Assess the functionalist theory of crime and deviance

1813 Words Nov 28th, 2013 8 Pages
Assess the functionalist view of crime and deviance. [21 marks]
This essay will detail the functionalist perspective of crime and deviance. Functionalist theories began to emerge after the industrial revolution in the 18th century. This period was called the enlightenment, and brought about scientific belief as opposed to the feudalist beliefs of religion. Religion no longer had such a powerful impact on peoples’ lives. The aim of sociological theories such as functionalism is to cure social ills, such as poverty and disease, and possibly even create the perfect society.
Emile Durkheim, the ‘father’ of functionalism believed that crime played an important role in society. He described the organic analogy of society which describes that
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Merton uses the example of the ‘American dream’ to illustrate this point. Society is socialised to believe that their society is a meritocratic one, and that one will be rewarded after working hard, with material items (white picket fence) Individuals are expected to pursue this dream through legitimate means; hard work, education and self-discipline. Merton also outlines that there are five adaptations to strain.
One adaptation to strain is conformity. This refers to individuals who accept the success goals, and set about achieving them through legitimate means. This is most likely of middle-class individuals, but Merton argues it is the typical response of most Americans. Innovation refers to individuals who accept the culturally approved goals, but strive to achieve them through illegitimate means, such as crime. For example a student cannot afford his course books; he then sets about stealing money from his parents/friends to pay for them. Individuals of the working class are under the greatest pressure to innovate. Ritualism means that individuals give up on achieving the goals of society, but have internalised the legitimate means, and therefore follow the rules for the sake of it. Retreatism is where individuals reject both the cultural goals, and the legitimate means, and become ‘dropouts.’ The final adaptation to strain is
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