• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Suggest how crime and deviance can be seen as functional for society.

Extracts from this document...


Q: Suggest how crime and deviance can be seen as functional for society. Crime and deviance are acts that will elicit dissent from society. They take various forms and involve various concepts and theories. It will be the aim of this paper to explore those that are considered to be functional for society. It was Emile Durkheim who first clearly established the logic behind the functional approach to the study of crime and deviance1 when he wrote The Rules of Sociological Method and The Division of Labour2. In those works, Durkheim argued that crime and deviance is "an integral part of all healthy societies". He reasoned that crime and deviance are not only inevitable, but also functional for society and that they will only be considered dysfunctional when they reach abnormally high or low levels. His theory of functionalism rooted from his amazement with how society was able to keep itself intact amidst the social, political and economic upheaval provoked by the Industrial Revolution. He found that the social glue holding everything in place was: value consensus, social solidarity and collective conscience; and that crime and deviance had a role in this equation. "Deviance" is a wide-ranging term used by sociologists referring to behaviour that is off-tangent from social normalities3, and that "crime" is a variant of deviance, only that it "comprises activities or actions which are deemed so damaging to the interests of the community" (Pease, 1994) ...read more.


It was such a massive (and criminal) display of disobedience that the government was forced to rethink its position on the Poll Tax. The manner in which crime and deviation can result in changes to public policies can also be argued that they are necessary, as a function, to prevent the stagnation of society. In Durkheim's words "To make progress individual originality must be able to express itself" and that they may even have "the originality of the criminal" 10 in relation to the era that individual is set in. He used Socrates and Jesus11 as examples of the "creative individual" to illustrate how deviance is necessary for the development of new ideas which allows people to make reassessments of present conditions and stimulate change wherever appropriate. Take the former USSR for example. It had a government that was so ruthlessly suppressive towards innovation that eventually, it imploded. On the other hand, Communist China did what was considered to be a betrayal of Marxism - the promotion of entrepreneurship. Despite doing the unimaginable, the end result was a progressive society that enjoys an economy that is booming exponentially. When we observe crime, deviance and their relation to the legal system, we would certainly draw the connection that crime and deviance had, over the years, crafted an entire career sector for millions of employees12. It can therefore be argued that crime and deviance serves a function in keeping these employees employed. ...read more.


Merton et al's works validates Durkheim's evaluation that although crime and deviance plays an intricate function in society, he did not allocate the burden of blame to deviants. Instead, Durkheim was of the opinion that if an individual deviates, it is only because society had pressured him into doing so as it had failed to allow variations of individual behaviour. In addition, Durkheim also recognised that despite functional, crime and deviance should not be allowed to reach disproportionate levels as this becomes dangerous and in contrast, dysfunctional. Later academics criticised Durkheim and Merton's works to be over-reliant on statistics which glosses over the true picture of crime; and how they had ignored the theoretical problems of the powerful, who are in a position to resist the process of criminalisation17. As we conclude, in light of the above, that crime and deviance plays an essential part of our social fabric, we should keep in mind that the concept of crime and deviance remains a fluid one: it is relative across societies, cultures and even eras. Consider smoking in the 50s. It was a symbol of youth, wealth and power. In the 80s and 90s, as medical research began to unravel the irrefutable harm smoking causes, it was tolerated as a mild deviance and currently, the U.K is even considering banning smoking in entertainment outlets; while in countries like China, it is perfectly acceptable for both parents to be smoking in close proximity of their child. The statement "deviance is in the eye of the beholder"18 is certainly a valid one. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Crime & Deviance section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Crime & Deviance essays

  1. Sociological Theories on Crime and Deviance

    Thus law, supposedly neutral and fair in its form and implementation, works in the interest of the most well-to-do. An other way that conflict theorists see dominant groups as using their power is through the excessive regulation of populations that are a potential threat to affluent interests.

  2. Assess the view that sociology can and should be seen as a science

    rules/ regulations to follow is going to be scientific, and sociology has these. Therefore sociology must be a science. He also uses the term disenchantment to why sociology should be seen as a science, religion is loosing its mysticism because it cannot prove anything therefore religion is getting replaced by

  1. Free essay

    Assess the view that crime and deviance is the result of labelling, the media ...

    is a study of the societal reaction to the 'mods and rockers' disturbances involving groups of youths.

  2. Compare and Contrast the Main Sociological Theories of Deviance.

    to think that some acts seem constant, in terms of being defined as criminal, in all societies. That is, he recognises a minimum content of 'natural law'. Finally, Durkheim, while regarding a certain rate of crime as a normal inescapable feature of society, also was aware that particular societies might be in a pathological condition, which generates excessive deviance.

  1. Marxism is a structural theory, as people's actions are shaped by society and in ...

    While also, feminist sociologists have argued that Marxist theories emphasise to much on class inequality. They point out that Marxist theories ignore the role of patriarchy in influencing the way the criminal justice system operates. While Marxists have also rejected the importance of racism in the enforcement of laws.

  2. Assess the view that crime is functional, inevitable and normal

    Individuals within the society then begin to look after their own selfish interests and ignore the social values which they previously believed in due to the collective conscience. In situation such as these, crime rates increase drastically. This can be seen in the current news where Egypt is undergoing a major social change bought about by protests.

  1. Crime and Deviance

    According to Durkheim, people in the modern age are less constrained than they were in traditional societies, because there is more room for individual choice in the modern world, there will inevitably be some non-conformists. Functionalists theories see crime and deviance resulting from structural tensions and a lack of moral regulation within society.

  2. To what extent is Robert Merton's theory of 'anomie' helpful in understanding crime in ...

    People react to societies strains in different ways and for Merton, these individual differences could be summed up in 5 groups; conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. Individuals who fall under the conformity genre accept both the goals as well as the set methods for achieving those goals.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work