Functionalist theories of crime

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  • Functionalist Theories of Crime
    • Durkheim
      • 3 causes of crime
        • inadequate socialisation
        • different subcultures
        • diversity causing anomie via weakening consensus
      • 3 positive effects of crime
        • Boundary maintenance
        • Adaptation and change
        • Social regulation and integration
    • Merton
      • Strain theory
        • People in society aim toward the same goals, but some are unable to reach these goals via legitimate means, so experience strain and seek other methods of attaining goals.
        • Conformity
        • Ritualism
        • Innovation
          • Innovation also includes white collar criminals - but surely they have already achieved society's goals?
        • Rebellion
        • Retreatism
        • Does not explain why some experience more strain than others, or why some commit crime and others dont
    • Cohen
      • status frustration
        • Expanded on Merton's strain theory to acknowledge non-utalitarian crime
        • Some individuals (working class boys) fail in school and lack status because of this, so are frustrated with their lack of position within society.
          • As a result, they may join deviant subcultures which hold values which are the invert of mainstream society in which deviant activities award you with status
            • Lyng and Katz claimed crimes such as vandalism and fighting are not active attempts to challenge mainstream society, instead they are acts born out of boredom
            • Does not link the fact that it is working class boys to wider societal issues
    • Cloward and Ohlin
      • Differential opportunity structure
        • Some people obtain goals  via legitimate opportunity structures and some turn to illegitimate opportunity structures, but some people do not have access to either of these
        • Criminal subculture - organised crime which young people are socialised into
          • Not all crime fit into these categories - terf wars are known to be associated with drug dealing via organised crime groups
        • Conflict subcultures - formed by young people themselves, often involves terf wars
        • Retreatist subcultures - people do not have access to either to retreat and deviate from society through taking drugs, for example.
    • Miller
      • Focal concerns
        • Working class boys are socialised into certain traits which make them more prone to committing crime
        • Traits include excitement, toughness, autonomy, fate, and smartness
    • Matza
      • Subterranean values
        • Functionalist alternative to strain and frustration, instead claiming that we are all born with inherently deviant values. With age, we are able to learn to suppress and resist deviant thoughts.
        • Awareness that things are wrong are shown through techniques of neutralisation
          • appealing to higher loyalties, rejection of victim, etc.
          • neutralisation may not be attempts to return to normal values - they may just be an attempt to avoid punishment


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