Crime as Functional, Inevitable and Normal
Crime can be functional in bringing about social change - when social
norms are unsuited with the conditions of life.
A high crime rate is an indication of a social system that has failed
to adapt to change. Deviance, acts as a warning device, indicating
that an aspect of society is malfunctioning. Deviance may also act as
a safety valve - a relatively harmless expression of discontent. For
example the invasion of the House of Commons, would be a warning
device to society relating to security issues.
Durkheim argues that some crime is inevitable, but only in some
societies, the crime rate may become too much and, this indicates a
society that is intolerable, which means that it is suffering from
social disorganisation. However, Durkheim does not provide any
indication of what a 'normal' crime rate might be.
While regarding a certain rate of crime as a normal unavoidable
feature of society, also Durkheim was aware that particular societies
might be in a suffering condition, which generates excessive deviance.
This leads into the area of anomie and the work of Robert Merton.
Durkheim argues that crime can have a positively beneficial role in
social evolution. Individuals, who anticipate necessary adjustments of
social morality to changing conditions, may be stigmatised as
criminals at first.
Despite Durkheim’s views, he does not explain why certain people are
more likely to commit crimes than others are; he is more interested in
the relationship between deviance and order in society.
Along with Durkheim, Merton argues that deviant behaviour is
Merton's analysis suggests that deviant behaviour is functional.
Firstly, for the individuals involved, since it enables them to adapt
to the circumstances in which they find themselves and secondly, for
society as a whole - since modes of individual adaptation help to
maintain the boundaries between acceptable and non-acceptable forms of
There are ways of being blocked from success that will lead to
deviance. This is why Merton went on to explain different patterns of
* CONFORMITY: Person continues to accept goals and means set by
society, even though failure is likely outcome
* INNOVATION: Response when person accepts goals set by...