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The Pros And Cons Of Functionalism And Marxism

2816 words - 11 pages

The two theoretical approaches I have chosen to compare to the study of crime are Functionalism and Marxism. I have done so, as I believe both theories are important/ significant to the study of crime and differentiate from each other. I will do this by writing a critique the advantages and disadvantages of both of the theories and thus, resulting in my own personal opinion in the conclusion.

Marxism derived from German philosophers Karl Marx (also a political economist/ sociologist) and Friedrich Engels in the middle of the 1800s. ‘Marxism is based on the idea that society is defined by the conflict between the ruling class (Bourgeoisie) and the working class (Proletariat) and these beings the two main classes’ (Hart, 2013). It states that those who have money and power in essence control society, and those without ways and means do not; and are at the mercy of the powerful and wealthy. In addition, Marxism considers the working class inferior to the ruling class as they get paid the lowest kind of pay and are removed from their work and is and exploited by their bosses (e.g. owners of the factory). Marxism also looks at/examines the social structure (structurally) and says that capitalism will ultimately fail (most likely through revolution such as what was seen in France among 1789 and 1799 and in Russia in 1917). In reference to the study of crime, to Marx the law is not something that upholds the interests of everyone but only the ruling class for instance white-collar crime would be encouraged to be ignored. Contrastingly, Functionalism which was first introduced by Emile Durkheim in 1894 and gained momentum in the mid-1900s, and believed that unlike Marxism which is dependent on that of the ruling class in society, each sector of society co-dependent on one another to function properly. Furthermore, ‘Functionalists see society as being similar to the human body. In the same way the body relies on the heart to pump blood round to other vital organs like the lungs and brain. Functionalists see society as being constructed of different inter-dependent components like the family and education’ (Sociology at Twynham, 2014). Therefore, each sector/part of society is as important as the others in ensuring society maintains its structure and if one sector was to say fail then the others would then follow suit and end up causing problems for society as a whole. Therefore in reference to crime, Functionalism has the strong affirmation that social order and the limitation of crime (on all accounts) is beneficial to everyone not just the ruling class as what the Marxist theory encourages others to believe.

Although it may seem that the theory of Marxism is outdated to be used for the study of crime now, it has actually been applied to others’ work such as Willem Bonger. Willem Bonger was a Dutch Scholar and also among the first criminologists to apply Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels theory of Marxism to his own work. Willem Bonger studied...

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