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What Is Functionalism? Essay

1471 words - 6 pages

Functionalism is a macro approach that sees society working in consensus. Society has functional pre-requisites that need to be met in order for society to work in a unified harmonious way. This is achieve through social institutions, such as the family and education, that all work together in moulding the individual through socialisation, therefore integrating them into the common value consensus that everyone shares. It follows, therefore, that everything in society must be functional and serving the functional pre-requisites or else it wouldn't exist. This is true of the apparently destructive appearance of crime and deviance and functionalists have tried to describe its role in terms of ...view middle of the document...

With a low crime rate society would stagnate and die because no change is being stimulated. Deviance is also a safety valve for society. It allows people to go away from what is normal and not conform to the rest of society without being detrimental to society. Deviance is also a warning device for society. A high level of a certain type of deviant acts may show that change needs to be made. For example, a high level of teenage pregnancy may mean better sex education is needed. This orthodox view of deviance has received criticism from within functionalism by the neo-functionalists. They agree that society produces deviance but they say the orthodox argument ignores why certain groups in society produce deviance.A criticism of Durkheim's work (or a development on his arguments) comes from the Neo-Functionalists. Merton agreed that crime came from the structure of society but he blamed this structure for why some people are more likely to turn to crime. In his study on the anomic paradigm in America he found that there was value consensus. Everyone was socialised into wanting material wealth. Those who couldn't achieve this goal through legitimate structures reached a state of personal anomie. They then had a choice of how to deal with this. Some conformed and did nothing about their situation; some turned to ritualism, that is simply performing the role that was expected of them; some retreated; some rebelled; and others turned to innovation. This last one is crime. People used illegitimate opportunity structures to try and achieve the material goals, such as theft etc.This was partially criticised by Cohen for Merton's focus on the individual. He said that whole groups in society lacked the institutional means to reach the goals set by society. These groups set up their own subcultures, which maybe in opposition to the main collective sentiment. The members of these subcultures, particularly young males, suffer from 'status frustration' because they are unable to meet the mainstream norms and values. Therefore they try and achieve status within their own subculture and this results in the use of illegitimate opportunity structures. This sub-cultural theory of deviance sees the subculture itself, rather than the main culture, producing crime.Cloward and Ohlin reinforce Merton's theory. Whereas he pointed out the lack of legitimate opportunity structures available to the working class, Cloward and Ohlin stress the wealth of illegitimate opportunity structures available. Crime is seen as a career with an apprenticeship that turns into a profession. There are three possible subcultures that can be entered into. The first is 'criminal'. This is organised crime where people are socialised away from petty, pointless crime such as vandalism. The second is 'conflict' where the focus is on little organised crime and is characterised by gang warfare. The third is 'retreatist' and the focus is on drugs.Miller disagreed with argument put forward by Merton...

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