Durkheim wrote that deviance is necessary. There has never been a society without deviance, so there must be something functional about it. He argued that there are three benefits or functions of deviance:
It builds social solidarity - we not have a common enemy, the criminal or the deviant, and having a common enemy draws people together.
It clarifies the rules or norms in society - when we see others violating the rules, we learn what the rules are and exactly where the lines are drawn.
It makes way for progress - we have to have deviants who are willing to challenge outdated rules by violating them in order for those outdated rules to go away. Emerson once wrote, “Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.” All of those great minds were treated as deviants.