Crime and Deviance A2 Sociology


Crime and Deviance



Durkheim's functionalist theory, Functionalists say to achieve solidarity society needs:

·       Socialisation (shared culture)

·       Social control mechanism (rewards for conformity and punishments for deviance)

The inevitability of crime:

·       Functionalists see crime as inevitable and universal because not everyone is socialised into shred norms and values, some more prone to deviate.

·       Diverse/different groups develop their own subculture and what the members of the subculture regard as normal, mainstream culture may see as deviant. 

·       Durkheim says in modern societies there’s a tendency to anomie and this is a major cause of crime and deviance.

Durkheim says crime fulfils 2 important functions: boundary maintenance and adaptation.

·       Boundary Maintenance – crime reinforces member’s commitment to shared norms and values.

·       Adaptation and change – All changes start with an act of deviance. Too much deviance = threatens to tear society apart, too little deviance = society is repressing and controlling members too much.

Polsky – Pornos channel a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives like adultery.


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


Merton's strain theory:

Strain theories say people deviate when they’re unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means. Merton adapted Durkheim's concept of anomie to explain deviance. It has two elements:

·       Structural factors- society's unequal opportunity structure.

·       Cultural factors- the strong emphasis on success goals and the weaker emphasis on using legitimate means to achieve them.

Merton says deviance is the result of a strain between two things:
1: Goals that a culture encourages individuals to achieve.
2: What the institutional structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately.

The American Dream

The ideology of the 'American Dream' tells Americans their society is meritocratic, where opportunities are for all. However, in reality many disadvantaged groups are denied opportunities e.g. inadequate schooling.
This strain produces frustration and creates a pressure to resort to illegitimate means such as crime. Merton calls this pressure to deviate, the strain to anomie.


Deviant adaptations to strain

Merton says an individual's position in the social structure affects the way they adapt and respond to the strain to anomie. Five different types of adaption:

·       Conformity- M/C accept goals and achieve them legitimately.

·       Innovation- W/C accept goals but use illegitimate ways to achieve them.

·       Ritualism- Give up trying to achieve goals, but have internalised legitimate means and so they follow the rules (Dead end job)

·       Retreatism- Reject both goals and the legitimate means and become dropouts.

·       Rebellion- Reject existing society’s goals and legitimate means, and replace with new ones to bring about revolutionary change and create a new kind of society.

Criticisms of Merton:

·       Marxists say it ignores the power of the




Excellent, wonderful notes