This concern includes evaluation of your understanding of the connections between criminal offense and deviance and sociological theory.
Functionalist explanations of deviance start with society as a whole looking for the origins of deviance in the nature of society, not the biological or psychological make up of an individual. Functionalists favour quantative approaches to look at society, utilizing stats to see society as an entire, rather than taking a look at the individual’s result on society.
The bulk of Functionalist’s concepts on criminal activity stem from the work of Durkheim.
Durkheim thinks that criminal offense in inevitable since not every member of society shares the exact same values and standards; every society has criminal offense, especially the most advanced industrial societies. Crime is seen as not only unavoidable, however practical to society because it enables modification, which is crucial for society to operate. Durkheim argues that criminal offense brings society together, as when it comes to the Soham murders.
From this point of view it can be questioned what the function of penalty is, Durkheim believes punishment is a type of social control and act as a signal to individuals. A.K Cohen developed Durkheim’s ideas even more, providing additional possible functions of deviance. First of all deviance can act as a security valve providing an expression of discontent.
Cohen uses the example of prostitution, he believes this protects the institution of the family and provides a release from the stress of family life without undermining family stability because the relationship between prostitute and client has no emotional attachments.
In other words it is fine for a man to use a prostitute, but not to have an affair because that would jeopardise the family! Cohen believes that deviance acts as a warning device too indicate that an aspect of society is malfunctioning, thus drawing attention to it and allowing the problem to be resolved. An example of this is the Los Angeles riots that drew attention to the mistreatment of blacks, likewise the Steven Lawrence case.
Durkheim and Cohen’s work is important because it moved ideas away from biological and psychological explanations for deviance, rather seeing it being society itself creating crime. However, other sociologists believe the functions are too narrow and class differences are not examined.
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