Deviance: Functionalist Explanations

Topics: Sociology, Émile Durkheim, Criminology Pages: 10 (3115 words) Published: August 29, 2011
Deviance: Functionalist Explanations


Deviance: F unctionalist E xplanations
The Functionalist Explanation of Crime/22/11/999/P.Covington/ 1999 At times, a package deal is presented in which functionalist, positivism, empiricism, evolutionism, and determinism are collectively linked with a ‘consensus’ approach to social problems and a conservative approach to their solution. Downes and Rock, 1995 Being a peripheral and ad hoc modern day, functionalist criminology may be represented as a somewhat piecemeal accumulation of arguments. It is not integrated, organised or coherent, and it has not been the subject of long debate. Others may have criticised what it has done, but those who have been attacked have not usually turned round to amend, defend or clarify their work. Downes and Rock, 1995

Introduction: Sociologists’ concern with the study of deviance, like many other ideas, issues and concepts, can be traced back to the thinking of Emile Durkheim. But perhaps now we should ask whether the functionalist analysis is still of value to sociologists. Looking at the quote, in other words much Functionalist theory has been found wanting in its explanation of society in recent years. It has become a ‘routine concept folly for students to demolish before moving on towards more rewarding ground’, to use the words of Downes and Rock. The Use of Functionalism Yet despite this trend towards Functionalism bashing, its role in history of sociological debate is firmly secured. Equally its linkage with modern liberal and conservativebased approaches such as Neo-Functionalism and the New Right means that its history and heritage is still of relevance to the contemporary sociology syllabus. Why it is Not That Useful… Unlike other major theoretical perspectives such as Marxism, no specific Functionalist criminology exists to speak of, with its own individual interpretations of criminal statistics, the source of criminality and potential policy solutions. Rather functionalism takes a passing look at the issues of deviance in general, rather than crime in particular, while in the process trying to explain whole social problems and patterns. The explanation of deviance is vital to this macro analysis but it does not contain the seeds of a ‘break off’ into the distinctive field of criminology in its own right. Why it has not been ignored… While functionalist criminology, especially in modern times, does not have a large, organised or particularly popular voice, this is not to say that within the work of Durkheim the concept of deviance has been ignored. Far from it. Equally, this is not to say that functionalist analyses have not informed and shaped the development of non-functionalist perspectives within criminology since the idea of anomie had a great influence on many British and USA sub-cultural studies from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. 1

Deviance: Functionalist Explanations

Deviance: Functionalist Explanations


It must be recognised that Durkheim’s work as an individual does not represent the totality of functionalist belief and equally the totality of functionalist belief does not recognise necessarily all that Durkheim wrote. Why This Concern with Deviance for Durkheim Durkheim’s major concern was with the analysis of social order; how stability is created and how the collective will is maintained in the face of individualism. These concerns were hardly surprising given the specific socio-cultural context within which Durkheim worked. During this work, ‘Times were a changing and consequently so were the ways of seeing’. Thus, Durkheim’s work was an attempt to engage with the problems of the era – so solutions could be made. Important Writers Emile Durkheim Robert K Merton Hirschi Basic Ideas Deviance acts in a positive way to reinforce ideas of right and wrong in society Deviance provides work. Rather than looking at the individual, A Functionalist analysis of deviance begins with society as a whole. It looks for the...
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