Functionalism focuses on the macro
level of a society’s everyday life. The functionalist doesn’t look at one part
of an issue; it looks at the sum of the whole. The role of institutions is at
the core of a functionalist’s perspective. How the institutions function within
a society and the relationships between the different institutions. Some
examples of institutions are prisons and other government agencies, education,
financial, media, and religious. All these institutions depend on one another
to form a society.   

In 1895, Emile Durkheim proposed
the idea that crime and deviance was an integral, natural, and necessary part of
a healthy society. Tighter bonds were formed within community members when
people banded together through anger and frustration regarding crime and
deviance. From a functionalist perspective, the institutions that control and
label deviance receive nourishment from the offenders. These institutions
perpetuate deviance by aiding and sheltering large numbers of deviants through
jails and prisons. Social resources are available to deviants which give them
some advantages over other members of a society. However, after a deviant goes
through a process of redemption, nothing happens to cancel out the stigma that
the deviant adopts. This makes it very difficult for a person to stop the
deviant behavior in the future. Functionalists believe that deviance is
required in order to be a contrast to how normal social order is defined. You
cannot not know social norms without knowing social deviance.

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Conflict theorists adhere to the
fact that conflict and strain occurs when there are unbalanced and uneven
distribution of power and resources. Conflict also arises when social status is
determined by your race, gender, economic class, and culture among others. Conflict
theory focuses on who are making the rules and why is certain behavior
outlawed? Conflict theorists reject the consensus view that laws are passed and
enforced to protect the society as a whole equally. The laws are passed to
uphold the ideology or material interests of certain groups of a society; they
are not passed to protect a society.

Anomie or Strain Theory originated
in 1938 after Robert Merton’s article “Social Structure and Anomie”. Emile
Durkheim coined the term “anomie” defined as periods of social disruptions that
could be the cause of deviance (Goode “Positivism” 6). When times of strain arose,
people became greedy and obtained their wants through deviant acts. From a constructionist’s
perspective, when the institutions that were meant to help and take care of a
community failed, people believed that it was their right to take what had been
lost. However, great social disruption is not the only example of Anomie Theory.
Another example is when a society puts importance and pressure for success by
means of material objects. When there is a lack of social avenues to obtain
these material objects, one displays or act on deviant behavior to secure those
goals. The theory states that one must be pushed into these behaviors. Merton
created a list of different ways, legitimate and illegitimate, that people use
to obtain these goals. One way was conformity,
“the conformist mode of adaptation, accepts both cultural values of success and
the institutionalized, legitimate, or conventional means of reaching these
goals (Goode “Positivism” 8). Then there is Innovation,
one accepts the goal of success; however, they illegally or illegitimately
alternate from the norm (Merton 33). Ritualism
abandons or rejects the goals of success, but follows the rules. Retreatism is a cop-out, a rejection of
the social goals and the means to obtain them. Finally, Rebellion is when the person attempts to over-throw the goals altogether.

Moral panics are defined as a
substantial number of community members in a society that develop intense
feelings of concern over a deemed threat that turns out non-existent due to
lack of evidence. Functionalists would look at the larger institutions that are
responsible for the moral panic. One example would be the media’s attention on
the subject. There are three theories of moral panics to consider. One is a
grassroots theory, the panic originates within the general public, the concern
has always been there at a lower level. The media, politicians, action groups,
etc. stir up the concern. Another is an elite-engineered theory, small powerful
groups deliberately and consciously create a campaign to invoke fear and
concern into the general public. There is often a hidden agenda, the panic is
used to deflect another more serious issue.

Drug scares are a form of moral
panics. One example is the focus on crack cocaine in the 1980’s. “When this
scare launched, crack was unknown outside a few neighborhoods in a handful of
major cities” (Reinarman 95). Politicians began a crusade to incarcerate crack
dealers and users for “The War on Drugs”. The media and politicians linked this
new drug scare to minorities and the inner-city poor, specifically
African-Americans. Conflict theorists would look at this issue and ask why
other drugs such as opiates or methamphetamine are not looked at as equally
detrimental. They would also look at the competing and clashing groups of
people; the poor, inner-city minorities and the upper-class, white, privileged

Interactionism is based on the principles
that how a society puts meaning to aspects within our world, is constructed by
the social interaction of our daily lives within a society or community.

The Theory of Differential
Association is a Symbolic Interactionist perspective that looks at why deviant
behavior and crime differ among certain groups of people. This theory believes
that criminal and deviant behavior must be learned in a face-to-face manner
through direct interaction and communication with others. The younger a person
is exposed to deviant behavior, the more likely they are to commit a deviant
act or crime. Likewise, the closer one is to someone who promotes deviance and
crime, the likelihood increases that they will also commit crime or deviant

Labeling Theory states that the label causes the deviant behavior. Once a person
believes that they will always be a deviant, they fall into the label and act
accordingly. They develop a “what’s the use” attitude. There become problems
when people are falsely accused of deviance. Whether they were deviant or not,
they are labeled as deviant and consequently have a hard time removing the

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