Conflict and Functional Theory

Lists of Assumptions in Conflict-Functional Debate

Functional Theory

Conflict Theory

Model A Model B
1. Norms and values are the basic elements of social life 1. Interests are the basic elements of social life
2. Social life involves commitments 2. Social life involves inducement and coercion
3. Societies are necessarily cohesive 3. Social life is necessarily divisive
4. Social life depends on solidarity 4. Social life generates opposition, exclusion, and hostility
5. Social life is based on reciprocity and cooperation 5. Social life generates structured conflict
6. Social systems rest on consensus 6. Social life generates sectional interests
7. Society recognizes legitimate authority 7. Social differentiation involves power
8. Social systems are integrated 8. Social systems are malintegrated and beset by "contradictions"
9. Social systems tend to persist 9. Social systems tend to change

 

Applying Functional and Conflict Theory to the Issue of Crime

A. On the content and operation of the criminal law

Functional Hypothesis

Conflict Hypotheses

1. Acts are defined as criminal because they offend the moral beliefs of the members of the society. Acts are defined as criminal because it is in the interests of the ruling class to so define them.
2. Those who violate the criminal law will be punished according to the prevailing customs of the society. Members of the ruling class will be able to violate the laws with impunity while members of the subject classes will be punished.
3. Persons are labeled criminal because their behavior goes beyond the tolerance limits of the community. Persons are labeled criminal because it is in the interests of the ruling class to so label them, whether or not the behavior would be tolerated by "the society" at large.
4. The lower classes are more likely to be arrested for and convicted of crime because the commit more crimes. The lower classes are more likely to be labeled criminal 'because the bourgeoisie's control of the state protects them from such stigmatization.
5. As societies become more specialized in the division or labor, more and more laws will become restitutive rather than repressive (penal). As capitalist societies industrialize and the gap between the bourgeoisie and proletariat widens, penal law will expand in an effort to coerce the proletariat into submission.

 

B. On the consequences of crime for society

Functional Hypotheses

Conflict Hypotheses

1. Crime establishes the limits of the community's tolerance of deviant behavior and increases moral solidarity among the members of the community. Crime enables the ruling class to create false consciousness among the ruled by making them think that their own interests and those of the ruling class are identical.
2. Crime necessitates the expenditure of energy and resources to eradicate it and is thus an economic drain on the society. Crime reduces surplus labor by creating employment not only for the criminals but for law enforcers, locksmiths, welfare workers, professors of criminology, and other people who benefit from the existence or crime.
3. Clime offends the conscience or everyone in the community, thus creating a tighter bond among them. Crime diverts the lower classes attention from the exploitation they experience towards other members of their own class, rather than towards the capitalist economic system.
4. Crime makes people aware of the interests their have in common. Defining people as criminal permits greater- control or the proletariat.
5. Crime is a real problem which all communities must cope with in order to survive. Crime is a reality which exists only as it is created by those in the society whose interests are served by its presence.

 

C. On the etiology of criminal behavior

Functional Hypotheses

Conflict Hypotheses

Every society has a set of agreed upon customs (rules, norms, values) which most members internalize. Criminal behavior results from the fact that some members get socialized into criminal behavior. Criminal and noncriminal behavior stem from people acting in ways that are compatible with their class position. Crime is reaction to the life conditions of a person's social class.
Criminal acts are more frequent among lower classes because the agencies of socialization (especially the family, but also the neighborhood, schools, other adult and peer groups) are less likely to work effectively, i. e., in ways that lead to internalization of noncriminal norms and behaviors. Criminal acts are concentrated in the lower classes because the ruling can see that only acts which grow out of lower class life are defined as criminal.
The lower classes are more likely to be arrested because they commit more crimes. The lower classes are more likely to be arrested and will then be labeled as criminals because the bourgeoisie controls those manage the law enforcement agencies.
Crime is constant in societies. All societies produce crime. Clime varies from society to society depending on the political and economic structures of society.
Socialist and capitalist societies should have the same amounts of crime if they -have comparable rates of industrialization and bureaucratization. Socialist societies should have much lower rates of crime because the less intense class struggle should reduce the forces leading to and the functions of crime.

 

Criminal Law Criminal Behavior

 

Cause

Consequence

Cause

Consequence

Conflict

Paradigm

Ruling class interests Provide state coercive force to repress the class struggle and to legitimize the use of this force Class divisions which lead to class struggle Crime serves the interests of the ruling class by reducing strains inherent in the capitalist mode of production
Functional

Paradigm

Customary beliefs that are codified in state law To establish procedures for controlling those who do not comply with customs Inadequate socialization To establish the moral boundaries of the community

 

 Sources:

Turner, Jonathan, The Structure of Sociological Theory, Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press, 1974.

Chambliss, William J. Functional and conflict theories of crime, New York :MSS Modular Publications,
1974