Sociology of Crime: Functionalist Perspective

Within the functionalist school of thought, crime is viewed as an activity that serves a positive purpose for society. Emile Durkheim, a functionalist, stated in "On the Normality of Crime" that crime can help to reassess and change laws, increase group solidarity, and set boundaries for what is an acceptable behavior and what is not.

An example of a functionalist perspective of crime would be Kingsley Davis' explanation of prostitution.

Davis, on his paper "The Sociology of Prostitution," says that prostitution is a positive function for society because it provides employment for young women, provides adventure and experimentation for men (whose wives may not be able to provide), keeps the family intact, and provides opportunities for unattractive men to have sex.

He also states that if prostitution is negative for society, then why hasn't society done anything to pull the plug on this practice? He argues that many pimps and prostitutes have been arrested throughout the years, but prostitution itself still exists.

Do you see any flaws in this viewpoint?

Many criticize functionalism for not providing any theory of crime and deviance and provides a false teleology. As well, people strongly disagree with the stance that crime is beneficial for society.

Though functionalism is a problematic explanation of crime and deviance, it was popular among a number of theorists from the 1930s to 1950s.

How do you feel about functionalism as a means to explaining crime, deviance, and society? Share your thoughts in the comments.


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