How would a functionalist explain the usefulness of deviant behavior and/or crime?
Functionalists assume that any persistent event or occurrence in society serves a purpose that is useful to that society.
Functionalists would say that crime and deviant behavior are useful to a society because they help people in the society understand what behaviors are acceptable. They also help the people of the society feel that they are united.
One way for people to define themselves is for them to identify what they are not. When a society has crime and deviant behavior, the rest of the society can gain a clearer sense of identity because they can say “we are not like those people who engage in wrong behaviors.” Because they can do this, they come to feel more in common with the rest of the people in their society. Deviant behavior allows the “good” members of society to know what the limits of proper behavior are in their society and to feel a connection to the others who obey the rules. In this way, deviance and crime are actually useful to society.