Crime & Deviance Functionalism A2

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  • Created by: charlotte
  • Created on: 06-06-13 21:29

Functionalist/Strain & Subcultural Theories

  • See society based on value consensus, whereby members share a common culture.

  • Sharing the same culture produces social solidarity-binding individuals together.

Solidarity is achieved in two ways: Socialisation/Social Control

Socialisation- Instils the shared culture into it's members, through the family/education, ensuring individuals share the same norms and values.

Social Control- Society rewards conformity and punishes for deviance, ensuring individuals behave in the way society accepts.

  • While too much crime is seen as destabilising society, functionalism sees crime as inevitable, and universal.

  • Not everyone is effectively socialised into shared norms and values- leading individuals to deviate.

  • In modern societies- complexity of lifestyles through diversity, therefore different groups develop their own subcultures with distinctive norms and values- what they see as normal, mainstream society may see as deviant.

Durkheim- In modern societies there is a tendency towards anomie, as there is a complex division of labour which leads to individuals becoming different from each other- this diversity means the collective conscience is weakened, resulting in higher levels of crime.

Durkheim- Crime fulfils two positive functions: Boundary Maintenance/Adaptation

  • Crime produces a reaction from it's members whom unite in the condemnation of the wrongdoer, reinforcing the shared norms and values. Therefore, punishment in Durkheim's view is to reaffirm social solidarity and society's shared norms.

A02- This may be done through the courtroom, which dramatise wrongdoing and publicly stigmatise the offender, discouraging others from breaking the law. Cohen- media coverage often creates 'folk devils'.

  • For Durkheim, neither a very low/high level of crime is desirable, too much crime threatens to tear the bonds of society apart/too little means society is repressing and controlling members too much- stifling individual freedom and preventing change.

AO2- 9/11 theorist attacks illustrated the positive functions of crime as the actions united the reaffirming the shared common culture and the norms and values, and also strengthening the collective conscience.

Cohen identifies another function of deviance, in that it can act as a warning and institution isn't functioning properly- such as high truancy rates highlight problems with the education system and so policy makers need to make appropriate changes to it.


  • Looks at the functions crime has for society, but ignores how it might affect the individual or groups within society. For example- Punishing a murderer for his crime is functional for society, however what about the victim?

  • Crime doesn't always lead to promoting social solidarity, rather it may have the opposite effect. For example, forcing women to stay in doors as they are in fear of an attack.

Merton's Strain Theory

Strain theories argue that people engage in deviant behaviour when they're unable to achieved socially approved goals through legitimate means- becoming frustrated and therefore leading them to engage in a deviant act.

For Merton, deviance is the result of strain between two things:

  • The goals that a culture encourage individuals to achieve

  • What the institutional structure of society allows them to achieve.

AO2- THE AMERICAN DREAM- values money success, individual material wealth and high status.


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