Outline and Assess Functionalist Explanations for Crime and Deviance

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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. Functionalists believe that all crimes are functional and has both positive and negative effects to society. Durkheim, French sociologist, hold beliefs that “too much crime or deviance constitutes to a threat, too little is unhealthy”. The three main positives are that it reaffirms boundaries by the public degradation ceremonies such as criminal trails to remind everyone of social norms and to reinforce society’s toleration to deviance. Another positive is that crimes change values, when someone is prosecuted it results in public outcry which triggers sympathy, this changes values in society. For example, the battered wife retaliation act. Lastly, it creates social cohesion; when a terrible act is committed, society unites, shares outrage and creates a sense of belonging, this was particularly strong in the July 2005 London Bombings. Durkheim identifies that in pre-industrial societies crimes were rare because family and religion were powerful agencies of
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