Sample Anthropology Essay Paper on Analysis of Anthropology Readings

Analysis of Anthropology Readings

Anthropology is a discipline that facilitates a better understanding of human social systems. Such understanding is key in examining human behavior and the factors that influence it. In the readings “Issues in Legacy” and “The Normal and The Pathological” examine society from the lens of different theories.

            In “The Normal and The Pathological,” Emile Durkheim suggest that crime is simply a normal part of society, thus is indispensable and necessary. It is difficult to picture a world without crime and even more difficult to imagine a world that acknowledges crime is a normal part of society (Durkheim, 1993). Sociologist Durkheim considered the law to be a social fact that symbolizes a society’s norms and morals; it is a practical symbol of solidarity in a society.  On that note, Durkheim (1993) approached crime using the ideas centered in mechanical solidarity. The paradigm us the basis by which Durkheim to come up with his findings about societies. Further when acts perceived as wrong have increased, does the laws to counter such behaviors in society (Durkheim, 1993). To that end, if society functions at a normal level, then the rate of deviance should not change significantly. It means that of the rates of deviance decrease or increase, then there is something wrong with social structures. Durkheim implies that it is practical for a stable society to have a certain degree of crime.

            Durkheim also suggests that crime will never disappear as to merely changes in its form. Eve if a society has individuals who are perfect and have exceptional moral standards and are perfect, each person will inevitable have different thoughts about what good should entail (Durkheim, 1993). Therefore, society will come up with laws that would collectively inform people how to behave. Consequently, this would bring about punishment if these laws are broken thus developing a society with crime. From this illustration, Durkheim (1993) wants to illustrate that crime is necessary since it is part of the essential features of social life. His explanation shows that not everybody in society can follow a uniform system as each person has his/her ideology about what is right or wrong.

            Durkheim believes that crime is useful since the conditions that lead to it are part of the normal evolution of law and morality.  It means that crime is interweaved with evolution of society and lays a key role in it. Fundamentally, Durkheim does not look at criminals as a defective and parasitic element as they play a key role on social life. In this sense, he argues that crime is not pathological in any way thus cannot be solved by punishment. He implies that criminality originates from the division of society into classes (Durkheim, 1993). Without economic and political divisions, most people would adhere to a certain society. It means that a primal society would have les crime since most people would be more or less the same in regards to social groupings.

            Durkheim also bases his discussion on the concept of anomie. The term is used to refer to social disorder and the sociologist asserts that in a society where expected behavior is not defined, criminal activity manifests itself due to the lack of expectations or insight about crime thus leading to its increase. Further, crime will always be present since people are born into a society with crime (Durkheim, 1993). Indeed, society will always be divided according to social classes. It means that socioeconomic status plays a key roe in how individuals grow up. People will always want things in life and advance through the social classes. The Differential Association Theory by Sutherland asserts that if individuals do no have the means to attain these objectives, then they will engage in illegal actions like stealing to acquire them (Palvich, 2011). To that end, Durkheim suggest that crime does not disappear as offenders learn better and newer ways to engage in criminal activities. Overall, Durkheim wants to demonstrate that crime will always be present to society due to inequality.   

In “Issues in Legacy,” Smith examines and critics sociological paradigms. He places focuses on   Symbolic interactionism (S.I) and functionalism are sociological paradigms, that is, sets of notions which facilitate an explanation for the workings of society. Sociological theories can be tied together according to certain criteria. Nonetheless, one of the key distinguishing features is the macro or structural viewpoints and micro or social dynamic viewpoints. The viewpoints are differentiated by the method they use to examine society.

Functionalism is an illustration of a macro viewpoint since it examines how a society in its entirety is connected while S.I is a micro viewpoint since it focuses on the meaning of human acts and refutes that it is mainly determined by society’s structures. Functionalist examination is deep rooted in sociology since it originated in Europe in the 19th century (Smith, 1998). On the other hand, symbolic interactionism is a discrete branch of sociology form the United States and emerged from the late 19th century and 20th century. Therefore, the differences between the two paradigms stems from the fact that they were developed in different regions and eras. Nonetheless, both paradigms are extremely influential and guide most of sociological research.

Functionalism perceive society as a structure, that is, an organized which are combined to form a system. The primary unit of examination is society, and its different parts are explained in regards to their interconnectivity of the entire system. The key features of functionalism are the perquisites for functionality, function, social order, structure, and the value of consensus. Functionalists believe that a comprehension of society needs an examination of its associations to other features, and, in particular, its effect on society’s maintenance. The primary social structures, like religion, political, family, education, political, and family systems, are examined as constituents of the system, rather than as single units (Smith, 1998). Specifically, they are explained in regards to their impact to the entire system. Functionalist examination centers on how social systems are preserved. Consequently, the paradigm tends to take a positive view on society’s structures, which are perceived as useful and helpful to society.

Symbolic interactionism holds that society is developed by its members. The view is opposed by Smith who argues that society has its own reality that surpasses its members. The individuals in a society are hindered by social factors (Smith, 1998). Moral codes and beliefs are passed between generations and shared by the members of a society. According to this perspective, it is not a person consciousness that determines actions, but mutual ideas and beliefs that shape the consciousness of an individual. To that extent, Smith (1998) believes that the social life is enable by consensus, a mutual conscience comprised of shared ideas and beliefs.  This hinders an individual to behave according to the perquisites of society. As the mutual conscience is a social factor, and not in control of the individual, it is fundamentally passed to a person. Therefore, S.I and functionalism differ on the fact that the former asserts that social factors are within the control of an individual while the latter suggest that a person’s behavior is determined by social structures.    

Overall, the two readings from Durkheim and Smith attempt to explain how a society functions. The readings show the essence of sociological theories; to understand human behaviour. Durkheim explains that crime is a normal part of society due to the prevalence of social classes. Smith focuses on the wider sociological theories to reflect the workings of different societies at different times.  Taken together, they reinforce anthropology as a discipline geared towards understating social systems.           


Durkheim, E. (1993). The normal and the pathological. Deviant behavior: A text reader in the sociology of deviance, 61-65.

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press

Smith, M. G. (1998). “Issues in Legacy.” The study of social structure. New York: Research Institute for the Study of Man.