a diabetic at work without a recent insulin injection approaching the lunch break may become tense, erratic, short tempered, but that behaviour does not constitute a criminal act (Kelly, Holborn and Makin, (1983) sited in; M. Haralambos and M. Holborn (2000)) It is regarded amongst sociologists that physiological characteristics do not cause criminal or deviant behaviour. This paper will look at a few of the main functionalist and conflict theories of crime and deviance and conclude with which one, in relation to the title, provides the largest body of evidence. Functionalist theorists argue that crime and deviance is caused by structural tensions where as conflict theorists argue that deviance is deliberately chosen, and often political in nature. Functionalists argue that people commit crimes because there is something wrong with the society the individual is in, and that this is what causes the individual to commit crime. Crime is caused by the structure of society. Conflict theorists argue that the criminal makes a choice to commit a crime in response to inequalities of the capitalist system (Giddens, 2001, Pg 272) Starting then, with Albert Cohen, a subcultural functionalist, who based his studies on the lower classes, Cohen found that lower class children were disadvantaged at school and thus disadvantaged in light of general success in life. Cohen said the lower class were at a disadvantage before they had even started to achieve! Most lower class children, he argued, do not have the same starting position as middle class children. Because of the difference in class Cohen believes the lower class children suffer from status frustration (Haralambos and Holborn, (2000), Pg 357).
Marxist explanations of the causes of crime (50 marks) It is to a large extent that Marxism is a useful theory in explaining the causes of crime. This is because it highlights the inequalities in society and how the ruling class owns the means of production. This fails to show reasons why not everyone is facing status frustration and lower income turn to crime. One way in which Marxism is a useful ...
Following this frustration with their position in society Cohen put forward the theory that these lower class children develop a subculture where the delinquent subculture takes its norms from the larger culture but turns them upside down (Haralambos and Holborn, Pg 357).
Cohen stated that the success achieved within this subculture related to earning their goals which were perceived (by the delinquent) as unattainable within society. This he argues is the cause of crime and deviance. Cohens claim that lower class children are frustrated at being disadvantaged in society, that they have less opportunity to succeed, this indicates quite blatantly that society is not equal. Bernstein stated in Giddens that language differed according to class. Bernstein came up with a theory that the lower classes used a restricted code and middle classes an elaborated code (Giddens, Pg 512).
Going with the notion that school teachers are middle class, thus use the elaborated code of language so do not communicate as successfully with children originating from lower classes. These youths, as it appears, do not have the access to the same standards of education and so it is easy to assume the individuals motivation for turning to crime.
A problem with Cohens theory is that fundamentally it is based on class position, namely the lower class. He disregards crimes of the upper class. This could indicate that only the lower class has the potential to become deviant in their behaviour. Also Cohen seems to suggest that all disadvantaged people will perform acts of deviant, criminal nature to achieve their goals. It is important to recognise that this is not always the case. Some individuals choose to work hard within society and its laws to gain legitimate success (as is seen in Coleg Harlech).
... to lessen crime. Merton believed that individuals living in American society are subconsciously socialized into desiring certain goals, primarily that ... two more parts of Merton’s theory, deviance and dysfunction. Merton was extremely influential of the theory of deviance. It is ... blocked for individuals because of, for example, social class and race, then problems of ‘strain’ arise. As Merton put it: ...
Turning now to another functionalists view the writer considers Merton and his strain theory.
Merton modified Durkheims theory of anomie by stressing that where Durkheim said that circumstances in which social norms are no longer clear and people are morally adrift and instead put across the point that term anomie is to describe the strain which occurs when individuals experience conflict between their pursuit of societies goals and the means society provides to achieve them (ODonnell, Pg 352).
Mertons theory focuses on various acts of deviance which he believes may lead to acts of crime. Merton says there are various goals pushed by society and that society emphasises a set of means to obtain these goals i.e. hard work, education, abiding by the law. Merton goes on to say that not everyone has the means to legitimately obtain these goals and so came up with a theory where he uses five models of adapting to the strain he said people feel due to the inability to successfully adhere to societies goals, and the means whereby they obtain these. The five models Merton put forward are as follows; conformity, where the individual continues to accept the goals and the means to obtain these goals even though failure is almost inevitable. Innovation, (according to Merton) is the response when the individual accepts the goals set by society but rejects the means (to obtain these goals) set by society, he then goes on to say the individual finds a replacement to societies means, this being an illegal act. The third in Mertons theory is ritualism, this is where the means and goals of society are adhered to but the individual has lost sight of the goals and has no interest in the outcome of his/her work.
It is the opposite of innovation. Retualism, according to Merton is the next step from ritualism, the individual disregards both the means and goals set by society. The individual is seen to drop out of the rat race, observed by those with alcohol and drug problems. The fifth part of Mertons theory is rebellion where the individual rejects both the means and goals set by society, this is recognised as terrorists/radical political parties (P. Taylor et al, Pg 471).
Both Cohen and Mertons theories are that of a functionalists perspective and believe crime is needed within society, to indicate there is a problem and in turn that problem can be resolved.
... Emile Durkheim and later adapted by Robert Merton (1949). Strain theory supposes that individuals seek such pleasures as monetary gain, social ... varying assumptions also the effects of media portrayals of crime on society or, media consumers. Particular attention will be paid to ... to the hard-core poor, who face the greatest barriers to goal achievement" (Sheley, 1995, p. 311). To conclude the chapter ...
Turning now to an interactionalists perspective on crime and deviance, the writer will compare the similarities and differences between the functionalists and the conflict theorists explanation for crime and deviance. Considering Stuart Hall, a conflict theorist, who in 1972 studied the increasing problem of mugging, Hall believed that class position was irrelevant in respect of the victim. He found that muggers would target people that appeared to come from a similar background to themselves, rather than the poor stealing from the rich (as is the commonly associated stigma).
At that time mugging was not recognised as an actual crime d ….