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SOC*2070 Readings Week 1

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SOC 2070
Linda Hunter

General Introduction and the Sociology of Deviance Defining Deviance (Adler Intro Part 1, pg. 1-15) Studying Deviance - researchers must study deviance as it naturally occurs in the real world - sociologists should get as close as possible to the people they are studying in order to understand their worlds Constructing Deviance - definitions of deviance pervade all aspect of the field and are therefore addressed throughout the book - there are 3 perspectives on defining deviance: 1. Absolutist Perspective - defining deviance is a simple task, implying there is a widespread consensus that ex- ists about what is deviant and what is not - Emile Durkheim, a functionalist, represent this approach, arguing that the laws of any given society are objective facts - laws reflect the “collective consciousness” of each society, thereby revealing its true social nature - there is a general agreement among citizens that there is something obvious within each deviant act, belief or condition that makes it different from the conventional norms - has roots in both religious and naturalistic assumptions, deviance is immoral, sinful and unnatural - eternal and global - deviance is intrinsic to the human condition - objectivist approach because it relies in it definition on internal, inherent features that stand apart from subjective human judgments 2. Social Constructionist Approach - grounded in interactionists theory of deviance - focus on norms that bound and define deviance rather than on deviance itself - subjectivist approach, guided by the belief that social meanings, values, and rules are often problematic and uncertain - social meanings arise in situations rather than being located within the essences of things and are heavily influenced by people’s perspective - study the ways norms are created, people who create them, the conditions under which they arise, and their consequences for different groups in society - definitions of deviance are social products and focus on those defining deviance rather than on the acts that generate deviant reactions - the Relativist Perspective falls within social constructionism - groups in society make up rules to fit the practical needs of their situations - definitions of deviance are not universal but varied to suit the people who hold them - deviance is lodged in the eye of the beholder rather than in the act itself - definitions are forged by crusading reformers - even acts that are considered universally taboo can vary in their definitions, there are conditions under which they would be considered non-deviant (murder) - extensions of functionalist theory bring it into the social constructionist realism, they believe deviance has positive functions, 4 of them: 1. When people react against deviance of others, they bond together (terrorism) 2. Identifying and punishing deviance redefines and reinforces the social boundaries 3. Durkheim noted the seeds of social change in deviance 4. The existence of all the occupations associated with deviance would be threatened without deviance - the right about of deviance is good for a society 3. Social Power Perspective - views crime and deviance as not arbitrarily formed by just any group of “others - closely tied to Marx’s conflict theory - focuses on the influence that powerful groups and classes have in creating and apply- ing laws - laws reflect the interests and concerns of the dominant classes in society - feminist theorists share this orientation as they focus on norms, policies and laws of the patriarchal system that uphold the social, moral, economic and political order that fosters male privilege - deviance can be defined through the social meanings collectively applied to people’s attitudes, behaviour or conditions, which are rooted in the interaction between individu- als and social groups - deviance is a representation of unequal power in society Deviant Identity - second component of the social constructionist approach lies in consequences of defi- nitions and applications of deviance - society first labels various attitudes, behaviours, and conditions as deviant, and then it labels specific individuals associated with these as deviant - if the definitions of deviance are not applied, deviance does not exist - constructionists claim that deviants are people who have undergone some sort of la- beling - individuals may engage in deviance but not think of them as deviants, but when they begin the be labelled and internalized that they truly become deviants - this is the process of acquiring a deviant identity Part 1: Defining Deviance - when we speak of deviance, we refer to violations of social norms, norms are behav- ioral codes or prescriptions that guide people into actions and self-presentations con- forming to social acceptability - William Sumner conceptualized 3 types of norms: 1. Folkways - simple everyday norms based on custom, tradition or etiquette 2. Mores - based on broad societal morals whose infraction would generate more seri- ous social condemnation e.g. drug addiction (triumph of hedonism over rationality 