SOC 2070 Lecture Notes - Intensify, Homicide, Deinstitutionalisation
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Soc 2070 Chapter Notes 09/10/2012 7:40:00 AM
Chapter 1: Social Deviance
Deviance: Behaviours, beliefs or characteristics that many people in a society find or would
find offensive and which excite, upon discovery, disapproval, condemnation, hostility or
The process by which the actor’s, the believer’s and the possessor’s character is
tainted, stigmatized, and inferiorized.
Denying the reality of deviance is entirely mistaken for three reasons:
We can find widespread agreement that certain acts and beliefs are wrong
What is regarded and reacted to as wrong is not simply about firm society-wide
consensus, but also about how certain social circles of people feel and what they
do in specific situations and contexts
Some disagreement prevails even about widely accepted norms
There are 4 necessary ingredients for deviance to take place
A rule or norm must exist
Someone must violate that norm
An audience must be presont, someone who judges the normative violation to be
There must be a measurable likelihood of a negative reaction by that audience
(criticism, disapproval, censure, stigma)
When we say that in American Society, generally, prostitutes, political radicals, and atheists
tend to be looked down upon and regarded as deviants, this does not mean that we
necessarily agree with the judgement. It means that as sociologists, we recognize that
certain negative consequences are likely to result from announcing this to a cross section of
The terms deviant and deviance are absolutely non-pejorative: the are
descriptive terms that apply to what others think and how they react.
Deviance is an analytic category: it applies in all spheres and areas of human life:
it is a trans-historical and cross-cultural concept
Societal and Situational Deviance
Societal Deviance: composed of those actions and conditions that are widely
recognized, in advance and in general, to be deviant (hierarchical)
o High degree of consensus
o Hierarchical/Vertical: The people with the most power get to say what
is deviant and what is normal. Certain acts, beliefs and traits are deviant
society wide because they are condemned by the majority, the post
powerful members of society
This raises the question of the dominance of one category or
society over another. Some groups are more powerful, influential
and numerous than others
Social scientists say that a dominant belief or institution is
hegemonic: it holds swat over beliefs held or institutions supported
by less powerful social groupings
Situational Deviance: does not exist as a general, society-wide quality, but in
actual, concrete social gatherings, circles or settings.
o A given act, belief or trait can be a normative violation in one
group/society, and conformist in another.
o Mosaic/Horizontal: society/societies are mosaics of separate and
independent collectivities of people who do not influence each other.
This is compatible with the situational definition of deviance
Low consensus deviance: what fetches condemnation in one social
circle produces indifference or even praise in another
ABC’s of Deviance
Attitudes: unpopular, unconventional beliefs that may or may not manifest
themselves into actions
o Holding unconventional, unorthodox, or unpopular beliefs may be
regarded as cognitive deviance
Behaviour: any overt action (including the failure to act) that is likely to attract
condemnation, hostility or punishment.
o Actions speak louder than words. A dishonest character is revealed or
manifested mainly by dishonest behaviour, a weak will and an inability to
Conditions: physical characteristics or traits that likewise, make someone the
target of an audience’s disapproval.
o Possessing unconventional, unacceptable physical traits is deviant. If the
disabled receive negative social reactions from the abled, they are deviant
o Achieved Status: some statuses are achieved, like graduating college
o Ascribed Status: statuses which are not achieved, but are thrust upon
an infant at birth. Being born into a certain family is an ascribed status
Tribal Stigma: a form of deviance that automatically discredits someone because they
belong to a racial, national or religious category of humanity.
Relativity: The sociology of deviance is relativistic. Deviance changes based on who the
audience is, what time period it is and where you are.
Essentialism: sees deviance as a specific, concrete, phenomenon in the material world.
Implies positivism, the belief that we can answer a question scientifically, with empirical or
Constructionism: answers the question “what is to be explained” by saying that it is
thinking about and reacting to rule violators that is crucial. This approach argues that it is
the rules, norms, reactions, and cultural representations of certain behaviour, beliefs and
conditions that needs to be looked at and illuminated
To sociologists, deviance is relative, contextual, contingent and probabilistic
Relative: members of different societies and social circles, as well as periods of
historical eras, define good and bad, true and false, in different ways, and reward
or publish different behaviours, beliefs and physical characteristics
Contextual: people’s definition of wrongdoing depends on the physical or social
situation or context within which behaviour takes place, beliefs are expressed, or
Contingent: whether someone is punished, rewarded, or ignored for engaging in
an act, expressing a belief or possessing a given trait is dependent on a variety of
factors independent of the act, belief or trait itself
Probabilistic: condemnation and punishment do not inevitably follow discovery.
We could draw a spectrum or continuum from acts, beliefs and conditions that
are extremely likely to draw negative reactions at one end, over to those that are
Unit 1: Defining Deviancy Down by Patrick Moyniham
By defining what is deviant, we are enabled to know what is not, and hence to
live by shared standards.
The criminal plays a normal role in social life
Durkheim’s notion that the number of deviant offenders a community can afford
to recognize is likely to remain stable over time, proven.
Deviance: behaviours, beliefs or characteristics that many people in a society find or would find offensive and which excite, upon discovery, disapproval, condemnation, hostility or punishment. The process by which the actor"s, the believer"s and the possessor"s character is tainted, stigmatized, and inferiorized. Denying the reality of deviance is entirely mistaken for three reasons: We can find widespread agreement that certain acts and beliefs are wrong. What is regarded and reacted to as wrong is not simply about firm society-wide consensus, but also about how certain social circles of people feel and what they do in specific situations and contexts. Some disagreement prevails even about widely accepted norms. There are 4 necessary ingredients for deviance to take place. An audience must be presont, someone who judges the normative violation to be wrong. There must be a measurable likelihood of a negative reaction by that audience (criticism, disapproval, censure, stigma)