Functionalism is a consensus structuralist theory, which sees the source of crime and deviance located in the structure of society. Although crime and deviance might be stigmatised in society, some sociologist think it is important to have it occur and there are some benefits to it.
Durkheim (1982) argued that crime is an inevitable feature of social life, because individuals are composed to different influences and circumstances, and so not everyone can be equally committed to the shared values and moral beliefs of society. Despite crime and deviance’s threat to society, Durkheim saw it as beneficial as it could perform positive functions in society, such as, firstly; By strengthening collective values. Values can waste away unless people are reminded of the boundaries between right and wrong behaviour. Secondly, by enabling social change. Some deviance is necessary to allow new ideas to develop, and enable society to change and progress. Thirdly, by acting as a safety valve. Deviance can release stress in society. For example, violent protesting might be seen as an outlet for expression of discontent avoiding wider and more serious challenges to social order. Finally; by acting as a warning device that society is not working properly. For example, high rates of suicide, drug addiction and divorce show what social problems need to be solved before serious threats to social order develop.
Although Durkheim’s theory is valid, some criticisms are found. He proposed that crime promotes solidarity; however, this is not always the case, as sometimes crime can have the opposite effect. For example; state crime. Durkheim also believed that crime is functional for society as a whole; however, crime might not be functional to everyone. For example, the victim himself. Durkheim proposed that a certain amount of deviance in society is beneficial, but too much is damaging, however, he never indicated how much is enough. The main criticism is that Durkheim never...
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