Functions of Crime

Topics: Sociology, Crime, Criminology Pages: 3 (759 words) Published: November 2, 2008
The Functions of Crime

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, crime is defined as an act punishable by law, as being forbidden by statute or injurious to the public welfare. Even though it varies in nature, crime is found in almost every society known to man. There is no society that is not confronted with the problem of criminality (Durkheim). Despite the obvious social costs of crime, some crimes make important contribution to the operation of a social system.

Crime is functional for society because the community’s reaction to it brings the community together and strengthens its moral boundaries (Warner). When a law is violated, especially within small communities, everyone talks about it. Sometimes there are town meetings held, articles written in local new publications, and in general a social community comes to live with activities when a “norm” is broken. The trial and the sentence are occasions for newspaper and other media to concentrate and express the collective revulsion that is necessary to strengthen feelings of social unity and deepen our allegiance to the normative system (Mason). The criminal offers the social system the opportunity of reactivating the norms, or reinforcing

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them through the public staging of the ignominy of those who refuse to obey them (Mason). In most cases, a violation incites the society as a whole to cling together in opposition to the violation, reaffirming that society’s bond and its adherence to certain norms (Dunman).

Not only does crime produce social solidarity, it also promotes social changes in society. While most violations of norms are greeted with opposition by the masses, others are sometimes not, and those violations that gain support often are re-examined by the society (Duman). Often those activities that once were considered a crime are reconsidered and become part of the norms, simply because they gained support by a large portion of the society. For example, during the Civil...

Cited: Dunman, L. Joe. "Crime." The Emile Durkheim Archive. 2003. 12 Oct 2008 http://durkheim.itgo.com/crime.html.
Liska , Allen , Barbara Warner. "Functions of Crime: A Paradoxical Process." The American Journal of Sociology 96(1991): 1441-1463.
Mason, Timothy. "Deviance and Delinquency ." 2005. 12 Oct 2008 .
McLaughlin, Eugene, John Muncie, Gordon Hughes. Criminological Perspectives: Essential Readings. 2nd. New York: Sage Publications Ltd, 2003.
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