Functionalist Explanations of Crime

Functionalist Explanations of Crime - Functionalist...

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Functionalist Explanations of Crime Overview Functionalist explanations, like other sociological models such as labeling or conflict theory, look at the implications of crime and crime control policies, rather than directly attempting to explain the causes of criminal behavior. However, unlike other biological, psychological, and sociological models that remove blame from offenders by claiming criminals have little free will, a functionalist approach favors repression of criminal activity and the use of appropriate sanctions. The major distinction between functionalist and all other theories of crime causation is the former's apparent positive view of deviant behavior. Ordinary crime is not a threat to the social order. In fact, society needs criminal behavior (and legal responses to it) to function properly. Of course, the crime rate should remain within an acceptable limit, as too high a rate of crime might indicate an emerging problem, such as the rise of anomic conditions . Overall, crime is treated as a key indicator of systemic well-being. Yet, a low crime rate is not considered necessarily indicative of social stability. Society's response to crime in the form of negative feedback helps the citizenry recognize the boundaries of acceptable behavior. This is just one aspect of a cybernetic social system attempting to remain in homeostasis while continuing to gradually make progress. Crime is part of any social system ; defined as a pattern of social acts in pursuit of individual and collective goals and governed by its need to maintain its own structure. Origins of the functionalist perspective The metaphor upon which the functionalist perspective is based is a very simple one. Society is compared to a human body writ large, with interacting parts all working toward a common goal of keeping the organism functioning properly. The idea is not new. The Bible uses this metaphor in speaking about the church as a community: 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and
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though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18
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This note was uploaded on 11/27/2011 for the course CCJ 5606 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at FSU.

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Functionalist Explanations of Crime - Functionalist...

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