Functionalist Perspective on Deviance

Functionalist perspective

They look for the source of deviance in the nature of society rather than in the individual.
Functionalists argue that deviance is a necessary part of all societies, and it performs positive functions for social systems.

Emile Durkheim argued that crime is an inevitable and normal aspect of social life. Crime is an integral part of all healthy societies. It is inevitable because not every member of society cab be equally committed to the shared values and moral beliefs of society. Durkheim argued that it only becomes dysfunctional when its rate is unusually high or low. He argued that all social change begins with some form of deviance.
If crime is inevitable, what is the function of punishment? Durkheim argued its function was not to remove crime in society but to maintain the collective sentiments at their necessary level of strength. Without punishment, the collective sentiments would lose their power to control behavior, and the crime rate would reach the point where it became dysfunctional. Durkheim suggested society itself generates deviance for its own well – being. However he believed that high rates of crime would suggest that something had gone wrong with society.

Robert K.Merton – social structure and anomie

Since members of society do not have the same opportunities of realizing the shared values, deviance comes along.
In a balanced society an equal emphasis is placed upon both cultural goals and institutionalized means. Merton outlined five possible ways in which members of American society could respond to success goals:

    • The first is conformity. They strive for success by means of accepted channels.
    • The second response is innovation. This response rejects normative means of achieving success and turns to deviant means. Members of the lower strata are most likely to select this route of success.
    • The third response is ritualism. Some people, particularly from the lower middle classes, may...