Saturday, 13 August 2016

IS DEVIANCE FUNCTIONAL?

When we think of deviance, its dysfunctions are likely to come to mind. Most of us are upset by deviance,   especially crime, and assume that society would be better off without it. Surprisingly for Durkheim there is  nothing abnormal about deviance; in fact it contributes to the functioning of the society in four ways:
1. Deviance affirms cultural values and norms.
Living demands that we make moral choices. To prevent our culture from dissolving into chaos, people must show preference for some attitudes and behaviors over others. But any conception of virtue rests upon an opposing notion of vice. And just as there can be no good without evil, there can be no justice without crime. Deviance is indispensable to creating and sustaining morality.
2. Deviance clarifies moral boundaries and affirms norms.
A group's ideas about how people should act and think mark its moral boundaries. Deviance challenges those boundaries. To call a deviant member to explain, say in effect, " you broke a valuable rule, and we cannot  tolerate that," affirms the group's norms and clarifies the distinction between conforming and deviating behavior. To deal with deviants is to assert what it means to a member of the group. For example there is a line between academic honesty and cheating by punishing students who do so.
3. Deviance promotes social unity.
To affirm the group's moral boundaries by reacting to deviants, deviance develops a "we" feeling among the group's members. In saying "you can't get by with that," the group collectively affirms the rightness of   its own ways.
4. Deviance promotes social change.
Deviant people push a society's moral boundaries, pointing out alternatives to the status quo and
encouraging change. Groups always do not agree on what to do with people who push beyond their acceptable ways of doing things.  Some group members even approve the rule-breaking behavior. Boundary violations that gain enough support become new, acceptable behavior. Thus deviance may force a group to rethink and redefine its moral boundaries, helping groups and whole societies, to change their  customary ways. Today's deviance can become tomorrow's morality.

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