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Lecture 2: Deviance and Crime

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Carleton University
SOCI 1002
Tamy Superle

Lecture 2: Chapter 7 Deviance and Crime Key Terms  Deviance, crime, criminology, physiognomy, phrenology, strain theory, social control theory, Robert Merton, primary/secondary deviance, labelling theory, cultural support theory, control theory stigma, conflict theories  Deviance: it’s not the act itself, but the reactions to the acts that makes something deviant  Social rules: define situations and the kinds of behaviour appropriate to them, specifying some actions as “right” and forbidding others and “wrong”  Criminal and deviant: breaking both social and legal rules  Deviant, but not criminal: breaking social, but not legal, rules  Criminal, but not deviant: breaking legal rules, but not subjected to social disapproval, e.g. speeding  Context matters, e.g. tattoos on Aboriginal people are culturally relevant  Canadian crime rates are the lowest they have been in decades  Going through unprecedented changes to Crime Bill to build more prisons across the country Deviance and Social Context  Definitions of deviance must consider: culture, time/era, gender Variety of Approaches  Spiritual o Magic o Will of gods visited on earth; humans as tools o Sin and evil powers  Psychological and Biological Theories o Looking inside the individual for explanations  Sociological Explanations o Looking outside the individual for explanations – social forces  Phrenology: the study of the structure of the skull to determine a person’s character and mental capacity  Physiognomy: the interpretation of outward appearance, especially the features of the face, to discover a person’s predominant temper and character  Absolutist: certain behaviours, identities, and modes of thought are “naturally” deviant everywhere and across time; but, nothing is universal  Statistical: those behaviours, identities, and modes of thought which rarely occur; but, deviant behaviour is quite common  Harm: deviance is harmful; but, not always  Criminal: deviant acts are what are criminal; they are connected, but it’s not sufficient to say something that is deviant is automatically criminal Sociological Concept of Deviance  Deviance is behaviour that, in particular social contexts and in particular historical periods, elicits moral condemnation; it is therefore subject to social control  Definitions of what is deviant are not ready made; they’re fought over  Defining deviance is a process  If a group is successful, it informs members of the society that their interpretation is valid and legitimate o People who deviate should be stigmatized or criminalized Social Construction of Deviant Categories  Subjective character of deviance: o People and acts aren’t inherently deviant, but are defined as such by the powerful in society  Social condemnation is fluid and dynamic over time o Living together, having a child outside marriage, smoking cigarettes, etc. Social Control  What is normal, and who decides? That is the issue of most concern to sociologists. Which social groups are empowered to have their conceptions of the above accepted as part of the prevailing order?  Whoever it is will enjoy a lot of influence over the behaviour of others. To be able to categorize some behaviour as “deviant” and others as “normal” suggests real power. Sociologically, We’re All Deviant  Deviance itself varies over time and from group to group (subjective)  Each of us violates common social norms in certain situations  Deviance involves the violation of group norms that may or may not be formalized into law Difference Between Deviance and Crime  Deviance occurs when someone departs from a norm and evokes a negative reaction from others  Crime is deviance that is against the law  A law is a norm stipulated and enforced by government bodies Criminology  The academic study of crimes and criminality, why crime occurs, who commits crime and how crime can be reduced, solved, and eradicated  Some would claim that criminology is a smaller part of sociology  Others claim criminology is much wider, since it draws on a whole variety of disciplines – sociology being one Explanations for Declining Crime Rates  Substantially bigger groups of better trained and equipped law enforcement and correctional officers  Young men are most prone to crime, but Canada is aging and the number of young people in the population has declined  Economic conditions favoured a decrease in crime  Legalization of abortion o When you allow abortion, you cut down of the number of kids people have that they don’t have time for and can’t care for; therefore, these children are more likely to enter the criminal justice system Theories of Deviance and Crime Robert Merton: Strain Theory  Argues that deviance depends on the extent to which society provides that means (i.e. schooling, jobs) to achieve cultural goals (financial success)  Delinquent behaviour is an innovation: o Delinquents accept cultural goals, but reject the conventional means of pursuing them, and develop unconventional means instead  Key point: origin of deviant behaviour lies in society, not the individual  Modes of adaptation: o Conformity: positive goals and means o Innovation: positive goals, negative means o Ritualism: negative goals, positive means o Retre
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