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Evaluate the view that structuralist theories of crime place too much emphasis upon the social structure as a stimulus to crime and not enough on the meaning of the act to the individual.

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Evaluate the view that structuralist theories of crime place too much emphasis upon the social structure as a stimulus to crime and not enough on the meaning of the act to the individual. (50 marks). In crime and deviance, the main two stucturalist theories are Functionalism and Marxism. Structuralist theories in sociology give priority to the analysis of social structures, rather than the individual. Both Functionalist and Marxist theories are macro theories, this makes them top down as they look at how society shaped the individual. Emile Durkheim is a key functionalist who suggests that societies could only exist if the members shared certain common beliefs which he called the 'collective conscience'. Functionalists believe that every part of society has a function and compared society to the human body, claiming that each part of society has to do its job in order to function properly just as in the human body. However, Marxism, a perspective that emerged from the work of Karl Marx stresses the role of conflict in society. They believe that the ruling class exploit the working class and that laws are a key tool in this process. ...read more.


As is shown here Merton's theory is really a continuation of Durkheim's theories. There are five forms of behaviour which can be understood as a strain between goals and means. Conformist- here the individual continues to adhere to both goals and means despite the limited chance of success. Innovator- is a person who accepts the goals of society but uses criminal or deviant means to reach them. Ritualist- is a person who uses accepted means but has lost sight of the actual goal. Retreatist- is where the individual ejects both the goals and the means, often become homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Rebel- again rejects both the goals and the means but this time replaces them with his own ones e.g. a political activist. Merton was criticised by Valier for his stress on the existence of a common goal in society, he argues there are a variety of goals in any given society. Some sub cultural theories are functionalist from origin, for example Albert Cohen (1955) who combined both structural and sub cultural theories of deviance. Cohen believed that deviance collective rather than an individual response and criticised Merton's work for ignoring on0-utilitarian crimes such as vandalism which provide no financial reward. ...read more.


Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label." So what he is saying is that it is not the act itself which is deviant, it's only deviant when someone puts a label on it. This view has been criticised for suggesting that deviants are no different than normal every day people. Being labelled deviant has many consequences for that person, a clear example of this comes from Edwin Lemert who distinguished between primary and secondary deviance. Primary deviance is rule breaking with little importance and secondary deviance is the consequences of the response from others - this is significant. The person labelled as deviant will eventually see themselves as bad. Becker used the term master status to describe this and says that once a label had successfully been applied to an individual all other qualities become unimportant. In conclusion it appears that the structuralist theorists do base too much emphasis on social structure and can be seen to ignore the individual. I feel that it is important to look at the factors why a person turns to crime as after all prevention is better than cure. Stucturalist theorists try too hard to put everyone into categories when everyone is different and has their own reasons for choosing to commit crime or not. ?? ?? ?? ?? Vickie Annear Page 1 of 3 ...read more.

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