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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 75819 Find in a Library
Title: Value Implications of the Functional Theory of Deviance
Journal: Social Problems  Volume:28  Issue:3  Dated:(December 1980)  Pages:205-219
Author(s): C Wright; R E Hilbert
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 15
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: According to this paper the functional theory of deviance should not be labelled as inherently conservative, even though it does not advocate changes in the status quo, since this theory identifies the existing institutional framework as the source of deviance.
Abstract: The functional theory traces deviance to the emphasis on the attainment of certain common success goals, while de-emphasizing the norms prescribing legitimate means for their attainment. This attitude also explains higher crime rates in the lower classes, whose access to legitimate means is limited. Thus, in explaining the emergence of deviance, the functional theory focuses upon social structure and implicates institutions basic to industrial society. Although such a description suggests a radical rather than conservative character of the theory, the theory may be considered as conservative because of its systemic basis. Since any alterations in society may have far reaching consequences, the theory does not advocate social change. Value judgments cannot be ascribed to the functional theory, because it merely pinpoints sources of the deviance and does not offer specific solutions. According to the theory, common success goals should not be eliminated, but rather should be diffused throughout the class structure. However, the liberal solution to goal diffusion, which involves the establishment of a meritocracy to equalize opportunity, is not viable within the framework of the theory. Functionally inevitable inequalities of power and wealth, combined with the persistence of functionally necessary remnants of community (such as family) will prevent the establishment of meritocracy and true equality of opportunity. The socialist and conservative solutions involve costs either in human freedom, or in economic production, or both. Such costs may be tolerable if they are not so severe as to involve a generalized decline in the vitality of the population. Footnotes and over 35 references are included.
Index Term(s): Deviance; Economic analysis of crime; Functionalism; Marxism; Political influences; Social classes; Social organization
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