Describe and Assess Functionalist Approaches to Crime

Authors Avatar by liam_curran1996hotmailcouk (student)

Functionalist approaches to crime begins with Durkheim who argued that crime is functional because it can bring a society together and therefore social change, and one example of this is with the civil rights movement and martin luther king, where it was a crime to sit on a certain place on a bus. Evidence for this is the Civil rights movement and led to massive social change and change in the law for black people. He also seen it as inevitable because there will always be people who disagree with the social structure of that society, who won’t share the same norms and values as with society. Durkheim also seen crime as normal because it happens across every society and is therefore normal, which doesn’t mean individual crimes are normal, just the occurrence of all crime. This therefore means that Durkheim sees punishment not as something to hurt the wrongdoer but is there to reaffirm society’s cultural norms and values. Which can explain why things like homosexuality are punished in other society’s while not in more western society’s. Merton agrees with Durkheim in his strain theory in which he says people learn behaviour from socialisation and we achieve success (American/British dream) by trying to follow to cultural norms and the institutionalised means. When people realise they can’t achieve material success, they either rebel, innovate or withdraw, which all reject the institutionalised means and when large scale crime occurs, is when we have a state of anomie which is normlessness. However, Merton sees crime as a working class phenomenon and it is very deterministic as he says the working class experience the most strain, yet they don’t all deviate.

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Secondly, A.K Cohen in ‘55 agrees with Merton that crime is largely committed by the working class and he says it results from the inability to achieve mainstream middle class goals through the institutionalised means such as educational achievement. Cohen focuses on working class boys who struggle to adapt to the middle class goals and values to achieve material success which leaves them at the bottom of the social hierarchy and as a result of this they suffer status frustration and they then resolve this by meeting up with other working class boys to form their own delinquent subcultures ...

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