Functionalism and Crime and Deviance Essay

913 Words Sep 8th, 2013 4 Pages
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches in explaining crime
(21 Marks)

Item A
Functionalist sociologists focus on how far individuals accept the norms and values of society. Central to their study of crime is the attempt to understand why people break the rules of society.
Despite their focus on the importance of shared norms and values, functionalists see a small amount of crime as necessary and beneficial to society. The publicity given to crime highlights the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
However, the beneficial effects of crime for society are limited; too much crime can indicate problems.

Durkheim looks at how crime and deviance is inevitable and needed in
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Furthermore Durkheim doesn’t specify how much crime is good for society before we fall into anomie. New Right sociologists such as Murray would be critical of this as they believe that subcultures which carry out criminal and deviant acts form an underclass which threatens society on the whole rather than strengthening ‘boundary maintenence.However Durkheim doesn’t state why people commit crimes, another functionalist who did was Merton.

Merton developed a ‘strain theory’ building on Durkheim’s work. He said that crime was largely committed as a result of individuals not being able to achieve the goals impressed upon them by society (in his case the American Dream). This led people to turn to unconventional means in order to achieve these goals as they believe that happiness wealth and success are all interchangeable. While Merton does accept that everyone is different, he categorizes people into 5 adaptations to the strain; conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. Merton can be criticized as it is hard to believe that all people fit into 5 distinct categories with no overlaps. Furthermore Merton fails to explain non - utilitarianism crime, lots of crime is committed which does not financially benefit the criminals for example vandalism. Merton also fails to explain crime and deviance that isn’t committed as an individual

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