Introduction to the Sociology and Psychology of Crime
Section A (Sociology of Crime)
How have Marx and Durkheim’s Views Contributed to our Understanding of Crime and Deviance?
Karl Marx’s Marxist theory and Emile Durkheim’s functionalist theory were both significant in their own ways and therefore made a large contribution to our perception and understanding of how crime and deviance occurs and is dealt with in society.
The Marxist theory on crime was focused on the concept that the huge shift towards a capitalist society was the root cause and driving force behind the formation of social divisions and subsequent increase in crime and conflict. Willem Bonger expanded on the Marxist theory by explaining that the capitalist shifts lead the law to focus on the proletariat divisions as the deviant members of society, they were believed to be the one to commit a crime, rather than be a victim of crime due to the social class they placed in. The bourgeoisie on the other hand; the powerful and wealthy, were almost totally overlooked by the law, it’s almost as if they were immune to the effects of the law and its enforcement because of their societal status. The emphasis on the way the law treated, or rather didn’t treat the higher classes has led to the understanding that wealth is an enormous factor in terms of how vulnerable and individual is to the effects of the law and assumptions of individuals deviant behaviour based on their social class.
It has also been suggested by Frank Pearce that use of ‘elite-favouring’ in capitalist societies has resulted in the intensification of lower class criminality. The lower class have been subsequently ‘branded’ as the people who deviate from ideal behaviour and cause the crime in society. A capitalist society being led to believe such labels and characteristics of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie social divisions has developed the widespread assumption and understanding that criminals are assessed on where they stand in their social status and class rather than their actual behaviour and criminal actions.
Durkheim’s theory of functionalism suggests crime and deviance is the norm and provides its own functions that are vital to society. He believed that the presence of deviance in society allows moral borders and boundaries to be structured around social assumptions of deviant behaviours and what’s considered right and wrong. The subsequent responses to these types of behaviours promote social unity and encourage social change.
David Downes and Paul Rock proposed that crime should be viewed and a necessary factor that is a ‘healthy social phenomenon’ in societies. This shows that Durkheim sparked the recognition that crime should be viewed as a ‘healthy’ normality at sensible levels, rather than is being viewed as a solely negative factor that brings society down. Crime and deviance is supposedly is key to regularity in society, it provides a huge amount of public understanding and social acceptance to...