Conflict theory and structural Functionalist Perspective on crime


Each theory in sociology gives us various perspectives with which to analyze our social world. The approaches involve a set of interconnected prepositions designed to explain a specific phenomenon. Sociologists typically investigate common occurrences at various levels and from different perspectives. Sociology entails three critical theoretical perspectives that include conflict theorists, structural-functionalist, and symbolic interactionist perspectives. Each one of these perspectives provides a variety of explanations of human behavior and the social world. The three theoretical perspectives view crime in our society differently.  This assignment mainly focused on the conflict and structural-functionalist theoretical perspectives. The study established that the conflict theory perspective views crime as a harmful component in any society. Consequently, conflict theorists state that socioeconomic aspects cause crime and inequality in the system. Structural functionalist theorists argue that crime is one of the crucial components in any functioning societybecause crime enhances social regulation, cohesion, and integration. Comparing conflict theorists to structural-functionalist theorists establishes that conflict theorists focus on how negative crime is to society. In contrast, structural functionalists focus on the positivity of crime in our communities.

Keywords: Conflict theorist’s Perspective and structural Functionalist Perspective

Crime from Both a Conflict Theorist’s and Functionalist Perspective


Sociology involves studying human behavior based on social relationships and institutions. Sociology assists us in comprehending how human awareness and actions form and become formed through the social structures and culture that surrounds them.  Sociologists use three theoretical perspectives to explain any human behavior on social relationships and social institutions in our societies. These perspectives include the conflict theorist’s structural-functionalist and the symbolic interactionist perspectives (Hakkinen, 2019). All these theoretical perspectives give different explanations regarding human behavior and the social world. The conflict theory perspective by Karl Marxdiversely presents the society differently when compared to the structural-functionalist perspective. The conflict theorists view economic and social aspects as the cause of crime.

Consequently, conflict theorists never perceive such aspects as constructive functions in any society, but they perceive both social and economic issues as a confirmation of inequity within the social systems. Furthermore, conflict theorists oppose control and social disorganization theories by arguing that both approaches disregardsocioeconomic and racial challengesimmensely simplify social norms.The structural-functionalist theorists’focus on the manner various components of our society contribute to the entire community. They state that crime remains a core component of any functioning society since it promotes social regulation and social integration (Kalu, 2019). This assignment seeks to analyze how both conflict theorists and structural-functionalist theorists perceive crime in our society.

Conflict theorists argue that any crime involving finances remains as functions of conflicts found within our society. The conflict theorists state that class conflict serves as the leading causeof crime in our communities, and the powerful in societyformulate and implement laws that safeguard theirinterests and needs. According to the conflict theorist, legal codes define crime in our society. Consequently, the codes sanction the criminal justice systems to secure society’s order. According to conflict theorists, it is not a crime to embezzle funds to look after the personal and interests of the powerful in any society. Comparing conflict theorist perspective to structural-functionalist Perspective functionalist theorists concentrate on the manner various elements of a society contribute to the whole. They argue that crime remains a core component of any functioning society. Based on this perspective, the structural-functionalist perspective views crime as one of the beneficial parts of any community as it improves social regulation and social integration (Karl Marx, 2019). Unlike conflict theorists who view crime as a harmful component for society.

Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton are the two most significant thinkers of the functionalist theory. The theory argues that corruption is inevitable and functional for any community. Also, Durkheimargues that crime has a positive function in contributing to society’s well-being. Consequently, the structural functionalists say that too much crime in society becomes harmful for the community and could result in its collapse. In this case, the social control institutions remain essential to ensure the level of crime remains in check (Suonpera & Griffiths, 2019). Based on the views, conflict theorists focus on the negativity of crime in our society. In contrast, the structural-functionalist theorists only focus on how each aspect, whether bad or good, contributes to society as a whole.

The structural-functionalist perspective states that crime challenges present views of the people. Furthermore, Durkheim notes that punishing crime reaffirms presently held social norms that contribute positively to our society. Social Disorganization theory confirms that communities that lack social control institutions and with weak social ties could experience increased crime rates, unlike those with social control institutions and healthy social relationships. The theory argues that various social aspects make people commit a crime. Besides, the approach continues to say that one is never born a criminalbut becomes one over time based on elements in her or his social environment.The control theory states that the strong point of social bonds unswervinglyinfluences social controlin any society. In this perspective, people could commit a crime to obtain the benefits of excitement, pleasure, and profit given a chance (Triplett, 2018). Based on this Perspective, those with an opportunity to commit a crime involve those individuals weakly controlled by social restrictions.

Conflict theorists argue that crime negatively affects the stability of the society, while structural-functionalist demonstrates that crime performs two key roles that enhance social security in any community. In this case, the social system that detects and punishes crime forms norms and informs individuals from any society how to behave through the formulation of unacceptable and acceptable behavior. Furthermore, such set norms formulate social parameters between various populations hence enabling the “us versus them” mentality within different social groups. The functionalist perspective argues that crime enables the majority in society to unite around what they perceive as usual at the expense of criminals (n.a, 2018). On the contrary, those marked as criminals could easily create solidarity among themselves hence creating an identity and cohesive units of their own, resulting in increased crime.

Functionalists argue that crime remains universal and inevitable in any society hence normal and healthy in any community. Crime remains inevitable simply because not every individual in any society remains committed to the shared moral beliefs and values of society because each one of them has witnessed various circumstances and influences hence tricky for them to behave the same (Karl Marx, 2019). Consequently, based on this argument, some individuals would inevitably commit crimes by doing the unacceptable norms set in society. The functionalist theorysees crime not only as inevitable but also functional, and it becomes dysfunctional only when its rate increases to high levels or when it goes to low (Karl Marx, 2019). Consequently, such occurrences of crime enhance social change; hence strong sentiments result in decreased crime and minimum change.


The study concludes that conflict theorists Perspective presents crime as a harmful component in any society while the structural-functionalist perspective sees crime as inevitable, functional, and reasonable in any healthy community. Crime results in social solidarity and cohesion based on a structural-functionalist view, while in a conflict theory perspective, crime destabilizes the society.


Hakkinen, E. (2019). Welfare, corporatism, and criminal justice: comparing Durkheim and the new institutionalists. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 1-22.

Kalu, K. N. (2019). A Functional Theory of Government, Law, and Institutions. New: Rowman & Littlefield.

Karl Marx, F. E. (2019). The Communist Manifesto. New York: GENERAL PRESS.

n.a. (2018). Conflict Theory. London: IntroBooks.

Suonpera, L., & Griffiths, S. (2019). Space syntax theory and Durkheim’s social morphology: a reassessment. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 2-17.

Triplett, R. A. (2018). The Handbook of the History and Philosophy of Criminology. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

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