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Functionalism & Crime

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lisa james

on 29 June 2016

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Transcript of Functionalism & Crime

Rapid Social Change
Functionalism & Crime
Causes of crime
Solutions to lowering crime
Critique of Functionalism


Be able to demonstrate:

through keyword application and the completion of a 40 mark Past examination paper

Why Functionalist theories believe Anomie causes crime
Durkheim saw crime as a particular problem of modernity
(the transformation into an industrialised society)

He felt an understanding of crime and deviance was
essential in order to understand how society functioned.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917, pictured left) was the first sociologist to study crime and significantly
influenced the functionalist theory that would follow.

Durkheim saw Anomie expressed not just through crime,
but also by suicide, marital breakdown, and industrial disputes.

There is a weaker collective conscience of shared
values to guide actions.

They are consequently more at risk of
breaking them.

In times of social change individuals may become
unsure of prevailing norms and rules

Anomie causes individuals to look out for
themselves rather than the community.

Anomie causes society to become less
integrated and more individualistic

Anomie means being insufficiently
integrated into society’s norms and values.

Emile Durkheim developed the term anomie to explain why
some people became dysfunctional and turned to crime.

Durkheim and Anomie

Task: What behaviours demonstrated in
society today could cause anomie? and what solutions would you propose to reduce them - 5 mins
Mechanical to
organic solidarity

Crime can be:




However, a certain amount of crime could be viewed
positively, helping to promote change and reinforce values. (Consensus crimes)

Durkheim saw high levels of crime and deviance as very negative for society causing uncertainty and disruption

'Crime and Deviance Can Be Both
Positive and Negative'

How and Why?
A social
Will always
Exists everywhere
A limited
amount is
for society
Evaluate Durkheim's assertions;
Can you provide examples for the above?
Crime is functional for society.
Boundaries of acceptable behaviours are made known by the arrest of those who transgress/break the rules.
Strengthens social bonds between people and reaffirms values when they are drawn together by horrific crimes.
Public opinion on crime acts like a gauge and can cause change in the law (eg Megan’s law-USA and Sarah's Law-UK)

It is impossible for everyone to be equally committed to the norms and values to society. “Even in a society of saints a distinction would be made between what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.”
“Because there are differences between people, there will always be those who step over the boundary of acceptable behaviour.”

There is no society where there is no crime.
Abnormal levels of crime occur in times of social upheaval – the power of the collective conscience is weakened and a state of anomie develops as people look after their own interests rather than respecting their neighbours.
Individualism can therefore be seen as a source of crime and\or deviance.

Crime is Normal

Functionalism provides a normative definition of crime and deviance.
That means – it is action which consists of a violation of social norms.
It presents an image of society in which exist shared norms and values.
The deviant is the person who breaks these shared norms and values.
Fundamental to the functionalist philosophy is the idea that society is underpinned by consensus.
Durkheim claims that society shares a set of ‘core values’ (ie the collective conscience).
The more behaviour deviates from these core values the more likely such behaviour is seen as ‘deviant’

The ‘normative’ approach

Bullet point as many + and - of Durkheim's theory. 2 minutes
But he cannot explain why some people are more deviant than others.

He links anomie to a deregulated, more individualistic, industrial society.

Durkheim's work is important for offering a social dimension to crime.

Demonstrates the useful purpose served by crime (ie highlights inconsistencies within the social structure, reinforces the collective conscience etc..)
Offers an explanation that emphasizes a social (as opposed to a physiological/psychological) dimension to crime.
Explains the reason for unhealthy levels of crime which could be altered by social engineering (eg introducing new laws, governmental policies etc..).
Avoids biological/psychological theories which refer to ‘sick’ individuals.

Functionalism evaluated 1

Does not explain individual motivations and why only some people commit crime.
It assumes harmony and that the law reflects the interests of the majority,
in doing so it ignores the issue of power (ie who has it and who hasn’t)
Over emphasis on the degree of consensus in society. May result in a pessimistic approach regarding the control of crime (more laws, stricter policing, harsher sentencing etc…)

Functionalism evaluated 2

He altered anomie to mean a society where there is a disjunction between goals and the means of achieving them.

But he recognised that not everyone has the same
opportunity to share these goals and values.

As a functionalist, he recognised the importance of shared goals and values of society – in the USA particularly the ‘American Dream’.

