A2 Sociology

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  • Created on: 17-01-18 10:24

Crime and Deviance



·         Crime- An act which breaks the criminal laws of society.

·         Deviance- refers to the behaviour which is disapproved of by most people in society and which does not conform to society's norms and values.


Durkheim's functionalist theory:

·         Socialisation and Social control are two key mechanisms which allow social solidarity to occur in society.

The inevitability of crime:

·         Functionalists see too much crime as destabilising society.

·         They also see crime as inevitable and universal- Durkheim, 'crime is normal... an integral part of all healthy societies.'

·         There are two reasons why C&D are found in all societies; 1.Not everyone is equally effectively socialised into the shared norms and values. 2. Different groups develop their own subculture and what the members of the subculture regard as normal, mainstream culture may see as deviant.  

·         Durkheim also discusses that in modern societies there is a tendency towards anomie (normlessness). The diversity of modern societies means that the collective conscience is weakened, and this results in higher levels of C&D.

The positive functions of crime:

·         For Durkheim, crime also fulfils two important functions; boundary maintenance and adaptation.

·         Boundary Maintenance- In Durkheim's view, the purpose of punishment is to reaffirm society's shared rules and reinforces social solidarity, this is done through the rituals of the courtroom which dramatises the wrongdoing and stigmatises the offender. This reaffirms the values of the law-abiding majority and discourages others from rule breaking.

·         Adaptation- For individuals that want change, there must be some scope for them to challenge and change existing norms and values which is deviance. However, in the long run their values may give rise to a new culture and morality. If those with new ideas are suppressed, society will stagnate and be unable to make necessary adaptive changes. Thus for Durkheim, neither a very high nor a very low level of crime is desirable.

Other functions of crime:

·         Cohen identifies another function of deviance; a warning that an institution is not functioning properly. Functionalists such as Erikson build on Durkheim's point and argue that if crime and deviance perform positive social functions, then perhaps it means society is actually organised so as to promote deviance.


·         Durkheim doesn't explain how much of deviance is needed for society to function successfully.

·         It can be argued that functionalists explain the existence of crime in terms of its supposed function but this doesn't mean society actually creates crime in advance with the intention of strengthening solidarity.

·         Functionalism looks at what functions crime serves for society as a whole and ignores how it might affect different groups or individuals within society. - Is solidarity reinforced within the victim?

·         Crime doesn't always promote solidarity. It may have the opposite effect leading to people becoming isolated e.g. forcing women


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