Topic 1- Functionalist, strain and subcultural theories

  • Created by: mya_xoxo
  • Created on: 08-02-19 11:05

Durkheim’s functionalist theory  

Functionalists see society as based on value consensus (sharing common culture, norms, rules, beliefs and goals). They say that the shared norms gives solidarity and gives individuals things to strive for and how to conduct themselves. They argue society has two key functions in order to maintain solidarity;

Socialisation: Instils the shared culture into its members, makes sure individual internalise the same norms and values to be able to act in the correct way.

Social Control: Mechanisms include rewards for conformity and punishments for deviance. These help to ensure individuals behave in the way society expects

The inevitability of crime

Functionalists see crime as inevitable, for Durkheim he sees crime as normal and an integral part of healthy societies’. They argue the reasons for crime is that not everyone is equally socialised into shared norms and values, and in complex modern societies there are lots of Subcultures and what is seen as deviant in society may be seen as a norm in a subculture.

In Durkheim’s view modern societies tend towards anomie, the rules governing behaviour become weaker and less clear cut. This is due to the specialised division of labour, this leads of individuals being distinctly different from each other resulting in the weakening of a shared culture or collective conscience and results in higher levels of deviance. In addition he also sees anomie as a cause of suicide.

The positive functions of crime

For Durkheim crime fulfils two important functions;

Boundary Maintenance: Crimes produce a reaction from societies and unties them, when they see members of society being sent to prison it reinforces the commitment to shared norms and values.

Durkheim argues that punishment is not to make the individual suffer or mend his ways, nor to remove them from society, in his view it is to reaffirm societies shared rules and reinforce social solidarity.

Adaption and change: For Durkheim al change starts with an act of deviance. Individuals with new ideas, values and ways of living must be deviant to challenge existing norms and values. If this act of deviance is supressed society will be unable to adapt and make necessary changes.

For Durkheim neither high nor low levels of crime are desirable. Each of these signals some malfunctioning in the social system.

  • Too much crime tears the bonds of society apart
  •  Too little means society is repressing and controlling its members too much, stifling individual freedom and preventing change.

Other functions of crime

Kingsley Davos- prostitution acts as a safety valve for the release of men’s sexual frustrations without threatening the monogamous nuclear family.

Ned Polsky- *********** safely channels a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives, for example adultery, which would pose as a threat to the nuclear family

Albert Cohen- deviance is a warning that an institution isn’t functioning how it should be.


  •  For Durkheim, society requires a certain amount of deviance to function successfully, but he offers no way of knowing how much crime is the


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