Using material from the item and elsewhere, assess the functionalist explanations of the causes and extent of deviance. (21marks)
Functionalism is based on the idea of each members of society sharing a common culture and one value consensus, which provides solidarity and binds individuals together by directing them what to strive for and how to conduct themselves. In order for solidarity to be achieved, society must have two main mechanisms; socialisation which instils the shared into its members and social control mechanisms which include positive sanctions for conformity and negative sanctions for deviance. Functionalists view crime and deviance as a positive feature of society which is ...view middle of the document...
This then implicates society’s collective conscience.
For Durkheim and functionalists crime had positive functions it performed for society. Crime and deviance fulfils the important function of boundary maintenance which is the reaction of crime from society. Which unites society’s members in condemnation of the criminal and reinforcing the commitment to the shared value and norms. This is not a function to change the ways of the criminal or remove crime from society; punishment is merely the source of reaffirmation of shared cultural norms and values of society and reinforces social solidarity. In addition to reaffirming the values of the law-abiding majority it deters the law breaking minority form breaking the law because of the reaction and punishment given to the individual by society. For example the drink driving law wasn’t passed until 1966 after an accident had occurred and society reacted to it and deemed it a crime thus proving that their collective conscience is still the same and the punishment deters the deviants from deviating.
Secondly Durkheim believer that all change starts with an act of deviance. Individuals with new ideas about living and values must not be stifled or supressed otherwise society will stagnate and will be unable to make the necessary adaptive changes needed to better society. According to Durkheim too much crime threatens to tear society apart and too little crime means that society is too repressing and controlling of its members, preventing individual freedom and thus inhibiting change.
Other sociologists agree with Durkheim and have developed his ideas further; Davies argued that prostitution acts as a safety valve for the release of men’s sexual frustration without threatening the monogamous nuclear family. Similar Polsky argues that pornography safety channels a variety of sexual desires away from the alternatives such as adultery which would pose a great threat to the family. Also Cohen identifies another function of deviance; it is a warning that an institution is not functioning properly. E.g. high rates of truancy may suggest that there are problems with the education system and that its policy-makers need to make appropriate changes to it.
Functionalism is useful for highlighting all the positive functions of crime and the ways in which deviance is integral for society by providing and important analysis that directs attention to the ways in which deviance can have latent functions for society- i.e. not all things bad, are bad for society.
However it does not offer how much amount of deviance of is required for society to successfully function. Durkheim only mentions that too much can tear the bonds of society apart and too little means that society is repressing its members therefore his explanation for crime being an essential part of society in order for it to function lacks… Functionalists explain that the function of crime in relation to society, e.g. strengthens solidarity however it...