Functionalism and Crime and Deviance

895 words 4 pages
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches in explaining crime
(21 Marks)

Item A
Functionalist sociologists focus on how far individuals accept the norms and values of society. Central to their study of crime is the attempt to understand why people break the rules of society.
Despite their focus on the importance of shared norms and values, functionalists see a small amount of crime as necessary and beneficial to society. The publicity given to crime highlights the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
However, the beneficial effects of crime for society are limited; too much crime can indicate problems.

Durkheim looks at how crime and deviance is inevitable and needed in
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He argued that delinquents were born from ‘status frustration’. Instead of looking at individuals response to strain and utilitarian crime alone, Cohen states that subcultures ascribe to alternative status hierarchy in which delinquents invert the norms and values that are impressed upon them. However it is unlikely that young working class boys would consciously do this and would take a certain level of sociological skill. Furthermore this only looks at certain types of subcultures and deviance. Feminists would critique this by arguing that women commit crimes as well, this doesn’t explain organized crime either.

Cloward and Ohlin researched subcultures as well, their studies are useful to sociology because he explains the reasons why people commit non-utilitarian crimes and crimes in groups. He argues that WC boys commit more crime, not because they’re inherently evil, but instead because they are the most exposed to crime and have the easiest access. Marxists such as Phil Cohen would be criticize this arguing instead that working class boys are pushed towards crime more due to their situations rather than just choosing it as it was easy. He categorizes subcultures into 3 categories, criminal, conflict and retreatist. While they do encompass most subcultures it may not be useful to separate subcultures into such clearcut boundaries. It may prevent us from studying groups individually and make it more difficult to compare groups which overlap.



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