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Assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches in explaining crime Essay Sample

Assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches in explaining crime Pages
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Functionalist approach towards crime & deviance is seen as a top down approach as it looks at society as a whole, stating that criminal behaviour is caused by society itself except from being caused through an individual’s biology & psychology. Durkheim sees deviance as inevitable also being necessary for our society, however other perspectives such as Marxist & Feminist may state otherwise. Functionalist such as Merton explain crime through “strain theory” stating that individuals commit deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals through legitimate means, arguing that an individuals position in society affects how they respond to the strain to anomie. There are 5 types of adaption such as; Conformity is where individuals accept culturally approved goals & achieves them legitimately, this is usually found within the middle class. Innovation refers to Individuals who accept the goals of money & success however uses illegitimate means to achieve this success through activities such as Fraud & theft.

Ritualism is usually associated to individuals who give up on trying to achieve goals however still how still follow rules for their own sake; on the other hand Retreatism describes individuals who reject both goals & legitimate means leading them to becoming dropouts which can result to individuals resulting becoming drug addicts. The final type is Rebellion individuals reject society’s goals & replace them with new ones in desire to bring about revolutionary change. This theory is useful as it explains how crime arises from mainstream goals as both conformist & innovators are pursing the same goal but one is legitimate & the other is illegitimate, however it all seems to take notice of utilitarian crime & not take into account crimes such as violence. In addition Marxist would also criticise theory stating that it ignores the power of the ruling class as the make & reinforce law in ways which crimiliase the poor more then the rich.

Cloward & Ohlin agree with majority of Merton’s views however argued that he failed to explain the different types of deviance actions, stating that Merton only dealt with half of the picture as he explained deviance in terms of legitimate opportunity structure but never mentioned illegitimate opportunity structures. Cloward & Ohlin noted that there are 3 types of subcultures; Criminal subcultures usually tend to appear in areas where there is a pattern of adult crime. This provides training & a form of learning environment for young individuals as they are exposed to deviant & criminal skills, also looking up to these individuals as role models .This subculture is usually concerned with utilitarian crime.

Conflict subcultures is seen to develop in areas where there is a high form of population turnover which results to loosely organized gangs, young men then realise their frustration at their blocked opportunities therefore using gangs as the source of status. Whereas Retreatist subcultures can occur in any neighbourhood with individuals who fail in both illegitimate & legitimate opportunities, w hich may result to them turning to subculture for illegal drug use. Cloward & Ohlin’s theory is useful as it provides an explanation into why individuals commit non-utilitarian crimes & develops Merton’s strain theory. However they do tend to ignore the overlap between each subculture for example gangs involved in conflict culture often deal with drugs & make large amount of money therefore this also falls under criminal subculture.

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