Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Functionalist, Strain & Subcultural Theories Deck (11)
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What do functionalists argue about crime?

Functionalists see society as a stable system based on value consensus - shared norms, values, beliefs and goals, this produces social solidarity binding individuals together into a harmonious unit, society achieves this through two forms -

Socialisation instils shared culture into its members.

Social control - Mechanisms reward and sanctions in society.


How do functionalists view crime as inevitable and universal?

Whilst crime may disturb social stability, functionality still view crime as inevitable and universal, Durkheim sees crime as a normal part of all healthy societies as in every society there are inadequately socialised people who are prone to deviate but Durkheim also adds that as in modern society lives are more specially divided this is leading to different norms and values and anomie in society. E.G Le Suicide shows norms are becoming unclear.


What does Durkheim see as 4 functions of crime?

1) Boundary maintenance -
Crime unites members of society against wrongdoers and reinforce their commitment to value consensus.

Punishment also reaffirms boundaries between right and wrong e.g courtroom rituals.

2) Adaptation and change -

All change starts as deviance as individuals can challenge existing norms and create change in society and a shift in what’s seen as deviance.

3) Safety Valve - Deviance protects other institutions in society e.g prostitution allows men to remove sexual frustration protecting the nuclear family.

4) Warning light - Deviance shows institutions aren’t working and need to change e.g high truancy rates may show failing education.


What are some criticisms of Functionalist perspective?

Durkheim claims that deviance is required in society but doesn’t give any scales of how much deviance is acceptable.

There is reason to argue that just because crime fulfils certain functions e.g social solidarity that this may not be behind the creation of it.


What does Merton’s strain theory advocate?

People engage in criminal behaviour when they cannot achieve socially approved goals legitimately. This is because of structural factors creating unequal opportunities and cultural factors placing an emphasis on success but less so legitimate success.


What does Merton argue about the American dream?

Deviance is because of a strain between the goals a culture encourages individuals to aim for the structure which allows then to achieve them legitimately.

The American dream is one built upon meritocracy but in reality is unequal as blocked opportunities such as through poverty and education create a strain where people must engage in criminal activity to achieve their socially constructed goals, winning the game is emphasised over playing by the rules.


What is Merton’s 5 adaptations to strain?

A persons place in the social structure dictates how they adapt to strain and anomie.

1) Conformity - Accept culturally approved goals
2)) Innovation - Accept culturally approved goals but achieve them illegitimately.
3) Ritualism - People who have given up the goal but still stick to rules.
4) Retreatism - People reject culturally approved and illegitimate goals dropping out of society.
5) Rebellion- People change existing cultural goals and bring about social change e.g homosexuality


Strengths and Weakness’s of Merton’s approach?


Working class crime rates are higher be sales they have least legitimate opportunities.


Too deterministic


What is A.K Cohen’s status frustration theory?

Cohen also agrees that much delinquency takes place because of the working class inability to achieve legitimate goals.

He criticises Merton however...
He argues that deviance is an individual responses to strain not a group response

Merton ignores non-economic crimes such as abuse and assault that have no goal motive.

The working class reject middle class goals and create subcultures which is created through their combined cultural deprivation.

This creates ALTERNATIVE STATIS HIERARCHY whereby status can be won through delinquent actions in some subcultures.


What do Cloward and Ohlin argue about the three subcultures?

They agree with Merton that the working class are rejected opportunities which leads to deviance. The development of the subcultures actually comes from an unequal access to legitimate and illegitimate opportunities e.g not everyone can become safe-crackers.

1) Criminal subcultures - Training for utilitarian crime such as theft.

2) Conflict subcultures - Violence and gangs etc.

3) Retreatists subcultures - Double failures of legitimate and illegitimate opportunity. Leads to drug use or drop out culture.

Link to Merton’s groups


Evaluation of Cloward and Ohlin


Ignore crimes of wealthy people

Boundaries between subcultures are too defined as many people may be a part of a number of subcultures.

South argues that with the drug trade for example they combine disorganised gangs with organised professional criminality, showing how its hard to define crime into subcultures.

Reactive theory - everyone may not react in the same way to different crime etc.