He says in his (1982): “What is normal is simply that criminality exists, provided that each social type does not reach or go beyond a certain level which it is perhaps not impossible to fix conformity with…previous rules.” (Durkheim, 1982: 98) As long as the levels of deviance do not become unstable and threaten the social order, thought Durkheim, notions like crime and delinquency are important social functions; providing social cohesion and homogeneity.
For Durkheim, also, deviance can be seen as a prefiguring of future actions or morality (Thompson, 2002).
The consensus of the society can be broken by individuals that may seem deviant at the time but whose views, eventually, come to represent the general consensus.
A working definition of deviance as Haralambos (1991) suggests should involve some idea of relativity; with the current moral and ethical trends and mores taken as a benchmark for comparison: “Deviance is a relative: there is no absolute way of defining a deviant act.
Deviance can only be defined in relation to a particular standard and no standards are fixed or absolute.
Commensurate with his over all schema of sociological thought, Durkheim stressed not only the inevitability but also the function of crime in a social context.
Firstly, he asserted, the universality of deviance as a subject - the fact that every society has a notion of deviance (even though this may change from society to society) points to the fact that it has an important role to play in the formation of societies.
The outcomes of such research, commentators have suggested, could be the use of drugs in the prevention of crime and deviance.
Of course, most of the theories concerning crime and deviance rely more on sociology than psychology or genetics.
Since many of those within a society will share these opinions (thus, obviously, forming a consensus) the only difference between the deviant and the non-deviant must be the social structure that they exist under, as Haralambos explains: “since members of society are placed in different positions in the social structure (for example they differ in terms class position) they do not have the same opportunity of realizing the shared values. In Merton’s words ‘the social and cultural structure generates pressure for socially deviant behaviour upon people variously located in the structure.” (Haralambos, 1991: 587) In other words, the ability to achieve cultural goals is unequal across the society and it is the frustration of this that results in deviance and crime.
The Chicago school based their notions on similar founding precepts although they stressed the importance of environmental factors in the formation of deviance and crime (Messner and South, 2000).