Functionalist,Strain and Subcultural Theories/ Crime 1.1

  • Durkheim suggests that every society shares a set of core values, the collective conscience. 
  • According to Durkheim, a strong collective conscience, backed up by a fair legal system, formed the basis for social order
  • However, Durkheim, identified two different sides of crime and deviance influencing the functioning of society:
    -a positive side, which helped society change and remains dynamic
    -a negative side, which saw too much crime leading to social disruption
  • The collective conscience consisted of shared beliefs about what was right and wrong. It existed over and above individual members of society.
  • Durkheim (1895) - at least certain crime was necessary for any society. The basis of society was a set of shared values or collective conscience. The collective conscience provides a framework which distinguishes between actions that are accepted and those that are not. The problem - boundaries are unclear. Crime can clarify these boundaries

Positive aspects of Crime 

  • Three elements of a positive aspect of crime by Durkheim:
    1. Reaffirming the boundaries - every time the law is broken, a person will be taken to court, this will be put in the newspapers, reaffirming the existing values. 
    2. Changing values - some individuals set out to defy laws that they believe are wrong. These functional rebels help to change the collective conscience and laws based on it, to help society to function more effectively. Example - African National Congress leader Nelson Mandella who helped to overturn the racist system in South Africa
    3. Social cohesion - Durkheim points out that when horrific crimes have been committed, the entire community draws together in shared outrage. As a result, the sense of belonging to a community strengthens. 
  • Kingsley Davis (1937) - argued that crime could be useful as a safety valve which allowed minor criminality to avoid bigger problems. Example - men buying the services of prostitutes will lead to stabilisation of the institution of marriage.
  • Albert Cohen (1993) - argued crime could boost employment and the economy by creating jobs for police and others who work in criminal justice. He also believes crime can act as a type of early warning mechanism showing that society going wrong. These can then be corrected before too much damage is done. 
  • Critique - LeftRealists Lea and Young (1993) argued that crime can cause real problems for victims, especially those who are already disadvantaged. 
  • Critique -  RightRealists Wilson and Kelling (1982) discussed the harm that crime can do to community cohesion and informal social control. Crime can lead to the breakdown of law and order with disastrous consequences for those in affected areas

Negative aspects of Crime

  • Durkheim also argued that too much crime can have negative consequences. It can lead to anomie and egoism.
  • Anomie - occurs when there are periods of great social change and the collective conscience becomes unclear. Example - a revolution or rapid economic change. The old values and norms may come under challenge without new values and norms becoming established. 
  • Egoism - occurs when the…


No comments have yet been made