Functionalist Theory Of Deviance Essay

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When Auguste Comte coined the term ‘sociology' to refer to a positivistic or scientifically proven approach to study human society and social life, he gave rise to the central idea of the structural functionalist perspective on deviance and conformity (Thompson & Gibbs, 2017). This sociological perspective provides a macro-level analysis that focuses on the structure of society and the roles of social institutions such as government and family, to provide its members with stable patterns of social structures (Goode, 2008). Many people tend to associate negative implications when they come across deviant actions —any behavior such as crime that breaks from commonly accepted norms or expectations— and assume that society would be better off without them. On the contrary, functionalists point out that deviance is a common part of human existence and that some deviance is actually healthy for our society as they can strengthen norms and social unity to name a few (Clinard & Meier,…show more content…
Perhaps one of the earliest systematic sets of theories on deviance from the functionalist perspective were launched by two prominent sociologists, Emile Durkheim and Robert King Merton (Clinard & Meier, 2008). During Durkheim’s suicide study in the nineteenth century, he first developed the concept of Anomie, which refers to a state where social norms no longer bring about social order and consequently resulting in a form of deviance—suicide (Thio, Taylor, & Schwartz, 2013). Durkheim stated that people living in times of revolution or war for instance, would experience anomie and may become deviant because rapid social change or unforeseen social situations often stop them from adhering to conventional social norms (Thio, Taylor, & Schwartz, 2013). In 1938, an American sociologist named Robert Merton translated Durkheim’s Anomie theory into Anomie-Strain theory by re-conceptualizing the original concept of anomie (Goode,
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