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OUTLINE, ILLUSTRATE AND EVALUATE FUNCTIONALIST THEORIES OF CRIME AND DEVIANCE

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Introduction

OUTLINE, ILLUSTRATE AND EVALUATE FUNCTIONALIST THEORIES OF CRIME AND DEVIANCE Some may get confused with the difference in concept between crime and deviance. Crime refers to those activities that break the law of the land and are subject to official punishment. Deviance consists of those acts which do not follow the norms and expectations of a particular social group. Deviance may be positively sanctioned (rewarded), negatively sanctioned (punished), or simply accepted without reward or punishment. Deviance is not necessarily criminal and criminal behaviour is not necessarily deviant for example, alcoholism and attempted suicide are not illegal today, it is even the case that some criminal acts are not typically seen as deviant. In the past it has been considered deviant for a woman to smoke, however now is perfectly acceptable. In the same way definitions of crime can change over time e.g. ...read more.

Middle

streaking. In the world we live in today a crime free society is impossible. For this to be possible we will all have to be clones and saints sharing the same norms and values. Functionalists say that deviance in many aspects of society is extremely positive, because it causes social progress through change. For example, this can be seen in Nelson Mandela, and apartheid. Functionalists see punishing criminals as a way to reinforce shared social values. By punishing criminals and publicising it reminds society's members of what is right and what is wrong. Another functionalist sociologist Albert Cohen suggests that society has a 'safety valve' which can help maintain the social order. He claims that some forms of deviance act as this safety valve which helps to protect the greater social order e.g. men visiting prostitutes may help to preserve a marriage. ...read more.

Conclusion

Robert Merton suggested that if everybody shares society's goals of high achievement too strongly it can be the cause of deviance. This is because not everyone can achieve society's goals. Another idea of Merton's is the 'American dream'. This states that everyone has an opportunity to go from a 'log cabin' to the 'White house'. However, in reality this is hardly possible for the vast majority of citizens and can lead to innovation; he suggests that most people conform and achieve their status through education and so on. However some individuals cannot achieve through normal social means, so they 'innovate' which mean that they turn to crime to achieve the same social goals. In some respects the functionalists' theory of crime and deviance offer a valid explanation. However, this theory is widely criticised in many ways by different theorists and many people will disagree on the idea that crime is a positive part of society. ...read more.

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