Evaluate functionalist theories of crime and deviance

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Evaluate Functionalists ideas of Crime and Deviance (45)

Crime refers to any act which goes against the written rules, laws, of society. It results in a formal negative sanction. For example, speeding will result in a punishment such as a fine. However, deviance refers to an act which goes against the unwritten rules, norms and values, of society. It results in an informal negative sanction. For example, someone with their whole body covered in tattoos may receive odd looks because of their image. Functionalists view society as a collective consensus, they argue that within a culture we all share the same norms and values. They see crime as inevitable, as a healthy part of society that will occur regardless.

Durkheim was a famous French sociologist. He saw society as a collective consensus, and humans as ‘homo duplex’, arguing that people have both a social side and an individual side. The individual side emerges when social bonds are weak, resulting in the person committing an act of deviance or crime. Durkheim also came up with the term anomie, a sense of normlessness within society. This is when there is a disagreement on the norms and values. He also argued that crime is inevitable, and it would happen within society regardless. Durkheim also argued that crime was on one hand necessary and functional for society, but then went on to say that is was also harmful and dysfunctional. He argued that a certain amount of crime is good for society, and that it can bring a community together in order for them to agree on what is right and wrong, and also initiate change. For example, protesting will lead to attention upon that certain topic, and potentially change. Crime can also provide people with work, and purpose.
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However, there are many criticisms of Durkheim. Chambliss argues that the laws aren’t part of a collective consensus, they are decided on by the capitalist elite who rule society. Chambliss argues that laws are anything that threatens the capitalist elite’s interests. Another critique of Durkheim is Merton, who argues that people commit crime due to the strain they feel. Durkheim also fails to distinguish the different types of crime, he talks about them in very vague terms.

Merton came up with The Strain Theory. He argued that many people within society, feel under strain and pressure to ...

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