Crime and Deviance Notes


Functionalist explanations of crime, deviance, social order and social control

Durkheim: in pre-industrialised societies, crime was rare due to social control and social consensus which led to less anomie

Crime is functional for society because:

-      Crime can provoke social change e.g. Suffragette Movement

-      Public outrage caused by crime can reinforce social solidarity

-      The punishment of criminals can reassure people that society is effective

-      Minor crimes are safety valves for larger, more serious crimes

Eval- why do certain groups commit?

-      Some crimes are always dysfunctional

-      Underestimates levels of conflict and inequalities

Merton: Strain Theory: the cause of crime is due to the relationship between culture and the structure of society. Capitalism causes an unfair distribution of wealth.

Responses to strain theory:

-       Conformity- make the most of the situation

-       Innovation- turn to illegalities in a clever way

-       Ritualism- derive satisfaction from meaningless goals

-       Retreatism- drop out of society

-       Rebellion- seek alternatives by explicitly turning to crime

Cohen (1971): Status Frustration: w/c frustrate over status so their own value systems are created and they turn to crime for progression

Miller: Focal Concerns: w/c youth develop these, such as a heightened sense of masculinity which leads to delinquent behaviour

Cloward and Ohlin: Illegitimate Opportunity Structure: in some areas there are criminal careers led by criminal, conflict or retreatist subcultures.

Eval- Matza says that criminals are no different to ‘normal people’. Criminals just drift in and out of the value consensus.


Marxist explanations of crime, deviance, social order and social control

Marx: Capitalism is criminogenic:

-      Relative poverty causes people to turn to crime (especially the w/c)

-      Strain theory and utilitarian

-      Control that the r/c possess, leads to frustration in the form of crime

-      Promotes mentality of greed and self-interest, increased competition

Althusser: Ideological State Apparatus: functions are in interests of the r/c and inequality by:

-      Selective law enforcement

-      Selective laws e.g. health and safety

-      Protecting wealth, profit and private property

Reiman (2001): the more likely that a crime will be committed by the r/c, the less likely it is to be treated as an offence e.g. corp. crime

Croall: Corporate Crimes: include:

-      Crimes against consumers e.g. selling dangerous goods

-      Crimes against employees e.g. In UK between 1965 and     H1995, 25k were killed in the workplace- health and safety regulations

-      Environmental offences e.g. pollution

-      Financial fraud e.g. false accounting, collusion and fixing share prices

These crimes are often invisible, complex and it is unclear who is to blame. There is a fine line between acceptable and unacceptable business practices; often the offenders are warned rather than punished.

Eval- not all crime committed is by poor people

-      Ignores ethnicity and gender factors

-      The criminal justice system (CJS), sometimes acts against the r/c




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