Functionalism theory and its explanation of deviance.

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Functionalism theory and its explanation of deviance.

Various sociological perspectives that exist help us to define, set goals and choose strategies to achieve them.  They also enable us to ask important questions and interpret information.  My essay will describe the functionalist theory and its development by exploring its main concerns and some of the underlying assumptions.  And further look at Durkheim and Parsons approach in relation to functionalism.  Then discuss how functionalism helps to explain deviance and crime.  I will then explain how my understanding of deviance and crime is relevant to social work values and practice.

Functionalism is defined as a;

“Framework that conceptualises society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability” (Macionis and Plummer, 1997. p. 19-20).

 Its development through the works of Comte, Spencer, Pareto and Durkheim later on Brown, Malinowski and Parsons, was based on a biological scientific model called “organic system-comparison of social operations to that of a living organism” (Giddens, 2001. p.16).   Its main concern was the overall nature and function of social institutions and structures like the family, religion, education and their moral commitment to shared values.

Functionalist approach assumes that societies tend towards “stability, equilibrium and consensus” (Wallace and Wolf, 1980. p.17) as they are desirable in society brought about by a harmonious existence of normal state of affairs.  They also assume that society consists of “interdependence of parts and adjustive changes” (Haralambos and Holborn, 2004. p.xv) which every part performs some function to control and hold the society together.  This is supported by Durkheim who believed that social structures or “facts for example laws, morals, customs and fashions” (Wallace and Wolf, 1991. p.19-21) and social dynamics should be understood aside from individual actions and motives as the former is more than and exist beyond an individual.  Furthermore, he argued that without this understanding and consensus a state of “anomie” (Wallace and Wolf, 1991. p.22) which is the breakdown of society, will exist leading to social disorder, deviance and disruption.

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Parsons on the other hand, in his socialisation system model of how society functions and fit together describe social structures as consisting of “cultural, social, personality systems and behavioural organism” (Turner, 2000. p.116) which are mutual and interdependent hence, contributing to the functioning of the system and “maintenance of equilibrium” (Wallace and Wolf, 1991. p.39).  He argues that if there is a disturbance to the system, the system responds as part of its function to return stability.  Therefore, this disturbance is positive in the sense that it makes the society come up with better solutions, thus encouraging progress.  For example ...

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