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May 9, 2018 / C H Thompson

Functionalist perspective of crime – revision notes

  • Durkheim (1893) is the main sociologist in functionalism and believed that society is a stable system based on value consensus.
  • He saw crime as inevitable, normal and even a necessary part of society.
  • Durkheim argues that crime is a social fact, and isn’t abnormal as it is evident in all societies
  • Crime can be positive for society as it establishes and maintains a social consensus about what is and isn’t deviant.
  • This can help society change and remain dynamic. However, too much can be negative and lead to social disruption.

Crime acts as boundary maintenance between right or wrong and helps promote a collective conscience. Crime can therefore be inevitable in society because not everyone is going to agree with and commit to this collective conscience.

Durkheim said that crime has 4 main characteristics:

  • Inevitable -> will always exist
  • Relative -> varies society to society, time to time etc.
  • Universal -> exists in every society
  • Functional -> it can be good for society

When the levels of crime are too high or too low, that’s when crime moves from functional to dysfunctional.


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