What is the difference between conflict theory and functionalism when used to explain deviance?

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According to the functionalist perspective, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of the different parts of society, deviance serves the role of cementing social norms. That is, deviants, by breaking social norms, reaffirm these norms for the compliant members of society, who deem deviant behaviors outside the pale of what is acceptable.

Conflict theory, on the other hand, emphasizes the role that challenging the inequalities of society plays in making society more equitable. In other words, deviant behavior plays a critical role in challenging the inequalities present in society and the way in which the elite try to oppress the less elite. Deviance is part of the way that individuals (and groups at times) can rectify some of the inequalities of society, and behavior is often labeled deviant because it goes against societal norms that protect the rich and powerful.

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Deviance is a sociological term used to describe those who act against the norms of society.  Conflict theorists believe those with money and power set the behavioral standards in a group.  They create a community in which their predetermined norms are accepted by everyone else.  Therefore, if someone acts outside of these norms, they are considered deviant.  Conflict theorists believe those in power use the idea of deviance to keep control of the masses.  Crime and deviant behaviors are attributed to the class system by conflict theorists.  Karl Marx was a major theorist associated with these beliefs. 

Functionalism, on the other hand, challenges the idea of deviance being a result of inequalities in money and power.  The functionalism perspective takes into account the lack of cohesion and social bonds developed between community members.  From this viewpoint, individuals commit crimes or display deviant behavior because they do not feel a connection with others in society. 

Although both viewpoints are still supported, recent research suggests the conflict theory of deviance should be revisited. 

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