Functionalist theory of crime and deviance

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Mind Map on Functionalist theory of crime and deviance, created by hannahmcgrath199 on 06/04/2014.

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hannahmcgrath199
Created by hannahmcgrath199 over 5 years ago
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Functionalist theory of crime and deviance
1 Functionalism is a consensus structuralist theory, which sees the source of crime and deviance located in the structure of society as a whole. It looks at the source of deviance in the nature of society rather than in the individual. A functionalists agree that social control mechanisms, such as the police and the courts are necessary to keep deviance in check and to protect social order. However, many agree that a certain amount of deviance has positive functions: this it even contributes to the maintenance and well-being of society.
2 Durkheim's theory
2.1 Durkheim argued that crime is an inevitable and mormal aspect of social life. According to Durkheim, crime is an 'integral part of all healthy societies. It is inevitable because not every member of society can be equally committed to the collective sentiments (the shared values and moral beliefs) of society.
2.2 Crime as inevitable
2.2.1 Crime is not only inevitable, it can also be functional. Durkheim argued that it only becomes dysfunctional when its unusually high or low.
2.3 Despite the potential threats of crime, he saw crime and deviance as necessary for society in the following ways:
2.3.1 1. By strengthening collective values. Values can 'atrophy' unless people are reminded of the boundaries between right and wrong behaviour.
2.3.2 2. By enabling social change. Some deviance is necessary to allow new ideas to develop, and enable society to change and progress.
2.3.3 3. By acting as a 'safety valve'. Deviance can act as a safety valve' releasing stresses in society.
2.3.4 4. By acting as a warning that society is not working properly.
2.4 Durkheim argued that the function of punishment was not to remove crime from society but to maintain the collective sentiments at the necessary level of strength.
2.5 In Durkheim's view, a healthy society requires both crime and punishment; both are inevitable, both are functional.
3 Merton's theory
3.1 Merton (1968) argued that deviance resulted from the culture and structure of society itself. Since members of society are placed in different positions in the social structure (e.g. class position), they do not have the same opportunity of realising the shared values. This situation can generate deviance.
3.2 Merton outlines five possible ways in which members of American society could respond to success goals:
3.2.1 1. The first and most common response is conformity. Members of society conform both to success goals and the normative means of reaching them,. They strive for success by means of accepted channels.
3.2.2 2. A second response is innovation. This response rejects normative means of achieving success and turns to deviant means, in particular, crime. Merton argues that members of a lower social strata are most likely to select this route to success, as their educational qualifications are usually low and their jobs provide little opportunity for advancement.
3.2.3 3. The third possible response is ritualism. Those who select this alternative are deviant because they have largelky abandoned the commonly held success goals. The pressure to adopt this alternative is greatest for members of the lower middle-class whose occupations provide less opportunity for success than those of other members of the middle class.
3.2.4 4. The forth, and least common response, is retreatism. It applies to 'psychotics, autists, pariahs, outcasts, vagrants, vagabonds, tramps, drunkards and drug addicts'. They have strongly internalised both the cultural goals and the internalised means, and yet are unable to achieve success. They resolve the conflict of their situation by abandoning both the goals and the means of reaching them. They are deviant in two ways: they have rejected both the goals and the institutionalised means. Merton does not relate retreatism to social class position.
3.2.5 5. Rebellion is the fifth response. It is a rejection of both success goals and the institutionalised means. Those who adopt this alternative wish to create a new society. Merton argues that 'it is typically members of a rising class rather than the most depressed strata who organise the resentful and rebellious into a revolutionary group.
3.3 Meton claims that his analysis shows how the culture and structure of society generate deviance. The overemphasis upon cultural goals of finantial success and high status in American society, at the expense of institutionalised means, creates a tendency towards anomie. This tendency exerts pressure for deviance, a pressure which varies depending on a person's position in the class structure.
3.4 Evaluation of Merton
3.4.1 Criticisms
3.4.1.1 He takes a consensus around means and goals for granted, assuming that most people accept them.
3.4.1.2 He focuses on individual responses, and doesn't recognise that there is a social pattern of crime and deviance affecting whole groups of people, linked to social class, age, gender, ethnicity and locality.
3.4.1.3 Too deterministic- the theory fails to explain why most people who experience the effects of anomie do not become criminals or deviants.
3.4.1.4 Too simplistic- over predicts and exaggerates working-class crime, and under-predicts and underestimates middle-class or white-collar crime.
3.4.2 Strengths
3.4.2.1 Supporting study: Hannon and Dedronzo (1998). In a study of 406 metropolitan countries in the USA they found that those with higher levels of welfare provision had lower levels of crime. They argued that the welfare provision opened up opportunities for people to achieve the goal of material success through legitimate means and therefore reduced anomie and the crime which could result from it.
3.4.2.2 Supporting study: Joachim J. Salesberg (1995) argues that Merton's strain theory can help to explain the rises in the crime rate in post-communist Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Russia. Poland is an example of how dramatic rises were. Poland had its first free elections in 1989. Between 1989 and 1990 the official crime rate in Poland increased by 69%.

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