crime and deviance, AQA sociology GCSE.


Crime: breaks the law

Deviance: goes against society's norms and can have negative sanctions.

Social order


Society is based upon value consensus (broad agreement) regarding norms and values. This consensus arises from socialisation, when people learn of norms and values. Social order is maintained over time. Most people agree and conform.


See capitalist society as based on conflicting interests between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. Class conflict arises as they have opposing interests. Social control maintained over time, however bourgeoisie have the power to enforce order and create laws.

Formal social control is based on laws and written rules and is linked to how the state controls people's behaviour.

-  houses of parliament are the legislature, make laws and regulate behaviour.

-  police enforcers of the law, investigate crimes and apprehend offenders.

-  the judiciary deal with alleged offenders and sentence if they are guilty. Magistrates hear cases in magistrates court and deal with most criminal offences eg minor assault or theft. The crown court tries serious indictable offences before a judge and jury.

-  prisons, keep keeps offenders in custody. They can rehabilitate or punish, or deter.

-  probation supervised offenders who have been released into the community

Informal social control, based unwritten rules and processes such as disapproval. Enforced via social pressure. By agencies such as family and friends.

  • Positive sanctions reward individuals who comply with society's rules eg praise

  • Negative sanctions, punish those who don't conform eg ridicule

Merton’s functionalist perspective and anomie.

Merton argued that the cultural system of the USA was built on the ‘American Dream’ – a set of meritocratic principles which assured the American public that equality of opportunity was available to all, regardless of class, gender or ethnicity. The ‘American Dream’ encouraged individuals to pursue a goal of success which was largely measured in terms of the acquisition of wealth and material possessions. People were expected to pursue this goal through legitimate means such as education and work. The dominant cultural message was if you are ambitious, talented and work hard, then income and wealth should be your rewards.

However Merton pointed out that these goals were not attainable by all, that the structural organisation of the USA mean that the means to get on were not fairly distributed and it was difficult, if not impossible for some to compete an achieve financial success.

Merton developed the concept of ‘anomie’ to describe this imbalance between cultural goals and institutionalised means. He argued that such an imbalanced society produces anomie – there is a strain or tension between the goals and means which produce unsatisfied aspirations.

Beckers interactionist perspective

Explores the relationship by the the criminal and the public’s reaction. Social groups create deviance by making rules, applying them to certain people and labelling them as certain people. Becker argues labeling may produce a self fulfilling prophecy. BUT it doesn't explain why individuals deviate in the first place. It seems criminals as victims of labelling rather than people who choose to


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