Explanations of Crime
Functionalists like Emile Durkheim view society as a system of highly unified groups or parts that operate in harmony with each other. Durkheim believed that there was a consensus over societies’ norms and values resulting in social order. He saw crime as normal in terms of its existence, and even as having positive social functions in terms of its consequences. Crime was normal and no society could enforce total conformity to its injunctions, and if society could, it would be so repressive as to leave no freedom for the social contributions of individuals. Deviance from the norms of society is necessary if society is to remain flexible and open to change and new ...view middle of the document...
Conflict theorist Karl Marx believed society is constantly changing to adapt to the change in response to social inequality and social conflict. Marxists see society as a structure- the capitalist economy as the base- forming the shape of the superstructure (all the other social institutions). Capitalist society is broken down into classes the bourgeoise who own means of production and the working class proletariat whom are exploited by the ruling capitalist class. Marxists believe that consensus is an illusion and that it imposes itself on the rest of society. The ruling class make the decisions and manipulate values of society. The ruling class decide which acts should be criminalised and how to enforce the law. Marxist approach to crime is based on conflict theory. Unlike the functionalist approach, it does not assume there is consensus over a common core of norms and values.
Marxists see deviance in terms if a critique of capitalist society. It questions who defines what crime is and who makes the law. The basis of the argument is that the ruling class, or capitalist class, exploit the working class because power is held by those who own, and control the means of production in society. The superstructure reflects the relationship between the powerful and the relatively powerless. The agencies of social control, the law and definitions of deviance reflect and serve ruling class interests. The law is a tool of the capitalist ruling class, and the state uses the law to support their own class interests while exploiting and controlling the working class. The law is capitalist law and favours the capitalist system. Marxists argue that the capitalist economic system generates crime as:
* The economic system is the major influence upon social relationships and values. Capitalism stresses maximisation of profits and wealth.
* Economic self-interest rather than public duty motivates behaviour.
* Personal gain rather than collective well-being is encouraged.
* Capitalism is a competitive system. Mutual aid and cooperation for the betterment of all are discouraged in favour of individual achievement at the expense of others. Competition breeds aggression, hostility and frustration on the part of losers.
William Chambliss (1976) argues that greed and self-awareness motivate many crimes at all levels in society. According to Marxists, the occasional prosecution of a member of the ruling class is only done to perpetuate the myth that the law operates for the benefit of society as a whole. In other words, it is a smokescreen to hide the truth that it is designed to protect the rich and powerful and used against the working class. Selective law enforcement also diverts attention from the exploitation of the working class. It also directs the attention of the working class on to criminals within their own class which acts as a safety valve. This is also a way to divide the working class.
Sub Cultural theories were built upon the...