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5. The functionalist explanation of crime and deviance

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Tara Doherty

on 24 June 2013

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Transcript of 5. The functionalist explanation of crime and deviance

Hirschi argues that we should focus on a different question from ' why criminals commit crime'. We should instead ask why people do not commit crime.
We should examine the controls placed on people and he argues that crime occurs when these controls are weakened or broken.
This is linked to anomie and are products of deregulation.
5. The Functionalist explanation of crime & Deviance
Functionalists believe that society is good and that order is necessary. - We would assume then that deviance and crime would be a negative thing.
However functionalist believe that some crime and deviance is beneficial for the social system
Durkheim and the inevitability of crime
Cohen (1955)
Cohen (1955) agrees with Merton that anomie is a central problem in modern societies.
However he argues that those at the bottom of the system develop a 'subculture of criminality'- with their own norms and values.
He also argues that a lot of crime produces little material reward - e.g joyriding.
This occurs b
ecause those at the bottom of the social system develop
status frustration
as they cannot achieve the goals of society.
They realise they can not achieve a feel a lack of self esteem so this is solved by destroying the things they can not have.
Hirschi (1969)
High rates of crime are negative because the social order benefits everyone, as anarchy would mean that the weak would suffer.
In this sense functionalists draw on the work of
(1651) who argued that in a state of nature, life would be solitary, nasty, brutish and short.
He believed that people were naturally greedy and selfish and the strong would prey upon the weak
Durkheim & Social order
Durkheim argued that social order is possible because people have a 'homo - duplex' nature (they are selfish but capable of learning morality).
Society controls peoples instincts through the integration and regulation of behaviour.
Social order is essential for the protection of the weak and crime and deviance is discouraged.
The prevention of crime and deviance benefits society and the individuals within it.
Functionalists would argue that disorder and crime mean that the weak can be preyed upon by roaming vigilante bands, women can be raped and the old abused.
Social development and progress are limited and all suffer; thus crime and deviance need to be limited so that all can benefit.
Crime and deviance can act as a warning device.
Some acts warn of problems that exist in the system.
Action can then be can taken to address the problem.
E.g School truancy may be a signal of a wider problem....
Crime and deviance can help society progress.
People who challenge existing norms and values help create new and better ways of living.
E.G suffragettes
Crime and deviance provide employment.
The CJS employes judges, court officials, prison guards, builders, police officers, lawyers etc. .......
This makes a significant contribution to the economy.
Crime and deviance act as a safety valve
Can release tension and anger - means greater problems do not occur.
E.G prostitution.
Crime and deviance may create social cohesion
Bond over loss & tragedy.
Society is strengthened.
Can also reaffirm boundaries of what is acceptable
The Benefits of Crime & Deviance
Complete your Drabble: Can you sum up the functionalist view in a 100 words?
Durkheim (1893) believed in consensus and the need for social order.
Crime is inevitable - product of a lack of attachment to the consensus over collective values
In society there are a variety of institutions and structures - this affects our behaviour and people will have different experiences within them. - it is impossible to have the same values.
Durkheim believed that the speed of change in modern society was likely to generate deviance and crime.
This is because the modern world rapidly re-invents itself - old traditions are lost.
The introduction of new economic processes and technology combined with social and economic mobility leave people feeling unsure about their place in the world - e.g old people texting.
This results in people losing their sense of what is normal. - They develop a sense of anomie (normlessness) - Crime and deviance are bound to increase.
While crime and deviance is inevitable, society must control them in order to survive.
Given the rapid pace of change, the potential for anomie that this creates and the increasing freedom in modern society.
The central problem is to maintain an attachment to collective values.
Where this fails we have crime.
Merton agreed with Durkheim that crime is the result of peoples attachment to collective values.
He tried to apply Durkheim's concept of
to US society (in 1930's)
His ideas have been used to explain the high levels of working class youth in crime statistics on crime and deviance.
American dream
Merton believed that while there is an overarching consensus, individuals are not equally capable of realising the goals of society.
This is illustrated by the 'American dream'. - anyone can achieve material success.
The central values of meritocracy and materialism is seen to be the goal of US society. People learn they must achieve wealth by working in institutions like education and work hard.
Crime happens because too much emphasis is placed on the goal of wealth.
Merton suggests individuals may react to this in a number of ways:
= non deviant
- develop new ways of achieving success = turn to crime for wealth (W/C).
- socialised into the goals - cant achieve so give up on goals of success (deviant) - go through the motions - not committed to the dream. (lower middle class)
- accept both goals and means but cannot achieve success. - They may become mad and withdraw from participation in society - eg homeless.
- These individuals seek to replace the existing goals of society with new ones = Truely deviant.
Merton believed that crime and deviance were caused by an emphasis on the goal of wealth and the inability of some to achieve this goal using legitimate means.
Anomie was created by this strain.
Merton's theory is called '
Strain theory'
While Merton is able to explain why people steal lead from a church roof, Cohen is able to explain why others vandalise buildings
Merton sees crime as an individuals response, whereas Cohen sees crime as a group response - a subculture is formed.
The differences in crime and deviance between social groups can be explained by reference to our increasingly materialistic society.
Peoples aspirations are even higher and these are bound to end in crime as few can achieve them through legitimate means.
Those most excluded will turn to crime to achieve them or vandalism to gain status
4 types of control or social bond = conformity.
1. Attachment - worried what others will think. E.g family friends.
2. Commitment - invest time in education or business - loss if they deviate - so wont.
3. Involvement - lack of time or opportunity to be involved in crime.
4. Belief - Commitment to cultural goals - value system of respecting authority and law.
This has had an impact as it has encouraged public shaming. -Why might this work according to Hirschi?
However the aim of reintegrative shaming is to allow the deviant back into the society and there then also need to be a process of forgiveness , apology to allow the offender back into the community.
Evaluation of the functionalist view
Firstly the main problem with Merton and Cohen's work is that they accept the validity of official statistics.
They see crime as a working class problem - ignores white collar crime.
The assumption is that all these crimes are recorded accurately and this might not be the case
Secondly functionalists fail to look at the mind of the deviant.
The deviants thoughts and feelings - all people do not respond in the same way.
People are regarded as simply responding to structural forces rather than as being active, thinking human beings.
A major problem with the functionalist view is that is does not adequately account for the origin of law.
Functionalists claim that the law represents everyone interests, but it is used by powerful groups to control weaker ones.
Conflict theorists would point to the way in which the law may defend the interests of dominant groups rather than the weak.
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