Crime and Deviance - Functionalism

functionalist perspective on crime + deviance



They argue that in order to achieve solidarity, society has two key mechanisms:

  • SOCIALISATION: ensuring individuals have the same shared norms and values 
  • SOCIAL CONTROL: ensures people behave in the way society expects.

The inevitabilty of crime

They see too much crime as destabilising society and its also inevitable and universal. Every society has crime and deviance.

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Two reasons why crime is found in society:

1.) not everyone is equally and effectively socialised into same norms and values, therefore some will be prone to deviation

2.) modern societies means there is diversity of lifestyles. groups develop own subcultures and norms and values and what they see as normal may be deviant.

Positive functions of crime:

  • Boundary maintenance: maintains boundaries between right and wrong for non-criminals. 
  • Change: all change starts with an act of deviance. creates difference allows individuality and allows change to take place. 
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Evaluation of Functionalism

  • Neglects power relationships in society, eg ruling class make laws and working class are more likely to get caught. Marxists explain this better
  • Interactionists argue some groups are targeted more, but functionalists believe that law benefits everyone
  • Marxist and subculturalists argue that no real value consensus
  • sub argue crime is collective
  • not all crimes have positive functions. The theory overgeneralises across all crimes 
  • deviance necessary is logical because everyone is different
  • many forms of crime and deviance is just harmful and doesn't lead to positive change
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