Crime and the Functionalist Perspective
Theoretical perspectives in sociology help us understand and explain social phenomena. In the succeeding discussion, a social issue will be explored and analyzed within the context of the one of the main theoretical perspectives in sociology. To narrow down the discussion, it will focus on the social issue of crime or deviance within the context of the functionalist perspective.
The discussion, in particular, will focus on views of crime or deviance in society based on the functionalist perspective, and how these views determine what behavior or actions are deemed unacceptable by the majority. Furthermore the succeeding discussion also focuses on how society resolves crime. Within the context of the functionalist perspective, balance or equilibrium is important in a functioning society. For this reason, when crime or deviance is present that threatens the status quo or the wellbeing of a group or the majority, they function towards the resolution of this problem to achieve equilibrium or balance once again.
Crime or Deviance and the Functionalist Perspective
Emile Durkeim (1901) introduced the functionalist perspective using it as a theory to explicate deviance. According to Durkheim, deviant behaviors are those that contradict the norms, mores, and expectations in society. More specifically, Durkheim stressed that society will find an action or behavior deviant if it challenges existing standards and threatens the wellbeing of a group or the majority (Ferrante, 134).
The act of crime is committing actions that are against existing laws. For this reason, criminal activity is considered deviant behavior. Any action that goes against existing policies and laws are considered deviant, and would therefore, challenge groups in society. When social stability and the functioning of groups are challenged due to terrorism for instance, or other forms of crime or deviant behavior that create chaos or conflict, groups in society will look for a way to regain stability and balance or equilibrium (Andersen, Taylor & Logio, 149). Essentially, functionalism explains why order exists in the societal structure, such that shared public values contribute to order. Shared public values constitute the core of societal norms and become the basis for people’s judgment of action or behavior as acceptable or not, and therefore, deviant or not. Another important aspect of functionalism is equilibrium (Shepard, 523). Ogburn and Parsons explored functionalism in relation to equilibrium (Shepard, 523). Equilibrium within the context of functionalism refers to the result of conflict, such that when there is conflict or imbalance, people would find a way to achieve balance or equilibrium because this is important for society to function. For a functioning society, stability is important. Consequently, people in society would often look for ways to establish stability after conflict or disturbance such as crime or deviance (Shepard, 524). Within the context of crime, stability may be achieved through retribution, which involves implementing punishment for offenders.
Other ways to achieve stability also include the creation of laws or policies that would prevent such crime or deviant behavior from occurring in the future. The concept of balance or equilibrium that …