Functionalist, Strain and Subcultural Theories Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Functionalist, Strain and Subcultural Theories Deck (44)
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Define value consensus.

An agreement among society's members about what values are important: a shared culture.


Define culture.

All those things that are learnt and shared by a society or group and transmitted from generation to generation through socialisation.


Summarise the two key mechanisms that society uses to achieve solidarity.

- Socialisation instils the shared culture into its members. Ensures that individuals internalise same norms and values and that they feel it right to act the way that society requires.

- Social control mechanisms include positive sanctions for conformity and negative sanctions for deviance. Ensures individuals behave in the way that society expects.


Briefly explain two reasons why crime is found in all societies.

- Not everyone is equally effectively socialised into the same norms and values.

- Diversity of lifestyles and values. Different groups develop their own subcultures with distinctive norms and values, and what the members of the subculture may see as normal, mainstream culture may see as deviant.


According to Durkheim, why are modern societies likely to experience crime?

Modern societies have a complex, specialised division of labour, which leads to individuals becoming increasingly different from one another. This weakens the shared culture or collective conscience and results in a higher level of deviance.


Briefly explain Durkheim's two important positive functions of crime.

Boundary maintenance:
- Crime produces reaction from society, uniting members in condemnation of wrongdoer + reinforcing commitment to shared norms + values.
- Durkheim: function of punishment. Purpose of punishment is to reaffirm society's shared rules and reinforce social solidarity.
- May be done in court to publicly shame and stigmatise the offender.
- Similarly: S. Cohen 'dramatisation of evil' and 'folk devils'.

Adaption and change:
Durkheim: Change starts with act of deviance.
- Individuals mustn't be completely stifled by weight of social control.
- Must be some scope to be challenged and change existing norms and values (appears deviant).
- Neither a very high or low level of crime is desirable.
- Too much crime threatens to tear the bonds of society apart.
- Too little means that society is repressing and controlling its members too much, stifling individual freedom and preventing damage.


Briefly outline the functions of crime according to Davis.

- Prostitution: 'safety valve'.
- Releases men's sexual frustrations without threatening monogamous nuclear family.


Briefly outline the functions of crime according to Polsky.

- Pornography safely 'channels' a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives such as adultery, which would pose a greater threat to the family.


Briefly outline the functions of crime according to A.K. Cohen.

- A warning that an institution isn't functioning properly.

For example: high rates of truancy may tell us there's problems with the education system + that policy makers need to make appropriate changes to it.


Briefly outline the functions of crime according to Erikson.

- Argues: if deviance performs positive social functions, then perhaps society is actually organised to promote deviance.
- Suggests: true function of agencies of social control e.g police may be to sustain a certain level of crime rather than rid society of it.
- Idea of agencies as social control produce rather than prevent crime = developed further by labelling theory.


Why is functionalism useful for understanding crime and deviance?

- Provides an important and interesting analysis that directs attention to the ways in which deviance can have hidden or latent functions for society
- i.e not everything that is bad, is bad for society.


Briefly outline three criticisms of the functionalist theory of crime and deviance.

- Explains existence of crime in terms of supposed function but this doesn't mean society creates crime in advance with the intention of increasing solidarity.

- Looks at what functions crime serves for society as a whole, ignores how it might affect different groups or individuals within. Functionalism fails to ask 'functional for whom?'

- Crime doesn't always promote solidarity. May have opposite effect, leading people to become more isolated e.g forcing women to stay indoors for fear of attack. Conversely, some crimes reinforce collective sentiments e.g uniting a community in condemnation of a brutal attack.


According to strain theories, why do people engage in deviant behaviour?

People engage in deviant behaviour when they're unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means.


Briefly outline the two elements that Merton's explanation combines.

- Structural factors: Society's unequal opportunity structure.

- Cultural factors: The strong emphasis on success goals and the weaker emphasis on using legitimate means to achieve them.


According to Merton, what two factors cause strain for individuals?

- The goals that a culture encourages individuals to achieve.

- What the institutional structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately.


How are Americans meant to pursue their goals?