Robert Merton (1910-2003, pictured left) regarded the concept of 'anomie' as used by Durkheim as too vague, so he developed its meaning.

Robert Merton’s
Strain Theory

Strain theory is a term used to explain how crime is a result of certain groups
being placed in a position where they are unable to conform to the norms and values of society
Many Sociologists use the terms subculture and strain interchangeably (although strictly speaking they are not the same thing e.g. Merton is a strain theorist who does not look at subculture.)

Merton argues that all societies have socially approved ways of achieving these goals.
Those lower down the class position have restricted goals. – the more likely you are to experience strain

Merton developed ‘strain theory’ to reflect the strain
between goals and means with a five-fold 'anomic paradigm‘:

Strain Theory and the Anomic Paradigm

Criticised by Valier (2001) for his over emphasis on the existence of common goals.
Valier argues that there are a variety of goals that people strive for at any one time.

Home study:

Critique Merton, feedback next lesson
Being blocked from success leads to deviance, as ‘innovators’ they adopt illegitimate means to achieve the goals they cannot achieve legitimately.

Merton’s theory is 'structural‘: he locates the cause of crime in American society – support for the “American Dream”.

Merton’s theory only explains crimes that involve profit making. E.g. stealing a car and selling it on is innovation, but what about stealing a car and setting fire to it?

Laurie Taylor described it as the
“fruit machine theory of crime”

However, as a functionalist he cannot explain
where the rules come from in first place.

His work became a direct inspiration to subcultural theory

He can explain different patterns of deviance: for example, one person may steal (innovator) while another may take drugs (retreatist).

Rather than the factors that drive
a minority into deviant behaviour.

To answer this, he argues, we need to understand
what forces maintain conformity for most people in society.

He asks the question: why don't
more people commit crime than they do?

Another key sociologist to be influenced by Emile
Durkheim and the concept of anomie is Travis Hirschi .

Travis Hirschi

Belief: how committed are individuals
to upholding society's rules and laws?

Involvement: how integrated are we so that we neither have the time nor inclination to behave in a deviant/criminal way.

Commitment: the personal investment we put into our lives; in other words, what we have to lose if we turn to crime and get caught.

Attachment: the extent to which we care
about other people's opinions and desires.

He identified four bonds of attachment that help bind society together:

He argued that indivs. are fundamentally
selfish, and when freed from societal
constraints they are free to make rational
calculations of the cost/benefits of
engaging in criminal activity
What evidence is there that this
assertion is correct?
He rejected any psychological explanation
of crime or deviance
He argued that social control can be achieved by the social bonds (not psychological) which help individuals bond to societies norms and values
so....... attachment is not measured by
some subjective feeling but by the degree of
intimacy of social power relations between
e.g. parent/child, teachers/pupils.
...... If the degree of intimacy is intense, the
subordinate in the relationship in the relationship is more likely to be (not feel) attached to the subordinate and therefore.... conform

Self-control theory - Gottfredson & Hirschi (90) have moved beyond this hypothesis
emphasis on social bonds as a restraint for criminal behaviour is incorrect
the idea of social bonds is not consistent with criminological findings
also reject notions of class and 'race' as explanatory variables because they are
'vague and meaningless'
they argue that most crime is not planned but undertaken for short term gratification in response to opportunities presented
find a correlation between age and crime; vastly adolescents & young adults
Power-control Theory
Hagan (89)
risk taking causes criminal behaviour
predisposition to risk is influenced by parenting. Particularly the power relationships between mothers & fathers
Modern society has taken decision making away from local communities in favour of centralised government control

Can you think of any ways the Govt. have done this?

 This has resulted in local people losing
interest in controlling their communities
 They then begin to regard themselves as powerless so they withdraw from their local communities.
 Etzioni argues that social control can only be asserted when local communities take back control of their environments and engage in direct action to control local crime

 Can you think of any examples of how communities might do this?

 However - CRITICISM

 Moore and Scourfield (2005) argue that Etzioni is legitimating the actions of vigilante groups – which are criminal and deviant, and destructive in communities – e.g. Gangs

Putnam (2000) Social Capital

Social capital is used to explain how communities prevents/facilitates crime

It refers to the extent to which a person has a network of social contacts made up of friends and family in a particular area

Putnam believes there has been a huge decline in social capital over the last 20 years; he blames individualism, the rise of television and social mobility.

He argues that communities with low levels of social capital are more likely to have higher rates of crime and anti-social behaviour.
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