SOCA01 – Intro to Sociology 1 November 1, 2012
Sociological definition of deviance
Deviance is non-compliance with social norms that provokes a negative social reaction, and an
attempt to control the behaviour and/or punish the perpetrator.
Crime is deviance sanctioned by law
Objective and subjective concepts of deviance: moral status accorded thoughts, actions,
characteristics, and persons
Types of Deviance
Social diversions: harmless non-compliance to social norms: it does not elicit sanction (“fads”)
Social deviations: non-compliance to social norms that elicits an informal sanction
Conflict crimes: non-compliance to law; members of society disagree about its seriousness and
the appropriate sanction
Consensus crimes: most members of society agree on their seriousness
Is theft a consensus crime?
Is murder a consensus crime?
Cf. Sacco and Horton: ordinary and extreme deviance
Theories of Deviance
1. Why do some people engage in deviance?
- Structural-functionalist theories: stain, cultural support, differential association
- Symbolic-interactionist: transactional, labelling
2. Why don’t all people engage in deviance?
- Structural-functionalist: social control
3. How are behaviours defined as deviant?
- Structural-functionalist: conservative control theory
- Neo-Marxist: radical control theory
- Post-modernist: discourse as means of social control – normalized by the powerful;
minority views are unheard
Strain Theory – Merton
Lack of fit between the accepted cultural goals and socially acceptable means available to
achieve these goals
This strain creates four types of copying strategies: innovation (crime), ritualism, retreatism, and
Critique: fails to account for middle-class and upper-class crime and deviance Merton’s Typology of Coping Strategies
Attitude to Goals Attitude to Means
Conformity Accept Accept
Innovation Accept Reject
Ritualism Reject Accept
Retreatism Reject Reject
Rebellion Accept/Reject Accept/Reject
Cultural Support Theory – Sutherland
People become deviant because they are exposed to learning experiences that make deviance
more likely, i.e. to a subculture of deviance