Limitations of theories of sociology of deviance

Essay by drunken_pixie_lordUniversity, Bachelor'sB, February 2004

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Theories of Deviance are limited in their ability to explain deviant acts if one adopts the view that these theories are universal. There is no universal, right or wrong theory, rather each theory provides a different perspective which only "fully makes sense when set within an appropriate societal context and values framework" .

The functionalist theories share a common structural explanation of causes of deviance . They assume that conformity in society is achieved through the existence of norms and values shared by the general consensus and that a high level of social integration is required for society to function successfully .

Merton's Anomie of Strain theory hypothesises that deviant behaviour is the result of a "disjunction between culturally defined goals to which most members of society aspire, and.....legitimate means for achieving the goals" . Thus socially induced strain causes deviant behaviour.

Merton argues that many people in the USA strive to achieve the "American dream" which recognises that all members of society have equal opportunities to achieve success and that deviance occurs when the goals take precedence over the means to achieve them as people resort to deviant behaviour as a result .

The theories main premise is that because lower-class people are under greater strain than people of upper classes, they are more likely to engage in deviant behaviour . However one cannot reduce deviance into a simple equation of poverty and alienation . Strain theory is limited in providing explanations for why every person living in poverty does not engage in deviant acts, and why individuals from upper classes of society do engage in crimes .

The anomie of strain theory is also limited in that it adopts the assumption that everyone in society shares the same goals of achieving wealth . Most studies of individual's priorities...