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Assess The Usefulness Of Functionalist Approaches In Explaining Crime

993 words - 4 pages

Assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches in explaining crime. (21 marks)
In this essay one will assess the view of functionalists and how they approach their view of the causes of crime. Functionalisms over all view is to try understand how society shapes us by using a positivist view. Crime is defined as an action which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law. One will assess each functionalist and their theories looking at how they coincide with one another, then challenge these theories to other sociologists.
One functionalist sociologist is Talcott Parsons, he sees that society is based on a ‘value consensus’, and ...view middle of the document...

Society is seen to shape us a lot and an example Durkheim uses is during the Wall Street Crash of 1929 where 23,000 people took their lives as they suddenly lost all marital wealth. Durkheim believed the idea that in society there was a stale system where people internalise the shared values of society, also known as ‘collective conscience’. However he didn’t acknowledge that when the institutions of society are overloaded with too much deviance instability can occur, which he refers to a ‘anomie’ which means normlessness. Durkheim believed there were two sides to crime and deviance: a positive (helping society change) and a negative side (crime leads to social disruption). The positive side argues the idea of the collective conscience provides boundaries for what is acceptable behaviour but the boundaries are unclear and change. The negative side argues that too much crime could lead to anomie, when there is a collapse in the collective conscience occurs, crime rates rock and only by re-imposing collective values can the situation be brought under control. Durkheim was criticised for overlooking the issue of power in creating laws.
Hirschi is another functionalist sociologist, he was influenced by Durkheim’s key concepts of collective conscience and anomie, Hirschi turned the normal question of why people commit crime and asked why people don’t commit crime. He argued that crime occurs when people’s attachment to society is weakened in some way. Attachment is based on a person’s strength, the greater the attachment the lower level of crime. He created 4 crucial bonds: Attachment, how much we care about others wishes; Commitment, our personal investments; involvement, how busy we are; and finally Belief, how strong the sense to obey rules is.
The final functionalist is Merton, Merton is a cynical functionalist and seen to be more sophisticated than Parsons. He divided functions into Manifest – intended/deliberate consequence of a prcess/institution and Latent – unintended consequences. Merton argues against Parsons saying...

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