3. Laws - strongest norms because they are supported by codified social sanctions - Smith and Pollack suggest that deviance might be conceptualized as violations of the norms associated with crime (violation of laws), sin (related to religious proscriptions)and poor taste (challenge existing standards of fashion, manners or tradi- tions) - are deviance and crime overlapping categories or identical terms? - crime and deviance are not always the same thing because there is much deviance that is not criminal e.g. obesity, stuttering - there is also crime that is not considered deviant e.g. traffic violations - people can be labelled deviant as the result of the ABCs of deviance: 1. Attitudes - alternatives set of attitudes or belief systems 2. Behaviour - people are deviant because of their outward actions 3. Conditions - acquired from birth e.g. socioeconomic status, race, weight, piercings - deviance may be perceived and interpreted through the lens of the 3 categories of S’s 1. Sin - deviance attributed to religious disorders 2. Sick - medicalization model, deviant people are sick (homosexuality, drug addiction, mental illness, sexual misbehavior), recovery movement (12 step, self-help) - we are now the most legally medicated society in world history 3. Selected - selection over attitudes, behaviours, and conditions, arguing that these were the result of voluntary chocie Determining Deviance (Bereska Ch 1, pg. 1-34) Who Is Deviant? - deviance is not marginal, it is central to what we do - deviance does not describe people of who I personally disapprove, but rather charac- teristics of the broader society and sociocultural processes How Can We Recognize Deviance When We See It? - the dictionary says: Deviant - deviating (straying) from an accepted norm - say deviance involves violating norms that have been accepted in society making one abnormal and unnatural - among deviance specialists/criminologists, there is considerable disagreement over the concept of deviance - Objective views of deviance claim that the presence of certain characteristics defines deviance: behaviours or people with those characteristics are deviant, and those lacking such characteristics are normal - Subjective views of deviance claim that there is no shared, observable characteristic that can clearly tell us who or what is deviant, and who or what is normal-instead some- one must tell us who is deviant in Canadian society - proposing that there has been a shift from objective to subjective ways of defining de- viance implies certain underlying assumptions: - there is an unmistakable distinction between objective and subjective definitions - recent shifts combine aspects of both The Objective/Subjective Dichotomy Objectivism: Deviance as an Act - the assumption that there is something inherent in a person, behaviour, or characteris- tics that is necessarily deviant - all deviants have something in common - there are 4 characteristics that have been most frequently postulated: 1) Statistical Rarity - if a behaviour or characteristic is not typical, it is deviant Limitations: - how do we define “rare”? - some behaviours are not statistically rare, but are still perceived as being unacceptable (underage drinking) - there are many rare behaviours or characteristics that are not considered deviant in Canadian society (left-handed people, Wayne Gretzky) 2) Harm - if an action causes harm, then it is deviant - in Canada, all crimes are considered to harm society itself - harm may be more abstract e.g. a threat to the way we understand the world Limitations: - the very idea of physical harm is not as clear as it might initially appear, and has some- times changes e.g. masturbation in children used to be considered harmful, the dangers of marijuana were exaggerated - whether or not society or a belief system is being harmed can be subjective - there are times when the reactions cause more harm than the initial behaviours, char- acteristics or people themselves 3) Societal Reaction - if the responses of society’s “masses” are primarily negative rather than positive then the person or act being responded to is deviant Limitations: - why does society react negatively to some actions, characteristics, or people adn not others? - whose reaction counts? - the law, and determinations of who/what is deviant in Canadian society, are based upon processes that go beyond societal reaction 4) Normative Violation - a behaviour or characteristic that violates norms - among the objective side of the dichotomy, the violation of norms has been proposed to be the defining characteristic of deviance - the nature of the normative violation constituting deviance has changed - early objectivists used an “absolutist” conception of normative violation - there are cer- tain immutable norms and values that should be held in all cultures at all times e.g. mur- der, lying - modern objectivists perceive it as being culturally specific rather than universal - there are various types of norms, ranging from folkways to mores to laws Folkways - informal norms e.g. rules of etiquette, choices of clothing Mores - standards that are often seen as the foundation of morality
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