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Assess The Usefulness Of Functionalist Approaches In Explaining Crime. (21)

987 words - 4 pages

Functionalists look at society as a whole. They explain crime and deviance by stating that the source of deviance lies in the nature of society rather than the individual.
Durkheim states that crime and deviance is inevitable and a certain level is necessary for society to exist. He also claims that it is a positive aspect of society as it shows examples of rights and wrongs within society and by punishing offenders, through ways such as public humiliation and portraying crime as wrong, raises awareness of crime and therefore deters others from committing crime along with creating a collective conscience. He also argues that crime and deviance allows social change to occur which is needed ...view middle of the document...

Hirschi develops Merton’s strain theory into the control theory in which he looks at why people do not commit crime as opposed to why they do. Hirschi’s control theory suggests that people commit crimes when the advantages are seen to outweigh the disadvantages. He also states that we create social bonds within society that hold people together in a value consensus. For example, the most important bond within society is that within the family which socialises people to the core norms and values of society. Therefore it suggests that the less social bonds people have within society then the more likely they are to commit crime. Farrington and West support this as they carried out a longitudinal study of 411 working class boys and found that 6% of the sample who accounted for 50% of the crimes were from homes with poor parenting. This shows that the lack of social bonds can cause people to commit crime. However, Taylor suggests that the value consensus is created by the middle class and therefore exploits the working class by making them conform to ruling class ideologies.
Subcultural theorist A. Cohen believes that crime does not happen so much on an individual level but in a group situation and recognises that certain groups (young middle class males) are more likely to commit crimes. He claims that this is due to status frustration and the inability to achieve mainstream success goals through legitimate means such as education and therefore form their own subculture with opposing values to society. For example, the study that Willis carried out on the ‘lads’ at school. This deviance is seen as non-utilitarian crime as it is a crime committed for ‘fun’, such as vandalism. He believes that the formation of the subcultures release the status frustration by creating their own values for achieving status and therefore deviant behaviour...

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