Crime and Deviance: Theories of Crime

  • Created by: GhostRat
  • Created on: 25-02-19 18:23

Functionalist Theories of Crime…

  1. Durkheim: Crime is an inevitable part of industrialized societies

  • When individuals feel integrated/have a strong sense of social solidarity they are less likely to commit criminal offences

  • As societies get bigger →  more prone to crime. Small rural villages = live & die in the same area & share same norms + values → similar outlook on life. People = commit less offences → clear understanding of what their community deems as acceptable (strong collective conscience). Society has become more industrialised = geographical mobility → weakening collective conscience → urbanization = people have a less clear understanding of acceptable → crimes increase when people do not share the same norms and values, a lack of social solidarity leads to anomie or normlessness (nothing to govern behaviour)

1b) Hirschi's Social Bond theory: crime is inevitable

  • Right realist, slightly different reason to Durkheim as to why crime is inevitable → social order is based upon shared values but looks at why people do NOT commit crime

  • Crime is inevitable without social bonds with other people → create self control + tie to conformity → restrains from crime. If bonds are broken, self control is weakened →crime

  • Four bonds:

    1. Belief: people share moral beliefs such as respect for the rights of others & need for obedience to the law

    2. Commitment: people are committed to conventional activities such as work/education/family, they have a stake in conformity that they do not wish to risk through crime

    3. Involvement: involved in things such as: religious groups/clubs = no opportunity/time for crime

    4. Attachment: attached to those around them, sensitive to their needs & wishes

  • Evaluation: doesn’t recognise that someone can have tight social bonds and be deviant = such as well integrated MC drug users or white collar criminals with successful careers

2) Durkheim: Crime has two main positive functions…

  1. Boundary maintenance:

  • Crime → produces a reaction from society, uniting its members in condemnation of the wrongdoer & reinforcing their commitment to the shared norms & values

  • The function of punishment is not to make the wrongdoer suffer/ mend their ways/remove crime in society → it reaffirms society’s shared rules and reinforces social solidarity. Courtroom → public stigma.

  • Example: Sarah Payne: Roy Whiting, before murder had been convicted of abducting an 8 year old girl, Sarah led to Sarah’s Law: controlled access to sex offender registry → reinforcing commitment to norms

  • Evaluation: functionalism ignores how crime affects individuals (as opposed to wider society). Murder may be functional in reinforcing solidarity BUT it isn’t functional for the victim… fails to ask functional for whom?

2) Adaption & change:

  • All change starts with an act of deviance → individuals with new ideas/values/ways of living must have scope to challenge & change existing norms/values which inevitably appears deviant! Without these changes, society would stagnate

  • Example: Suffragettes & rise of feminist movement → change = votes for women, deviant actions = pre WW1 1000 suffragettes imprisoned for acts such as refusal to pay taxes, hunger strikes, arson,


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