Chapter 7 Deviance and Crime
Sociologist John Hagan usefully classifies various types of deviance and crime
along three dimensions. 1) The first dimension is the severity of the social re-
sponse. 2) The second dimension of deviance and crime is the perceived
harmfulness of the deviant or criminal act. 3) The third characteristic of de-
viance is the degree of public agreement about whether an act should be con-
Hagan’s analysis allows us to classify four types of deviance and crime: 1) So-
cial diversions are minor acts of deviance that are generally perceived as rela-
tively harmless and that evoke, at most, a mild societal reaction, such as
amusement or disdain. (ex. Dye hair purple) 2) Social deviations are more seri-
ous acts. Large numbers of people agree these acts are deviant and somewhat
harmful, and they are usually subject to institutional sanction. For example,
John Lie’s high school in Hawaii had a rule making long hair on boys a fairly se-
rious deviation punishable by a humiliating public haircut. 3) Conflict crimes
are deviant acts that the state defines as illegal but whose definition is contro-
versial in the wider society. For instance, Tsar Peter the Great of Russia wanted
to Westernize and modernizes his empire, and he viewed long beards as a sign
of backwardness. Because of this disagreement in the wider society about the
harmfulness of the practice, wearing a long beard in late-seventeenth-century
Russia can be classified as a conflict crime. 4) Finally, consensus crimes are
widely recognized to be bad in themselves. There is little controversy over
their seriousness. The great majority of people agree that such crimes should
be met with severe punishment.
Power is a crucial element in the social construction of deviance and crime.
(Power is “the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a
position to carry out his [or her] own will despite resistance” ------- The power-
less, however, often struggle against stigmatization.
White-collar crime refers to illegal acts “committed by a person of respectabili-
ty and high social status in the course of his occupation”. Such crimes include
embezzlement, false advertising, tax evasion, insider stock trading, fraud, un-
fair labour practices, copyright infringement, and conspiracy to fix prices and
restrain trade. Most white-collar crimes are open only to members of the mid-
dle or upper classes.
White-collar crime results in few prosecutions and still fewer convictions for
two main reasons. First, much white-collar crime takes place in private and is
therefore difficult to detect. Second, corporations can afford legal experts, public relations firms, and advertising agencies that advise their clients on
how to bend laws, build up their corporate image in the public mind, and influ-
ence lawmakers to pass laws “without teeth”.
In sum, white-collar crime is underdetected, underprosecuted, and undercon-
victed because it is the crime of the powerful and the well-to-do. The social
construction of crimes against women has changed over the past four
decades, partly because women have become more powerful. In contrast, the
social construction of white-collar crime has changed very little since 1970 be-
cause upper classes are no less powerful now than they were then.
Why do deviance and crime occur? Motivational Theories identify the social
factors that drive people to commit deviance and crime. Constraint theories
identify the social factors that impose deviance and crime (or conventional be-
haviour) on people.
Becoming a habitual deviant or criminal is a learning process that occurs in a
social context. Motive and lack of constraint may ignite a single deviant or
criminal act, but repeatedly engaging in that act requires the learning of a de-
viant or criminal role.
Three stages to learn the deviant role and become a regular user of marijuana.
1) Learning to smoke the drug in a way that produces real effects. 2) Learning
to recognize the effects and connect them with drug use. 3)Learning to enjoy
the perceived sensations.
Durkheim argued that the absence of clear norms----a state of what he called
“anomie”----can result in elevated rates of suicide and other forms of deviant
Strain Theory (Robert Merton) holds that people may turn to deviance when
they experience strain. Strain results when a culture teaches people the value
of material success and society fails to provide enough legitimate opportuni-
ties for everyone to succeed.
Merton argued that cultures often teach people to value material success. just
as often, however, societies do not provide enough legitimate opportunities for
everyone to succeed. As a result, some people experience strain. Most of them
will force themselves to adhere to social norms despite the strain (Merton
called this conformity). The rest adapt in one of four ways. They may drop out
of conventional society (retreatism). They may reject the