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Critically evaluate the various sociological theories of crime and deviance including: Functionalist, Marxist, Labelling and Subcultural.

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Critically evaluate the various sociological theories of crime and deviance including: Functionalist, Marxist, Labelling and Subcultural. Deviance can be described as: "Nonconformity with existing/traditional social norms. This nonconformity is often said to be pathological when it challenges power and privilege; yet it is said to be indicative of innovation or creativity when the gatekeepers of morality approve it. A loaded term, deviancy is a negative asset when the environment is stable but can be a positive asset to a society when the environment is irreversibly changing." Each perspective asks different questions and focuses on different issues regarding crime and deviance. They have different ideas about the causes of crime. Subcultural theories on crime and deviance were developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s from the works of Albert Cohen(1955) and Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin(1960). They suggested that people react to forces 'external' to them, this leads them to behave in certain ways. Their behaviour is determined by social causes. Criminals behave differently from non-criminals. Subcultural theorists have attempted to seek the causes of these differences, they claim to have identified malfunctions in the social order. These malfunctions are seen to be rectifiable by different types of social engineering e.g. Social reform, social welfare and education. Crimes are 'social facts' and therefore must have 'social causes'. Criminals are not seen as 'abnormal' individuals by subcultural theorists, but as social actors influenced by social causes. ...read more.


He reinforces what Backer had previously said: "deviance is not a property inherent in certain forms of behaviour, it is a property conferred upon these forms by the audiences which directly or indirectly witness them". He suggests, however, that deviance is necessary to society's stability, rather than being responsible for its breakdown, as the deviant individual serves as a marker of the difference between good and evil, right and wrong Becker examines some of the criticisms made of the theory in "Labelling Theory Reconsidered" (1974). Firstly, however, he says that, rather than being an all-encompassing theory of deviance, labelling 'theory' was created as "a way of looking at a general area of human activity". It is not, he claims "a theory, with all the achievements and obligations that go with the title, nor focused so exclusively on the act of labelling as some have thought". One of the main criticisms of labelling theory, is that it is deterministic, and that it treats the individuals as if they were no more than passive organisms, led into certain behaviour by the act of labels being given to it, and following behaviour patterns as a mere result of behaviour patterns that go with it. This ignores the 'social actor' theory. Functionalist Emile Durkhiem believed that societies are held together by shared values and economic dependence. He considered that society would collapse if values are not reaffirmed and passed from one generation to another. ...read more.


Marxists suggested that the law is controlled by the powerful, this was supported by their idea of the manipulation of values, where the mainstream of the society, the court, the police etc. are predominantly middle class and would be bias towards the ruling class people. Law creation is another one as Marxists suggested that members of the parliament whom are mainly from the bourgeoisie pass most laws. They have the ability to manipulate themselves to the laws. Law creation and law enforcement happens in consistently to show why people in control tends to be bias. Marxists also support the information provided from the criminal statistics as it gives evidence to support their idea that working class people commit more crimes than middle class males. On the other hand, criminal statistics was challenged by left realists who believe that criminal statistics is the reality and therefore we should accept it, along with the solutions to attempt to solve the problems to tackle the high levels of crime. Marxist approach in explaining deviant behaviour is only reliable to some extent. Along with the contradictions from other perspectives, it shows that improvements can be added to their ideas. Marxists mainly concentrated on the class distribution and stress that they the ruling class control the norms and values of the society. It will not be classed as deviant unless the bourgeoisie say so and they will not say so unless a working class person commits it. Kate Attreed 1 ...read more.

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