DURKHEIM sees crime as a normal part of healthy societies: In every modern society, some
individuals are inadequately socialised and prone to deviate; In modern societies, there is a
highly specialised division of labour & a diversity of subcultures. Individuals & groups
become increasingly different from one another, & shared rules of behaviour become less
CRITICISMS OF DURKHEIM
DURKHEIM claims society requires a certain amount of deviance to function but
offers no way of knowing how much is the right amount.
DURKHEIM & other Functionalists explain crime in terms of it's function, but
just because crime does these things doesn't necessarily mean this why it exists
in the first place.
FUNCTIONS OF CRIME
Crime produces a reaction from society, uniting it's members against the
wrongdoer & reinforces their commitment to value consensus.
For change to occur, individuals with new ideas must challenge existing norms,
& at first this will appear as deviance. If this is suppressed, society will be
unable to make necessary adaptive changes & will stagnate.
DAVIS argues that prostitution acts to
release men's sexual frustrations w/o
threatening the nuclear family.
COHEN argues that deviance indicates
that an institution is malfunctioning e.g.
high truancy rates may indicate
problems w/ the education system.
MERTON'S STRAIN THEORY
MERTON argues that people engage in deviant behaviour when they cannot achieve
socially approved goals by legitimate means. His explanation combines:
Cultural Factors: the strong emphasis on success
goals & weaker emhasis on using legitimate
means to achieve them.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
For MERTON, deviance is the result of a strain between the goals
a culture encourages individuals to aim for & what the structure
of society allows them to achieve legitimately.
e.g. the 'American Dream' emphasises 'money
success'. Americans are expected to pursue this
goal by legitimate means e.g. education, hard
The ideology claimis that American society is meritocratic, but in
reality, poverty & discrimination block opportunities for many to
achieve by legitimate means.
The pressure is increased by the fact that American culture puts more emphasis on
achieving success at any price than upon doing so by legitimate means. Winning the
game is more important than playing by the rules.
The resulting strain between the cultural goal (money success) &
the lack of legitimate opportunities produces frustration & a
pressure to resort to illegitimate means.
MERTON seeks to explain different patterns of deviance. He argues that an individual's
position in the social structure affects how they adapt to the strain to anomie. He identifies
CONFORMITY: individuals accept the culturally
approved goals & strive to achieve them legitimately -
the middle class.
INNOVATION: individuals accept the
money success goal but use illegitimate
means to achieve it - the working class.
RITUALISM: individuals give up on the goal, but have internalised the
legitimate means & follow the rules for their own sake - the lower
RETREATISM: individuals reject both goal &
legitimate means, & drop out of society - addicts,
REBELLION: individuals replace existing goals & means w/
new ones w/ the aim of bringing about social change -
STRENGTHS OF MERTON'S APPROACH
Shows how both normals & deviant behaviour can arise fro the same mainstream goals.
Explains the patterns shown in official
Most crime is property crime because American
society values material wealth so highly.
Working-class crime rates
are higher because they have
least opportunity to obtain
Not all working-class people deviate
Ignores the power of the ruling
class to make & enforce rules
Takes official statistics at
CRITICISMS OF MERTON
Criticised by subcultural strain theories & build
upon it - see deviance as the product of
COHEN - MERTON ignores the group
deviance of delinquent subcultures.
COHEN - MERTON ignores non-utilitarian crimes (e.g.
assault, vandalism) which may have no economic
COHEN: STATUS FRUSTRATION
Notes that working-class boy face anomie in the middle-class educations system.
They are culturally deprived & lack the skills
to achieve, leaving them at the bottom of the
official status hierarchy & suffer status
frustration as a result. They resolve it by
rejecting mainstream middle-class values &
turn instead to others in the same situation,
forming a subculture.
For COHEN, the subculture offers an illegitimate opportunity structure for boys who have
failed to achieve legitimately.
The subculture provides an alternative status hierarchy
where they can win status through delinquent actions.
Its values are spite, malice, hostility and contempt
for those outside it. The subculture inverts
mainstream values. What society praises, it
condemns; e.g. society respects property, whereas
the boys gain status from vandalising it.
CRITICISMS OF COHEN
COHEN assumes working-class boys start
off by sharing middle-class success goals,
only to reject them when they fail. He
ignores the posibility that they never
shared these goals & so weren't reacting
CLOWARD & OHLIN: 3 SUBCULTURES
Note that not everyone
adapts to a lack of
by turning to 'innovation'.
Some subcultures resort to
violence; others turn to
The key reason for these
differences is unequal access to
illegitimate opportunity structure
e.g. not everyone who fails at
school can become a successful
provide different illegitimate
opportunities to learn
criminal skills & develop
criminal careers. They identify
3 types of subcultures that
Provide youths w/ an apprenticeship in
utilitarian crime. They arise in
neighbourhood where there is a
longstanding, stable criminal culture & a
hierarchy of professional adult crime.
These arise in areas of high population
turnover that prevent a stable
professional criminal network
developing. The only illegitimate
opportunities are within loosely
The 'double failures' who fail in
both the legitimate & the
illegitimate opportunity structures
often turn to a retreatist or
'dropout' subculture based on
illegal drug use.
CRITICISMS OF CLOWARD & OHLIN
Ignore crimes of the
wealthy & the wider power
Over-predict the amount of
Draw the boundaries too sharply
between the different types. Actual
subcultures show characteristics of
more than one 'type'.
Wrongly assumes that
everyone starts off sharing the
STRENGTHS OF CLOWARD & OHLIN
Try to explain the different types
of working-class deviance in terms