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Evaluate the functionalist approach to understanding crime in society.

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Introduction

EVALUATE THE FUNCTIONALIST APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING CRIME IN SOCIETY Functionalism is the sociological theory of how or why society functions and how it remains in a state of stability. Theoretically it tries to explain the role all people within society have, from children to criminals, in order to maintain stability. It is a control theory where boundaries are set for people to adhere. The point at which a crime is commited or a boundery is crossed would be determined by the culture of each individual society. In different countries there would have to be variations of these bounderies, this would be inevitable because of the different culture within each society. For a functionalist society to work several key aspects have to be in place. Society as a whole must agree to the way society is structured and ordered, this is known as a 'structural consensus' theory. Functionalism is a 'macro' theory. In general it attempts to understand society as whole using large systems. Functionalists view society like the human body. This could be called a 'body of society' or 'organic analogy'. For the 'body of society' to function all of the internal organs or social structures must work effectively and efficiently. These social structures are law and order, parliament and government, religion, the economy and employment, family, mass media, and education. ...read more.

Middle

He believed that society was closer together because the people could see for themselves criminal acts taking place across boundaries, which they themselves enforce. By responding to crime with unity it helps society to maintain the morals and values of social solidarity. Traditionally, the public punishment of the guilty party was used in the condemning of crime, this continues with the advance of technology - the mass media. Horrendous crimes are widely publicised uniting society in expressing outrage both at the crime itself and those committing them. A recent example of this is the case of Myra Hindley. The mass media kept showing archive footage, thus reminding society how evil she is or was. There is also one significant photograph of Myra Hindley, which is shown time and time again, this is used to promote anger against her. The public outrage towards her put an enormous amount of pressure on the Home Secretary; this resulted in several parole attempts being refused. Durkheim felt that a crime free society could not be achieved for it would create a repressive society, this would constrict society from changes. Although he did not agree with crime he noted its positive functions whilst acknowledging that some crimes in particular could be dysfunctional and break up society. Travis Hirschi had an alternative theory to Durkheim. ...read more.

Conclusion

Most people fall under this category and Merton believed that for this reason society remains stable. The other four types of behaviour are categorised by Merton as deviant, although each has a different level. Innovation comprises of people who accept the social goals of society but commit crime in order to achieve them. Petty thieves and 'con men' are put into this category along with the unemployed and low skilled workers. The second type of deviant behaviour, according to Merton, is Ritualism. In this category people go through the motions of everyday life having become distant of their initial goals. Passion within the individual would be lost, and Merton argues that because society sets the goals, lack of desire to fulfil these goals is deviant in itself. Retreatism is the next category in which people fall into deviant acts. People reject society's goals and the means in which they are achieved. Merton thought that these are people who have dropped out of society, like tramps, drug addicts and alcoholics. They could also be small groups who live together similar to religious cults and new-age travellers. The last and most deviant reaction is rebellion, which would result in anomie. Groups or individuals would rebel against all values and goals set by the dominant part of society and actively fight against it. Political radicals and anti-capitalists are current examples of this. Functionalism, as previously discussed, is a macro theory, unlike the psychological approach which is a micro theory. ...read more.

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