Sociological Perspectives on Crime – Course Note – jtorre05
Sociological Perspectives on Crime
Sociology of Crime
In sociology, crime is a form of deviant behavior exhibited by members of a social group or a society. According to Situational Awareness website, deviance describes an action or behavior that violates social norms, including a formally enacted rule, as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and mores). (Gasaway n.d.) This paper will briefly discuss crime as viewed by the three main sociological perspectives.
The Structured functionalist perspective looks at the various parts of society as necessary and integral to its function. They also view any change within any area of this functional system as initiating another change in other areas in other areas in order to balance out the system. Therefore, the functionalists see crime as a necessary evil. So, how is crime necessary? According to Emile Durkheim, crime is normal and although it may become abnormal, in that crime may be high, its normality resides in its existence. (Durkheim, The Normality of Crime n.d.) The functionalist will further argue that because of the existence of crime, society increases its law enforcement capabilities and rehabilitation centers, which are prisons. This along with other programs, such as education and social services, rebalances society to its normative state. Thus, we see society functioning more as an organizing than just another manmade concept. This idea, of course, is in opposition to the conflict theorist’s point of view.
The conflict theorist’s perspective sees a struggle between the two classes of society. They see society broken down into the ruling class or capitalists and the working class. (Tweedell 2010) As society establishes and enforces these laws, it is watching out for the interests of the ruling class. In other words, conflict theorists believe that laws that are passed are designed to protect and care for the ruling class and also to keep them in power. Therefore, the conflict theorist will explain crime as a result of society’s actions. They argue that the manipulation of basic values of society are one of the reasons for the existence of crime. (Chambliss, et al. n.d.) Some have pointed out the discrepancies between white collar crimes and other crimes as evidence of the manipulation of society’s morality; in that white collar crimes typically impact many more people than do other crimes, yet they receive more lenient sentences. (Tweedell 2010) This theory seems to imply that under the right circumstances, crime would not exist. Unfortunately, textual evidence to support this implied fact has not yet been found. So we see that both the functionalist and the conflict theorist have a macro view of society. Let us then take a closer look or consider a micro perspective.
Symbolic interactionists do not look at society with a wide lens, instead they get in personal, exploring the actions and reactions of individuals to their environment to include other members of the society. Interactionists believe that each individual is a result of their environment and that they each mimic behaviors that have been observed. In other words, interactionists believe that the old saying, ‘monkey see monkey do,’ is in fact how individuals in society learn to function.
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(2015, 11). Sociological Perspectives on Crime. EssaysForStudent.com. Retrieved 11, 2015, from