The Functionalist Position on Crime and Deviance

The functionalist approach to analysing 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.

Functionalists argue that in order to achieve this solidarity, society has two key mechanisms: Socialisation which instils the shared culture into its members which helps to ensure that individuals internalise the same norms and values. Second key mechanism they propose is social control which includes rewards for conformity and punishments for deviance. These help to ensure that individuals behave in the way society expects.

Durkheim (1897) argues that crime and deviance are useful and necessary in society. It helps to reinforce the consensus of values, norms and behavior of the majority non-deviant population, through the idea of outrage at crime which strengthens social solidarity. It also acts as a social dynamic which allows for social changes to occur and for social boundaries to be tested, ensuring that a society, its norms and values and its laws stay in line with the social consensus. Durkheim also sees Crime and Deviance as a provider of employment for law enforcement. Durkheim's idea behind deviance as a force for social change is supported by the gradual legalization of behavior once seen as deviant (abortion, homosexuality) over time as social attitudes and consensus changed. However, Durkheim's view of crime has some flaws. Other theorists, including Erikson (1966) argue that powerful groups within any society are able to impose their views upon the majority by a process of ideological manipulation. Marxist theorists including Mannheim and Chambliss criticize the idea that the concepts of crime and deviance are defined by consensus, and...