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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Essay on Deviant Behavior - Positive Functions of Deviant Behavior in Society

Deviant Behavior is defined as the behavior that fails to conform to the rules or norms of the group in question.  It can also be defined as the collection of conditions or acts that society disvalues, finds offensive or condemns (Sagarin, 1975). It involves actions which are contrary to social expectations.  It ranges from the simple act of picking one’s nose in public, spitting on the floor, or throwing garbage on the streets.  It can also involve actions like violating a traffic law, seriously injuring another person or stealing from the funds of the company.

Determining when an action is a deviant and when it is not can be difficult.  This is because the concept of deviance behavior is “uniquely sociological” (Clinard and Meier 1).   For example, consider a situation in many third world countries were individuals suffering from abject poverty sell their kidneys to patients who are in need of them.  The going rate is $10,000 to $50,000.  For the government, it is a blatant act of injustice as the poor individuals are taken advantaged of by the individuals who have the money.  For those who sell their kidney they find nothing wrong with it as the money can be used to buy food, send their children to school and support the family.  In these instances, there may be a thin line that separates which acts are deviant and which acts are not.

However, there are cases where the boundaries are clear.  When an individual kills another it is a clear deviant behavior.  It should be stressed that for a person who conforms to the norms, social rules, and expectations, deviant behavior is a no-no.  But is it possible for a society to eliminate deviant behavior? It is a possible to see a community where everybody conforms to rules and the laws?

For Emile Durkheim, a functionalist, a crime-free society is a contradiction in terms.  He says it cannot exist and it is not possible to happen.  He explained that to create a society where deviant behavior or crime does not exist will necessitate a “massive heightening of collective sentiment” against deviant behavior.  Everybody will have to be on the same situation which is not possible.

This being said, he believed that deviant behavior can have a positive function for the society.  Emile Durkheim believed that deviant behavior is an integral part of all healthy societies.  Societies often become unified in their response when they see a deviant behavior.  For example, when a crime takes place some communities try to address the problem by organizing community meetings and taking initiative to prevent crime.  In this process, they learn to become interdependent with each other and learn that they need to help each other to make the community a lot safer.

When the crime is resolved it is natural for the community to go back to what it once was.  They go back to living their own independent life uncaring about the rest of the community.  However, when crime takes place again the loyalty to the community is once again awakened as the community tries to restore peace (Tischler 140).

Deviant behavior also allows the members of the community to assess how the community can be improved in terms of making it safe against crime and terrorism.  They try to communicate with the local police and local firefighters to ensure that they can get assistance from them whenever a crime or a fire occurs.

Deviant behavior also affirms what the community considers as a normal behavior.  As the community attempts to organize themselves to address a crime or to help make the community crime-free, they stress the importance of normal behavior and define normal behavior for the rest of the community to observe.

This emphasizes that deviant behavior is not necessarily unhealthy for a society.  Deviant behavior is an integral part of the society and can be a catalyst to unify the society.   It also creates situations where the members of the society cooperate and act to help each other address their problems.  It helps create a common sentiment where each member of the society starts to interact to address a common problem.

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