A summary of Durkheim
'Durkheim's central achievement was to spell out the elements of social explanation at a time when political and ethical philosophy, the science of political economy and the positive schools were united under the banner of individualism... Durkheim urged a confrontation between sociologists, concerned with social facts, and those who would engage in individual reductionism.' (Taylor, Walton and Young)
1. Sociology, instead of concentrating on the individual, looks at society as a whole. Society is not seen as simply a collection of individuals, it has an existence of its own, it exists outside any one individual. It predates the individual and is a powerful force in moulding behaviour.
2. Crime/deviance is seen as a normal and regular social fact, therefore there must be some reason for its persistence.
'Let us make no mistake... crime... is a factor in public health, an integral part of all societies.' (Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method)
3. Crime can be functional in bringing about social change - when social norms are incompatible with the conditions of life. Yesterday's criminal is tomorrow's philosopher.
4. A high crime rate is an indication of a social system that has failed to adapt to change. Deviance acts as a warning device, indicating that an aspect of society is malfunctioning. Deviance may also act as a safety valve - a relatively harmless expression of discontent.
5. The function of punishment is to maintain collective sentiments, and reinforce collective beliefs, not to remove crime.
A healthy society requires both crime and punishment. Both are inevitable; both are functional.
Durkheim's typology of deviants
1. The biological deviant - due to genetic or psychological malfunctioning.
2. The functional rebel - functional because they indicate strains in the social system.
3. The skewed deviant - improperly socialised in a sick society. Two related sources:
• Anomie - lack of regulation and weakness of the collective conscience.
• Egoism - cult of the individual.
Both circumstances allow the appetites of the individual free reign. Individuals strive to achieve desires in a way that is incompatible with social order.
Thus the links between society and deviance are:
Normal division of labour deviants.
Pathological division of Labour.
Functional rebel/Skewed deviant/biological rebel.
Most standard treatments of Durkheim deal only with the skewed deviant (for example, Merton and the Subculture theorists). Clearly, this sort of deviant is seen as the result of an abnormal or pathological society, and is capable of remedy through social reform.