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Compare and Contrast two main theories of crime and deviance

Uploaded by jak832000 on May 21, 2004

Compare and contrast two main theories of ‘crime and deviance’.

‘‘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...

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Uploaded by:   jak832000

Date:   05/21/2004

Category:   Social Issues

Length:   9 pages (2,104 words)

Views:   5370

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