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functionalist main theory

believe social order benefits everyone,
crime is bad as the weak suffer,
social progress would be limited by disorder and all would suffer,
thus crime must be limited,
some crime can be positive

ways crime can be positive

can act a warning device,
can help society progress,
provides employment,
acts as a safety valve, helps social cohesion,
reinforces the boundaries of society


believed in consensus and the need for social order,
basis of society was a set of shared values which guide our actions called the collective conscience,
tells us what is acceptable and what is not,
re-affirming boundries,

re-affirming boundries

changing values,
social cohesion,
safety valve

changing values

when the majority of the public disagrees with police and court action it can cause a change in values

social cohesion

when particularly horrific crimes have been committed

safety valve

releasing the stress of the inequalities in society

anomie (sense of nomlessness)

according to Durkheim in periods of great social change or stress people start to look after their own selfish needs,
where a collapse of the collective conscience has occurred an anomie exists


crime is caused by a conflict between cultural goals and the means,
western societies goal is material wealth,
to reach this goal societies have a set of norms, values and institutions (the means),
ideally everyone will have access to the means that will be able to deliver the goals but this is not the case

why people don't have access to the means

not everyone has equal access to institutions,
not everyone is born into the same social background,
such inequality creates tension (a strain) in the social system

responses to the strain



accepting both the goals and the means


accepting the goals but rejecting the means


rejecting the goals but accepting the means


rejecting both the goals and the means


replacing both the cultural goals and the means

functionalist subculture theory

they resolve their status frustration by rejecting the success goals of mainstream culture,
norms and values are based on a subversion of mainstream ones


deviants develop a sense of anomie, they form a subculture of criminality with its own values,
provides an explanation for crimes that provide no gain,
delinquency is a collective response to status frustration,
criminals develop status frustration,
the dissatisfaction is caused by a lack of achievement and causes low self esteem

opportunity structures

Cloward and Ohlin,
there are 3 different structures you can enter


not all vandals reject main stream values

Cloward and Ohlin

focused on how peoples opportunities to be deviant are also different,
some have better opportunities to enter into a criminal career,
working class commit crime because they have limited access to a legitimate opportunity structure

3 structures of the opportunity structure



these subcultures are established and organised criminal networks


these subcultures develop in areas of limited access to legitimate opportunity structures


these subcultures develop in areas of limited access to legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structures

Criticisms of the functionalist theory

the idea of the criminal subculture is based on the gangs of Chicago in the 1920's and 30's,
the idea of the retreatist is simplistic drug abuse and is common amongst all classes of people


reflected on what causes people not to deviate

reasons for not deviating



the extent to which a person is attached to others


fear of law breaking


conventional activities would keep people too occupied


a common value system within society whose norms are being violated and reinforced

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