Functionalist Theory Of Crime


Functionalism (The Consensus structuralism theory)
Functionalism is a consensus structuralism theory. Functionalists argue that there is nothing abnormal about deviance, and that it is necessary and normal in all parts of societies performing a positive function.

The functions of crime and deviance (DURKEIM)
Durkheim has identified a positive and a negative side to crime and deviance, it is positive in which it helps society to change and remain dynamic, whilst the negative side sees too much crime leading to social disruption.
Durkheim believes that crime and deviance are inevitable and normal aspect of social life. They are inevitable because everyone cannot be equally committed to the shared values that guide ones actions, referred to as the collective consensus.
He also believes that crime and deviance perform four essential functions for society:

  • Crime and deviance being essential for generating and sustaining morality.

  • Crime and deviance clarify and reaffirm the boundaries. For example by receiving retribution for a crime, such as a prison sentence, the state is making it clear that as criminal/deviant act has taken place.

  • Crime and deviance can promote social unity. When a crime has been committed, the entire community draws together in shared outrage, and the sense of belonging in a community is strengthened.

  • Crime and deviance can encourage social change by resulting in a change of shared values. This change in values can lead to a wider social change. CLINARD

The Negative Aspect of Crime & Deviance
Durkheim argues that crime only becomes dysfunctional when the rate of crime is too high or too low, this may happen during times of great social change or stress, thus the collective conscience may be weakened. A anomie may appear, in which people may start to look after their own selfish interests.

Evaluation of consensus structuralism theory
Suggesting functions for crime and deviance however is not the same as finding an explanation for them. To argue crime and deviance have certain social consequences does not explain their presence in the 1st place. It is one thing to assert that crime can be made to serve some social end or other once it has occurred- for example to heighten solidarity by uniting against the offender. It is another step altogether to explain crime as promoted in advance by society to bring about that end (Downes and Rock 2003)

The arguments of ALBERT K COHEN
Cohen supports Durkheim’s view of crime, believing it has two important functions in society. Deviance can act as a safety valve- crime and deviance provides a relatively harmless expression of discontent.
Deviance can act as a warning deviance, crime and deviance can be an indicator that a part of society is wrong, drawing attention to solve the problem.

Hirschi’s ‘Control Theory’
Being influenced by Durkheim, Hirschi asks “Why don’t most people commit crime?”. Asking this question concerns with what holds people’s behaviour in check, rather than what draws them in to crime. Therefore, Hirschi believes that crime occurs


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