Outline and Evaluate Functionalist Explanation of Crime.

1442 Words Oct 18th, 2010 6 Pages
Functionalism is a consensus structuralist theory, which sees the source of crime and deviance located in the structure of society. Although crime and deviance might be stigmatised in society, some sociologist think it is important to have it occur and there are some benefits to it.

Durkheim (1982) argued that crime is an inevitable feature of social life, because individuals are composed to different influences and circumstances, and so not everyone can be equally committed to the shared values and moral beliefs of society. Despite crime and deviance’s threat to society, Durkheim saw it as beneficial as it could perform positive functions in society, such as, firstly; By strengthening collective values. Values can waste away unless
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But some people do not accept goals like financial success, and, for example, may value job satisfaction and helping others more than income. Secondly; He focuses on individual responses, and doesn’t recognize that there is a social pattern of crime and deviance affecting whole groups of people, linked to social class, age, ethnicity, gender. Thirdly; he doesn’t explain why most people who face strain do not turn to crime or other deviance. Finally; he doesn’t recognize that there may be many outwardly respectable, apparently conforming successful people who are innovators engaged in illegal activities, as in white collar or corporate crimes.

There are other theories that build on Merton’s work, but they focus on the position of groups in the social structure rather than just on individuals, and how these groups adapt in different ways to the strain facing them in achieving social goals.

Cohen is one of these sociologists who argues that working-class youth believe in the success goals of mainstream culture, but their experiences of failure in education, living in deprived areas and having the worst chances in the job market all mean that they are denied status in mainstream society. They react to this by forming their own set of values- a delinquent subculture. This subculture is based on rebelling the accepted form of behaviour, for example, stealing replaces hard work. This gives the working-class youth an opportunity to achieve some status in
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