The functionalist approach to analysing deviance and the causes of crime looks at society as a whole. It explains crime that the source of criminal behaviour lies in the nature of society itself rather than in psychology or biology. Functionalists such as Durkheim see deviance as an inevitable and necessary part of society and too little is unhealthy. Some also consider crime to have positive aspects for society. In this essay we will assess the usefulness of these functionalist theories, and look at how it helps us explain crime.
One functionalist who tried to explain crime is Merton and his strain theory, the strain theory argues that people engage in the deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means. Merton explanation combines 2 elements; structural factors- society’s unequal opportunity structure, cultural factors- strong emphasis to achieve goals and weak emphasis on using legit means. Merton uses the strain theory to explain some patterns of crime in society, he argues a person’s positioning in society affects the way they adapt or respond to the strain to anomie. Merton gives 5 different types of adaption; Conformity- the individual accepts socially acceptable goal and achieves it through legitimate means, Innovation- Individual accepts the role of success and wealth but uses illegitimate means to achieve them, Ritualism- Individual give up on legitimate goals but still follow strictly to the rules, Retreatism- Individuals reject legitimate goals and means of achieving them e.g drug addicts, the final type is Rebellion- Individuals reject existing goals and means but replace them with new one in desire to bring about revolutionary change. The functionalist approach to analysing deviance and the causes of crime looks at society as a whole. It explains crime that the source of criminal behaviour lies in the nature of society itself rather than in psychology or biology. Functionalists such as Durkheim see…

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