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Functionalist approaches in sociology derive mainly from the work of Emile Durkheim at the end of the nineteenth century.

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Sociology Essay Functionalist approaches in sociology derive mainly from the work of Emile Durkheim at the end of the nineteenth century. He believed societies were held together by shared values and economic interdependence. There is always according to Durkheim, the possibility of collapse of society if the values are not constantly reaffirmed and passed on from one generation to the next. Therefore the maintenance of values is a crucial function of society. According to Durkheim, furthermore there are two important elements to understand crime, which can be seen as contradictory. A limited amount of crime is necessary and beneficial to society, so much so that society could not exist without some form of deviance. However, too much crime is bad for society and can assist to bring about its collapse. Thus the amount of crime determines what is beneficial or destructive for society. Marxists argue that society is dominated and controlled by those who own the 'commanding heights' of industry, commerce and finance. They believe the definition of what is criminal reflects the dominant social values. ...read more.


When this happens, the concept used by Durkheim to express this weakening of moral ties was that of anomie: In a literal sense, this concept can be taken to mean a state of normlessness - a situation in which no norms of behaviour are in action. One of the major criticisms of Durkheim's general work in relation to crime has been the idea that he ignores the way in which power is a significant variable in relation to the way in laws are created and maintained in any society. Thus, whilst Durkheim argued that the collective conscience was the objective _expression of the values held by everyone in society, Erikson ("Wayward Puritans", 1966) attempted to develop Durkheim's basic ideas about such things as the boundary setting function of law. He did this by arguing that powerful groups within any society were able to impose their views upon the majority by a process of ideological manipulation. Erikson was not attempting to disprove Durkheim's basic ideas but merely to strengthen and extend them by introducing a "refining concept" to the basic theoretical position. ...read more.


Marxists, however, reject this contention; for them the law is a reflection of the will of the powerful, although this may not always be immediately apparent. Marxists argue that, as economic power guarantees political and social power, the rich arent able to manipulate the rest of society and pass laws which benefit it. There are two ways in which the 'ruling class' ensure that laws favourable to themselves are passed. Firstly, the manipulation of values described above ensures that the debate on law and order is conducted within a framework of values sympathetic to the ruling class- this is known as setting the agenda. A second method is ensuring the ruling class has its way through the use of pressure group activity. Changes in the law are generally results from pressure group lobbying of the government. Not all laws, however, are seen to be entirely for the benefit of the ruling class. Clearly many laws do genuinely protect the working class- obvious ones would be the laws on rape, drunken driving and safety at work. Genuine concessions can be gained either when the interests of the powerful and the ordinary people overlap or when representative pressure groups are able to push through reforms in the interest of the wider population. ...read more.

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