Legitimate means: self-discipline, study, educational qualifications and hard work in a career.


What might prevent some groups from achieving their goals?

- Many disadvantaged groups are denied opportunities to achieve legitimately.

- For example, poverty, inadequate schools and discrimination in the job market for many ethnic minorities and the lower classes.


Briefly explain the strain to anomie.

- Strain between cultural goal of money + lack of legitimate opportunities to achieve.

- Produces frustration and creates pressure to resort to illegitimate means such as crime and deviance.

- Merton calls this pressure to deviate 'strain to anomie'


Why is there pressure to deviate in American culture?

- American culture put more emphasis on achieving success at any price than upon doing so by legitimate means.
- Winning the game becomes more important that playing by the rules.


Briefly outline Merton's five adaptations to strain.

- Individuals accept the culturally approved goals and strive to achieve them legitimately.
- Mostly m/c w/ good opportunities to achieve.
- Merton: typically response of most Americans.

- Individuals accept the goal of money success but use 'new' illegitimate means such as theft or fraud to achieve it.
- Lower end of class structure.

- Individuals give up on trying to achieve the goals, but have internalised the legitimate means and so they follow the rules for their own sake.
- Lower m/c office workers

- Individuals reject both the goals and the legitimate means and become drop outs.
- Merton includes: 'psychotics, outcasts, vagrants, tramps, chronic drunkards and drug addicts' as examples

- Individuals reject the existing society's goals and means, but they replace them with new ones in a desire to bring about revolutionary change and create a new kind of society.
- Rebels include political radicals and counter-cultures such as hippies.


Briefly outline two patterns of crime Merton explains.

- Most crime is property crime, because American society values material wealth so highly.

- Lower-class crime rates are higher, because they have least opportunity to obtain wealth legitimately.


Briefly outline five criticisms of Merton's theory.

- Takes official stats at face value. Over-represents w/c crime, so Merton sees crime as mainly w/c. Too deterministic: not all w/c deviate.

- Marxists: Ignores power of r/c to make and enforce laws which criminalise poor but not rich.

- Assumes there's a value consensus: everyone strives for 'money success'. Ignores that not everyone may share this goal.

- Accounts for utilitarian crime for monetary gain not violence, vandalism etc. Hard to see how it could account for state crimes e.g genocide + torture.

- Explains how deviance results from individuals adapting to strain to anomie but ignores role of group deviance e.g delinquent subcultures.


Define subculture.

A group of people within society who share norms, values, beliefs and attitudes that are in someways different the mainstream culture.


What do subcultures offer their members? In what sense are subcultures functional for their members?

An alternative opportunity structure for those who are denied the chance to achieve by legitimate means - mainly w/c.

Subcultures are a solution to a problem and therefore functional for their members, even if not for wider society.


According to Cohen, why is crime a lower-class phenomenon?

It results from the inability of those in the lower classes to achieve mainstream success goals by legitimate means such as educational achievement.


What two criticisms does Cohen make of Merton?

- Merton sees deviance as an individual response to strain, ignoring the fact that much deviance is committed in or by groups, especially among the young.

- Merton focuses on utilitarian crime committed for material gain, such as theft or fraud. He largely ignores crimes such as assault and vandalism, which may have no economic motive.


According to Cohen, why do working-class boys face anomie?

They suffer from cultural deprivation and lack skills to achieve. Their inability to success in this m/c world leaves them at the bottom of the official status hierarchy.


What are the values of the subcultures that Cohen describes and how do they compare with society's values?

- The subcultures values are: spite, malice, hostility and contempt for those outside it.

- The delinquent subculture inverts the values of mainstream society - turns them upside down.

- What society condemns the subculture praises and vice versa.


How does the subculture offer an alternative status hierarchy?

Having failed in the legitimate opportunity structure, they can create their own illegitimate opportunity structure in which they can win one status from their peers through their delinquent actions.


Give one criticism of Cohen's view.

- Cohen assumes that w/c boys start off sharing m/c success goals, only to reject these when they fail.
- He ignores the possibility that they didn't share these goals in the first place and so never saw themselves as failures.