Criminology: Functionalist Perspective on Crime and Deviance

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Criminology: Functionalist perspective on crime and deviance
The functionalist approach to analyzing deviance and the causes of crime looks at society as a whole. It explains crime and deviance by saying that the source of deviance lies in the nature of society itself rather than in psychology or biology. It should be noted that functionalists see deviance as an inevitable and necessary part of society. Some also consider deviance to have positive aspects for society.
Emile Durkheim
Durkheim argued in The Rules of Sociological Method that a certain level of crime was inevitable within any society. In fact it is normal and 'an integral part of all healthy societies’. The reason that deviance is inevitable is that not everyone is equally committed to the collective values and moral beliefs of society. There will always be disagreement and dissent. In addition, deviance can act in a positive way in that it helps to reinforce ideas of right and wrong in society. It reinforces ‘collective sentiments’ in society.
Problems with deviance arise when the level of crime becomes too great as this can threaten social stability. Durkheim considered that deviance acts as a catalyst for social change in society. Change occurs because what was thought deviant previously is now considered acceptable. In this way society evolves and makes progress, which is healthy. The alternative would be stagnation and atrophy with no development. Indeed, Durkheim viewed societies where crime levels were extremely low as unhealthy because such societies remain static with social attitudes and injustices unchallenged.
Durkheim also established the concept of anomie, which was developed further by Merton. His concept of anomie explains how societies undergoing social change will also experience confusion over what is to be considered right and wrong behavior. In other words social change brings…...

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