SOCI 2445 – A
Sociology of Deviance
Lecture Four: Constructionist Theories of Deviance
-Anomie Strain Theories REVIEW
-Social Learning Theories
Positivist theories are based on scientific evidence. Positivism is ONE set of
perspectives to understanding deviance and criminal behaviour.
Criminal Behaviour vs. Deviant Behaviour
All crimes are deviant, but not all deviance is crime. Crimes are written laws. Deviant
behaviour is more widespread than criminal behaviour; there are more examples of
deviance. Deviance can also apply in positive or negative terms, whereas criminal
behaviour is generally negative. We like to think that we are above animals – greater
than them. However, there is nothing that compares to the atrocities capable by the
species of “homo sapiens” (humans).
LABELING THEORY – SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM THEORY
Symbolic interactionism, a.k.a labeling theory, was developed by Howard S. Becker. In the
1960’s, Becker was studying drugs – particularly marijuana – and drug users. In his interviews
with drug users, he discovered that they viewed SOCIETY as the “outsider” or “outlier”.
“All social groups make rules and attempt at various times to enforce them. When a rule is
enforced, the person who is supposed to have broken it is seen as a special person.” -Becker
Becker’s theory of labeling is tied up with rule compliance. “Deviance is not a quality that lies
in behaviour itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those
who respond to it” – Becker. He is saying that you are not a rule breaker, until someone labels
you as so.
Social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance and
by applying the rules to particular people and labeling them as outsiders. Deviance is not a
quality of the act a person commits but rather a consequence of the application by o