Sociology - Theories on Crime and Deviance - Functionalist Theory

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Emile Durkheim

One of the earliest sociologists to look at crime and deviance (1938)

Argued that crime has four key characteristics

  • Inevitable - crime will always exist, it can be reduced but never eliminated
  • Universal - crime exists in every society
  • Relative - crime is a social construct, criminal behaviour varies from society to society and over time
  • Functional - a limited amount of crime and deviance can actually benefit a society


Argued that many types of crime exist because society shares the same "American Dream", but not everyone can achieve these things lawfully.

A strain exists between the goals and ambitions of people and their ability to acheieve them.

Merton argued there were five different ways to respond to the "American Dream"

  • Conformity - the response of the majority, means going to school, gaining qualifications and trying to acheive the "American Dream" by…



This is great. I like the way you've summarised it. Detailed enough without paraphrasing from the book. Thank you :)

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