Assess Functionalist Approaches to the Study of Crime and Deviance

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Assess Functionalist Approaches to the Study of Crime and Deviance Functionalists such as Emile Durkheim, Robert Merton and Albert Cohen all attempt to explain the nature and extent of crime in today’s society. In essence, Functionalists argue that society is based on value consensus and social solidarity which is sustained via socialisation and social control mechanisms within society. Emile Durkheim states that whilst crime is obviously a social negative with the ultimate power to destabilise society, he stands by the claim that crime is inevitable, universal, and integral to a healthy society and even having positive benefits. He claims that crime occurs in society due to two fundamental reasons; firstly, not everyone is effectively socialised to the same norms and values which leads to people being prone to deviation and secondly, due to the diverse lifestyle and subcultures in contemporary society, subcultures act out different norms and values and what members of that subculture regard as normal, mainstream culture may deem it as deviancy. The Functionalist approach to the study of crime states that crime has two positive functions for society. Durkheim claims that crime retains boundary maintenance. He states that crime produces a reaction from society, effectively uniting its members in condemnation of the wrongdoer and reinforcing their commitment to the shared norms and values. Secondly, he claims that all acts of social change start with an act of deviance, so in the long run deviant tendencies will give rise to a new culture and morality. For example, the wishing for African-American rights in America included several acts of deviance by breaking several laws yet it paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement. Despite this, Durkheim acknowledges that too much crime threatens to tear the bonds of society apart yet also states that too little
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