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Crime and Deviance

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Essay title: Crime and Deviance

Emile Durkheim, a French psychologist writes in the latter part of the eighteenth century and early part of the nineteenth century. He undertakes a functionalist/ structural perspective when applying theory to understand the world; he views society as a system of interrelated parts with widespread consensus about core values and suitable forms of behaviour – if something exists then it must have a function and a purpose to society.

In Durkheim’s work �The Division of Labour (1964)’ he argued that in rural farming societies people generally tend to be involved in similar activities so the division of labour is therefore minimal. This results in people developing similar ideas, goals, hobbies a, interests and values; they share a �collective conscience’ This collective conscience produces �mechanical solidarity’ which is what Durkheim suggests is the social force holding these agricultural societies together. Industrialisation and urbanisation weaken the collective conscience as they promote a more specialised division of labour. Because people have different social positions and roles/ statuses they will each hold different thoughts, ideas, goals, hobbies and interests. This results in mechanical solidarity disappearing. Durkheim argues that as the division of labour becomes more and more specialised people become dependent on one and other for their basic needs. He calls this social bond �organic solidarity’. We can relate this to the human body; each organ is needed to function in order to support the other, just as society is interdependent on each other.

Durkheim suggests that there are two crucial elements in understanding crime, at first these appear to be slightly contradictory. First, he suggests that a limited amount of crime is necessary and beneficial to society as crime could not exist without some form of deviance taking place. He suggests that patterns of norm violations e.g. rape and kidnapping serve a function as these situations reunite people in an expression of common outrage and disgrace. He states �crime brings together upright consciences and concentrates them’. So as the media publish incidences like rape and kidnapping they are reaffirming people’s beliefs and sharing morals and beliefs by discussing what is right and wrong. Kay Erikson (1966) extended upon this theory and argued that the deviance present in such incidences serve the important purpose of affirming and reinforcing the cultural identity of social groups. Group members have the opportunity to come together and share a common goal reminding group members what values they share and strengthening social cohesion. He also suggests that deviance allows society to clarify norms and as previously they are vague and unclear bu8t when such an incident occurs, through social reaction society is able to agree on common values. Durkheim and Erikson both suggest that deviance highlights and emphasizes the reward for conformity – when punishing people for norm violations it reminds others of the reward for conformity.

On the other hand Durkheim claims that too much crime can be bad for society as it can help bring about its collapse. He suggests that crime is not only inevitable but also functional for society. When crime becomes dysfunctional is when the crime rate is unusually high or extremely low. Durkheim argues that all social change appears with some form of deviance, so in order for changes to occur yesterdays deviance must become today’s normality. A certain amount of change is healthy for society – as like deviance. If within society the collective sentiments (thoughts) are too strong then this will result in there being little deviance, there will not be any change or progress made - if this happens and these ties holding us together are weakened, broken, non-existent or not regular enough to allow norms to be maintained or established then there will be a state of �normlessness’ (Anomie). He suggests that the collective sentiments must have �moderate energy’ so they do not abolish individuality. Speed of change in modern society can encourage this temporary unhealthy state to come about.

In �Rules of Socialogcal Method’ Durkheim relates to some crime as �an anticipation of the morality of the future’. So terrorists or freedom fighters may represent the future.

Durkheim argues that crime and deviance is created by integral parts of society (and not a number of small individuals), these integral parts form a crucial function in society.

As previously discussed, Durkheim relates society being held together to two types of solidarity. He argues that in mechanical solidarity we react to crime by punishing the perpetrator to allow those who are obeying the social norms to feel rewrded. This is also

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