Functionalism- Crime and deviance

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“Using material from Item A and elsewhere assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of crime and deviance.” (21 marks)


P.1 Durkheim- Society is based on value consensus; socialisation and social control are needed to reinforce this solidarity. If institutions failed to carry out their purpose (e.g. the family      primary socialisation) this leads to criminal activity (nuclear family is needed to produce law abiding citizens)


P.2 Crime is evitable- Functionalists don’t believe crime is completely negative. There is no such thing as a “crime free” society it is just the levels and severity of crime that exists. Durkheim (1893) ‘Crime is normal…an integral part of all healthy societies.” Neither a high or low level of crime is desirable. 


 Reasons why crime occurs everywhere:

·         Not everyone is socialised properly

·         In complex modern societies subcultures develop


Durkheim believes crime can be positive:    

·         Boundary maintenance, crime produces a reaction       unites members to condemn the wrongdoer       reinforces commitment to shared norms

·         Adaptation and change starts with deviant behaviour


P.3 Criticisms of Durkheim- How much crime is needed? There is no way to measure or described how much crime is necessary. Even though crime strengthens society that is not its purpose. Crime is not functional for all- a murder victim’s family? ‘Functional for whom?’ Crime doesn’t always promote solidarity- women staying indoors for fear of attack


P.4 Merton’s Strain Theory- Argues that people engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means. They become frustrated and resort to criminal means of getting what they want, other lash out in anger or find comfort in drug use.


·         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- deviance results from the strain between what


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