compare and contrast two main theories of crime and deviance

‘ 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. Turning now to another functionalists view the writer considers Merton and his ‘strain’ theory.

Merton modified Durkheim’s 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” O’Donnell, Pg 352. Merton’s 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. .

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 Merton’s 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 Merton’s 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 Merton’s 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.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 due to its ability to fall within two categories, either robbery or assault with the intent to rob. Over a period of four years the British government released a statistic claiming that muggings were on the increase of one hundred and twenty nine percent per year, Hall argued that this figure could not be completely relied upon.

After comparing various statistics Hall discovered the real annual increase of muggings was only fourteen percent.From these findings Hall suggested that the source of moral panic was not the underlying economic problem Haralambos and Holborn, Pg 388. This opinion is in complete contrast to that of both Cohen and Merton who both identify class as a major factor in crime, and both based their theories on the lower classes. Hall also put the thought across that the Media’s presence had the ability to make crime appear much worse than it really is/was.

Hall described this exaggeration as ‘moral panic’ Giddens, Pg 212. It is also important to recognise that neither Cohen nor Merton discussed the medias influence upon crime.It is stated in Giddens that ”…moral panic about muggings was encouraged by both the state and the media as a way of deflecting attention away from growing unemployment, declining wages and other deep structured flaws within society” By stating this Hall is concluding that the individuals committing the crimes are individuals forced into crime due to the nature of the economic situation, although Hall is talking about the wider population this could be loosely associated with Cohen and Merton’s link with class position.As Hall takes a Marxist view on crime some sociologists argue that it is almost inevitable he comes to the conclusion that the economic situation and to a greater extent the influence of capitalism is the cause for crime and deviance.

However Hall’s study is based upon statistics and like all statistics these may or may not be accurate, as statistics have the tendency to be bias. It is also important to recognise that crime statistics are collected from crimes that have been reported, thus the figures shown do not represent the whole spectrum of crime, a lot of crimes are clearly not represented by these figures.Hall’s study, like that of Cohen and Merton’s, focuses on class. But unlike others sociologists i.

e. Cohen and Merton, it acknowledges that criminals can/do target individuals in similar social situations as themselves. Cohen and Merton’s studies gave the impression that the lower classes select the upper classes and intentionally harm them. This study clearly states that anyone is liable to become a victim of crime and acknowledges the influence of the media on crime.

Living in a world where the media has such a large influence upon people it is easy to see how many crimes are exaggerated on television and in the newspapers, the term ‘moral panic’ used by Hall is a good description. Concentrating now on a more radical perspective the writer shall consider Taylor et al. Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young, new criminologists with a neo-Marxist almost radical perspective, developed a theory whereby they believed criminals, out of free will, choose to break the laws set by society and decline any theories that view human behaviour as being influenced by external factors.Functionalists have quite a different opinion to this and believe almost the exact opposite to Taylor et al.

Taylor et al view the individual’s reason for turning to crime as ”the meaningful attempt by the actor to construct and develop his own self-perception” Haralambos and Holborn, Pg 386. This strand of new criminology reject’s theories which claim coherence with anomie, physiological perspectives and those which include the forming of a subculture, this is undoubtedly as distant in regards to Merton and Cohen’s theories as is possible, without creating a new theory.Taylor et al are in complete contrast to the functionalists opinions and actually see crime and deviance as ”actively struggling to alter capitalism” Giddens, Pg 386. They see crime as a deliberate act, more often than not, with a political basis against the state.

Taylor et al hold rather a liberal view upon the capitalist society and its restrictions and would base much devotion on the freedom of a future Marxist society. They believe that ethnic minorities, homosexuals and drug users should not be persecuted but accepted by society.Taylor et al all have the belief that crimes related with property involves the redistribution of money. An example given in Haralambos and Holborn Pg 386 is that ”if a poor resident of an inner-city area steals from a rich person, the former is helping to change society” Taylor et al come from a socialist perspective and like many other Marxists would like to see the capitalist society replaced by another type of society, Taylor et al would rather adopt a more ‘socialist’ society which is not only a substantial difference to the functionalists but also to conventional Marxists who would adopt a more ‘communist’ society.

In conclusion this paper has shown that functionalists and conflict theorists hold opposing views about the nature and cause of crime and deviance. As shown above functionalists see crime and deviance as a product of society whereas conflict theorists view crime and deviance as a path chosen by the criminal. I believe, like functionalists the environment possibly created by those in power, i. e.

the patriarchal government determines and influences the opportunities given to an individual. I also feel that the individuals have choices in the way they interpret and act upon the opportunities society provides – much like the conflict theorists.In my opinion, neither of these theories produce an accurate, ‘whole’ picture of the nature and cause of crime, however each of the theories, with their contrasting statements, contain specific characteristics which help to form the larger picture. 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. 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.

Cohen’s 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 Cohen’s theory is that fundamentally it is based on class position, namely the lower class. He disregards crimes of the

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