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Functionalism and Crime and Deviance

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Functionalism and crime:

Functionalist aim to explain why modern society are characterised by social order. There is a consensus about basic values which helps to maintain order. Such order is potentially under threat from crime and deviance. Social control is put into place however to prevent crime and ‘polices the boundaries’ of what is acceptable and what isn't. There are two types of social control, formal and informal. Formal control is achieved through writing laws and rules with agencies such as police who monitor and punish those who do not follow these laws and rules. Informal control is aimed at non illegal crimes such as adultery where it teachers them what is right and wrong and hopefully steers them away from committing these actions.

Firstly, Durkheim is used to explain the functionalist perspective. Durkheim believes that we all share the same norms and values in society and if we deter away from these normal and values then agents of social order such as the police or law put us back in place. HE argued that this creates a collective conscience between society where everyone knows what's right and wrong and therefore creates a stable society. Durkheim however, also said that some crime is inevitable for society and that it acts as a positive function for society. Durkheim used the example of a society of saints and said that if we lived in a society of saints then crime wouldn't exist but that would mean that the slightest thing that we do that could be viewed as deviant such as not holding the door open for someone could be seen as deviance and cause chaos. Durkheim, similarly to that last point said crime is relative to the society that you are in and an example would be that showing your shoulders would be seen as normal in somewhere like the UK but in some parts of Africa it is seen as deviant and going against the norms and values. Durkheim argued that as well as crime being inevitable it also has many positive functions and said that it allows for social change to occur. Crime allows for the society to see what is wrong within society and change to make them right and Durkheim quotes ‘Yesterday's deviance must become todays normality’. However, he does take into account that with social change can come crime in the idea that when social change changes the collective conscience becomes blurred and people lose sight of the norms and values and results in them acting deviant. Durkheim coined that process as ‘Anomie’ where the individual and societies bonds break down and the collective conscience collapses. However, Durkheim has been heavily critiqued with his idea that crime is inevitable and sociologist argue that ideas of social change stopping deviance and creating a more stable society it actually produces more deviancy as people never understand fully the correct norms and values within society and this leads to a unstable society.

Next, Merton and his idea of the American dream. Merton is closely tied with Marxist but his ideas and values are more for the functionalist and he identities with functionalism. Meron argues that in a capitalist society the aim that is sent out to everyone is that life is about money and being financially stable or if lucky to be very rich. Merton argues that within this process the ways of achieving wealth become blurred and people obtain it in any way that they can such as crime. Merton uses the example of ‘The American Dream’. Merton says that people are set out with these ideas about how they should live their lives and in this theory, the American dream refers to the white picket fence house and the family and with money and stability. However, Merton argued that although this idea is what most people strive towards not everyone can obtain this lifestyle due to the opportunities they have within society. This angers most people and causes a strain between goals and the means to obtaining these goals. This ultimately leads to anomie as people don't want to conform to the mainstream society anymore. Merton argued that when this strain happens 4 types of groups are created as a result. Innovators, people who accept the goals but reject the means to obtaining them. Ritualists, people who give up trying and just live their life as normal with no opportunity of moving up the status ladder. Retreatists, people who withdraw from society and turn to drugs and alcohol. And, finally rebels are people who reject societies means. Merton is heavily criticised as he is said to ignore other aspects of why people can't move up in status and can't achieve goals such as the ‘American dream’ like Gender issues and how women aren’t looked upon as like men and therefore cannot achieve the same things.

Some Subcultural theorists such as Cohen use status frustration as a way to explain why crime occurs in society. Cohen argues that like merton, shared goals are what cause crime. Cohen looks at working class youths and says they feel status frustration. Cohen argues that working class youths don't succeed in school and therefore don't go on to do well in the wider society in aspects such



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