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Functionalism and Crime

In: Social Issues

Submitted By jamieb1996
Words 1074
Pages 5
According to Durkheim, crime – or at least a certain limited amount of crime – was necessary for any society. Durkheim argued that at the basis of society was a set of shared values which guide our actions, which he called the collective conscience. It provides a framework with boundaries, which distinguishes between actions which are acceptable and those which are not. Durkheim discussed four elements of the positive aspect to crime. He believes crime can be functional by Re-affirming the boundaries every time that a person breaks a law and is taken to court, the resulting court ceremony and the publicity in the newspapers, publicly re-affirms the existing values. By changing values- every so often when a person is taken to court and charged with a crime a degree of sympathy occurs for the person prosecuted. The resulting public outcry signals a change in values and, in time this can lead to a change in law to reflect the changing values. Social cohesion A third function of crime, according to Durkheim, is to strengthen social cohesion. He points out that when particularly horrific crimes have been committed, the entire community draws in together in shared outrage, and the sense of belonging to a community is thereby strengthened. Safety Valve Deviant acts may be functional as a form of pressure release.
Durkheim does however see how crime can be destructive and negative. He stressed that it was a certain, limited amount of crime which performed positive functions for society. Too much crime, on the other hand, had negative consequences. Anomie according to Durkheim, society is based on people sharing common values (the collective conscience), which form the basis for actions. However, in periods of great social change or stress, the collective conscience may be weakened. In this situation, people may be freed from the social control imposed by the...

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