during socialisation. They realise if they deviate, people may ostracise them(informal sanctions) and if they offend they face punish from the law(formal sanctions). These influences so powerful they are social facts.
  • Most people develop a collective conscience(empathy) with others as result of social solidarity. There is consensus about what behaviours what behaviours are good/bad.
  • small amount crime is inevitable - not everyone well socialised & have free will. Total absence of crime is bad as it would suggest totalitarian state and legal system would stagnate.
  • Durkheim suggested C+D increased since Western socities became more heterogeneous - people of different backgruns unlikely to agree what is right/wrong. This leads to anomie where people are egoistic, following their own desires. 
  • Rise in crime shows citizens are not fully integrated into society
  • if a crime becomes widely know to public, they perform boundary setting function - drawing people together in horoor against the crime - however, crime is generally dysfunctional, so it is acceptable to constrain people to maintain order.
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Structuralist Theorists - Durkheim(cont.)

Evalution of Durkheim

  • looting that followed 2011 summer riots suggested offenders didn't feel themselves stakeholders in society and put their own advantage above the law. Those who helped to protect areas and clear up afterward showed collective conscience.
  • Clinard(1974) - supported Durkheim view crime draws attention to defects in society that need addressing.
  • Davies(1961) - identified useful functions of prostitution. Provides economic support for unskilled women and safety valve for men - rejected by Feminists
  • Marxists criticise view that laws reflect public consensus and protect rights of the majority
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Structuralist Theorists - Merton

Robert Merton

  • developed Durkheim's concept of anomie - during American Depression - called his theory a middle range as it linked evidence from a real situation with wider social structures.
  • aimed to find how certain social structures exert pressure upon people to engage in non-conforming rather than conforming
  • U.S society had culturally defined goals(American Dream) - bougght up to expect wealth+status if they worked hard, seen as failure if didn't aim for success. Legitimate means and norms for reaching goals = being educated and investing in a business
  • in downturn of Great Depression people lost confidence they could reach aspirations by legitimate means. This created strain - many had to abandon/change goals or means creating specific type of anomie.
  • Innovation(crime) - response by those committed to success but lack skills/means to reach it legally - often w/c but some white collar/corporate
  • Retreatists - unwilling to use illegitimate means, because of upbringing, so abandoned conventional goals and dropped out - vargrants/addicts
  • m/c had skills to be succesful legally so conformed - few became rebels
  • strain theory illustrates how structural change can increase crime and deviance, also shows why different social classes may be more/less likely to deviate.
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Control Theorists - Travis Hirschi

  • agree the public generally support law and order
  • Travis Hirschi: Causes of Delinquency(1969) - looked at why people conform, opposed to Merton who looked at why people deviate. Studied young people and found four factors:
  • Attachment: close bonds to parents, teachers reluctant to dissapoint them
  • Commitment: committed to a good education and career - too much to lose by deviating
  • Involvement: busy studying, work, hobbies - little spare time
  • Belief: weaker moral codes found it harder to resist temptation
  • factors often found toegether - youths found school boring looked for excitement through risk taking instead of doing homework
  • Hirschi's research could be criticised as malestream. He gave questionnaires to highschool kids of both sexes, but only consulted police data on the boys in the sample - yet used them to draw conclusions on young people in general.
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Marxist explanations

  • the bourgeoisie have created laws that protect their welath and status from the proleteriat.
  • Poorer people try to take a greater share of the wealth but this classified as theft and is punished by the CJS
  • proleteriat also commit toher crimes such as street crime as they are alienated from society by intolerable working conditions
  • conflict view - two main groups are at odds with each other
  • socialisation by capitalist values is responsible for individuals wanting to accumulate wealth so they buy consumer goods. Even those already rich want more, so commit white collar/corporate crime - unjustified as they already have their fair share and the crime goes unpunished.
  • Frank Pearce(1976) - attitudes to crime were influenced by individusalistic ideology - the view that crime is committed by abnormal people, not as result of structural inequality.
  • Steven Box(1983) - recognised street crime by w/c caused suffering to victims, but it shouldn't distract from larger-scale crimes of the powerful. The police target mainly w/c and ethnic minority areas. Judicial decisions favour higher classes. how acts are defined as crimes depends on which class commits them. many police brutality against w/c escape prosecution because police investigate them. heavy media of street crime terrifies public into supporting harsh measures, whereas they understand less of corporate crime. Public opinion is controlled by hegemony - manipulation of ideas by the powerful. 
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Marxist explanations(cont.)

  • Laureen Snider(1993) - there were as many deaths in the U.S from indsutrial accidents, pollution and unsafe consumer products as from murder - shows extent of corp crime.
  • Gary Slapper and Steve Tombs(1999) - public are led to believe that close scrutiny of business will reduce their profitability and ability to employ workers, so they are allowed to get away with illegal practice.


  • there is still crime in Communist countries - there have been too few communist countries to use as evidence
  • laws protect all social classes, not just the rich. Poor are health by health and safety law + benefits - health & safety frequently ignored and benefits are few, fools people into thining gov. have their interests at heart, means of social control
  • street crime more frightening to victims than fraud, so should be punished more harshly - fewer people victims of street crime than corporate crime
  • inconsistent to say police unjustifiably target w/c areas and at the same time admit that poverty leads to crime - although poor do commit crime, more effort should be made to reduce corporate crime, involved larger sums of money.
  • Hillsborough disaster cover-up = example to be used
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Labelling theory

  • interactionists or social constructionists conduct smaller scale studies, focusing on how powerless are controlled by others, often by being labelled.
  • Howard Becker(1963) - no actions are deviant in themsleves. The powerful define deviance in certain contexts - so it is a social construction.
  • theories about motives for crime partly based on research on known offenders, most of whom are not powerful people as they avoid suspicion - thus data about crime is skewed by the labelling of w/c people, often young, male, ethnic minority stereotypes as 'criminal'.
  • Certain people become career criminals as a result of labelling. Everyone commits small deviance acts occasionally(primary deviance) but agents of social control more likely to respond to primary deviance of powerless. Being punished then affects their self-image and how others see them. Rejected by law abiding citizens they then drift into deviant subcultures and commit more serious acts(secondary deviance) - eventually leads toprison as finding a job is harder, so the person embarks on a criminal career and see their criminal identity as their master status.
  • Lemert found evidence that labelling amplified the effects of stuttering
  • Rosenhan found evidence that llabelling amplified effects of mental awareness - asked mentally normal people to get admitted to a mental hospital, but then behave nromally to get discharged. Once volunteers identified as insane, all their actions were seen as symptoms of madness
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Labelling Theory evaluation


  • Labelling theory appears to blame those who label for secondary deviance, when it is actually responsibility of offenders.
  • Becker later admitted labelled people had free will and could choose to resist their labels, but often didn't.
  • Beckers theory is, however, useful for describing the formation of deviant subcultures and negative effects of punishment.
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