Sociological Perspectives: Theory of Anomie

Sociological Theorist:
  • Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
  • People who live in cities feel more anonymous and isolated (as compared to rural life)
  • No longer restrained by the strict norms of society (in rural life) and given the anonymity in a big city certain individuals turned to crime
  • Durkheim is also a father of functionalism (i.e., everyone has a role/function in society and that is how society runs/functions)
  • Durkheim believes that criminals have a role and are needed for society to function
  • If there were no crime, it would mean that everyone in society was the same and agreed on everything
  • This is no ideal and society would be too comforting – people need a release

Functions of Crime – Emile Durkheim:


  • Those who don’t and can’t follow the structures/norms in society, experience deviant behaviour – deviate from the norms of society
  • Kitty Genovese was a young woman stabbed to death on a street in New York City in1964
  • As many as 37 neighbours and bystanders all heard her screams for help
  • No one called the police because they all thought someone else would take action.
  • Sociologists call this Diffusion of Responsibility
  • Kitty Genovese Article

Kitty Genovese

Ecological School:

  • Believed that criminal behaviour was fostered and encouraged in certain environments
  • They studied a number of poor neighbourhoods and concluded that communities that suffered from high rates of poverty and social disintegration were more likely to condone criminal activity than more affluent neighbourhoods

Social Conflict Theory:

  • Karl Marx and Frederick Engels argued that the capitalist society encouraged crime as people competed for resources and wealth
  • Our society protects those with power and property
  • As a result, people who are economically disadvantaged are more likely to be punished by our justice system
  • The only way to solve the crime problem is to eliminate the capitalist system

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