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
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
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
126.96.36.199 He takes a consensus around means
and goals for granted, assuming that
most people accept them.
188.8.131.52 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.
184.108.40.206 Too deterministic- the theory fails to explain why
most people who experience the effects of
anomie do not become criminals or deviants.
220.127.116.11 Too simplistic- over predicts and
exaggerates working-class crime, and
under-predicts and underestimates
middle-class or white-collar crime.
18.104.22.168 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.
22.214.171.124 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%.