Outline and assess functionalist explanations for crime and deviance (50marks) When regarding crime and deviance, there is on-going debate between Functionalists, Marxists and Interactionists. Functionalism is a structural approach that sees human behaviour as shaped by external factors and is a consensus theory whereby it sees society as built by shares values that maintain order, this has influenced approaches such as Right Realism. Functionalist such as Durkheim and Merton view social structure within society as an explanation of crime and deviance rather than the circumstances of the individual. On the contrary, Interactionists hold an interpretivist approach and believes that the explanation of crime and deviance is due to how we label individuals and how those individuals live up to their self-fulfilling prophecy. Whereas, Marxists believe that capitalism creates potential criminals.
Deviance, on the other hand, is behaviour which moves away from conventional norms and values such as burping and farting in public. If what is considered to be crime and deviance changes, it can’t be inherently wrong but must be culturally specific. Emile Durkheim speaks of crime as being functional to society. According to item A, ‘the publicity given to crime highlights the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.' Durkheim expands on this saying we are aware of these boundaries following social reactions to deviance.
Assess Functionalist Approaches to the Study of Crime and Deviance Functionalists such as Emile Durkheim, Robert Merton and Albert Cohen all attempt to explain the nature and extent of crime in today’s society. In essence, Functionalists argue that society is based on value consensus and social solidarity which is sustained via socialisation and social control mechanisms within society. Emile Durkheim states that whilst crime is obviously a social negative with the ultimate power to destabilise society, he stands by the claim that crime is inevitable, universal, and integral to a healthy society and even having positive benefits. He claims that crime occurs in society due to two fundamental reasons; firstly, not everyone is effectively socialised to the same norms and values which leads to people being prone to deviation and secondly, due to the diverse lifestyle and subcultures in contemporary society, subcultures act out different norms and values and what members of that subculture regard as normal, mainstream culture may deem it as deviancy. The Functionalist approach to the study of crime states that crime has two positive functions for society.
What is anomie and what are the conditions that cause anomie? Anomie is a term in which may be describe as a personal condition resulting from a lack of norms. It also can be referred to the fairly of society to regulate goals of human desire. Anomie can also be observed through different effects that can lead to criminal and deviant behavior such as suicide. Anomic theory is considered a sociological theory that tries to explain the pattern of crimes through macro level of analysis.
The main objective of criminology is to find possible causes of crime and deviance; which will help in the decline of crime within society. Criminologists understand that there is a difference between deviance and crime; however, deviance is the beginning stages to a life of crime. Deviance is defined as the
Crime is defined as “an act prohibited and punished by law” (Collins, 2006) but there has been much debate about what ‘crime’ is. Harm, social agreement and official societal response are the three key elements of determining crime. A relationship exists between the three key concepts that would determine whether or not an act is a crime. If an action caused harm then society would be outraged and would create a law to punish those responsible and prohibit further acts occurring. From this emerged the consensus position on crime which states that crimes are acts that produce intense moral outrage amongst society (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2003).
When we consider theories that are most applicable to the idea of a social institution and how they may apply to organized crime or criminal behavior in generally it is important to consider at least two theories. The Rational Choice Theory and the Theory of Differential Association are two theories that attempt to allow us to gain insight as to how social institution can not only be responsible for creating organized crime but also allude to criminal behaviors and allow us to see how individuals can come to a decision to choose their live their life in this fashion. Rational theory believes organized crime groups can make rational decisions when pertaining to crime and the groups know right from wrong and possess free will. The rational theory believes in harsher penalty and quicker approach when it comes with dealing with criminals. The rational theory offenders discover that committing a crime was not worth it.
The first explorations of deviance and crime was done by Durkheim who identified two different sides of crime for the functioning of society: positive and negative. According to Durkheim, crime was necessary for society. He argued that the basis of society was a set of shared values that guide our actions, which he named the collective conscience. The collective conscience provides boundarie which distinguishes between actions that are acceptable and those that are not. The problem for any society is that these boundaries are unclear and change over time.
they believe in shared values and consensus in society and talk about the march of progress which is that everything is getting better. The founding father of sociology, Durkheim who is a functionalist tries to explain the causes and extent of deviance in society as well as Merton who puts forward his strain theory. Durkheim believed that crime is necessary, inevitable and functional for society so much that without it society wouldn’t function without a certain amount of crime. However, he does recognise that too much crime is bad for society and causes it to be dysfunctional and break down. He therefore says the amount of crime is the important factor.
And Secondary Deviance, he suggested, was the idea criminality is a response to being labelled as deviant. The deviant label then becomes the individual’s master status, and the deviance is used as a means of attack, defence or adjustment to the societal reaction to the label/stigma they carry (Lemert, 1951). Social reaction is a fundamental concept in relation to crime, and changing definitions of crime are also evident; over time and between cultures, what gets labelled as a crime has shifted, highlighting cultural variations regarding what society labels as criminal. This reaction to crime may be criminogenic – meaning tending to produce crime or criminality as a result of reaction and labelling, highlighting the extent to which labelling is present in the establishment of criminal identity. Howard Becker developed his theory of labelling - also known as social reaction theory - in the 1963 book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance.