The Functionalist view of Crime and Deviance

The theory of Durkheim's collective conscience and its application ot crime and deviance.

(this may seem short but there really isn't that much to learn specifically about Functionalism)


The normative group of sociologists are those who are interested in the norms and values within society and believe that this is what causes us to act in the way that we do within society.

This group follow the ideology that everyone agrees and follows these norms and values and that anything that does not is 'deviant'. These sociologists therefore aim to question why do people not follow these norms and values.

Functionalists such as Durkheim believe that this is a collective conscience that helps decide what is right and wrong. Functionalists also believe that as with every system within society deviance has a purpose which Durkheim goes on to analyse.

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Durkheim's Collective Conscience

Durkheim suggests that the collective conscience within society is shaped by deviance which is also present within many societies. He suggests that deviance including crime performs the following functions:

  • Reaffirming the boundaries - crime further guides people on what is right and what is wrong by people who step outside these acepted boundaries bieng punished as a consequence thus putting others off.
  • Social Cohesion - people unite against crime and are often brought together in condemnation of some people's acts which further brings people together for example this is common with terror attacks
  • Changing Values - when a criminal act causes ppeople to change their own views for example the recent changes towards the length of sentences that can be given (people can no longer get 'life sentences')
  • Anomie - describes a sate of 'normelssness' where people are unsure about what to do for example the London riots which later spread to other big cities around the UK. This usually links to rapid social change.
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