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1 & 2 Defining Deviance

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Western University
Sociology 2259
Pamela Glatt

Defining Deviance – Lecture 1 • In order for society to function there needs to be order • How does social order occur and how it is maintained? • One way in which social order is maintained is by defining what behaviour is normal, and what is deviant • We have rules and norms that guide what behaviour we should engage and not engage in • Norms can be formal or informal (functions in ways to behave) Social Order • Hobbes ◦ Humans are naturally evil ◦ Rules preserve social order ◦ Human will always find some sort of conflict with one another ◦ • Roussaeu ◦ Humans-good in natural state ◦ Power/property ◦ More Marxist view ◦ Social contract • Both of these scholars point to necessity/importance to a social contract to guide our behaviour Rules • Formal social control – written ◦ ex. criminal code • Informal social contract – unwritten ◦ There are behaviours we know we shouldn't engage in but isn't enforced Classification of norms • Mores (codified laws) ▪ High punishment ▪ high importance • Folkways ▪ Low punishment ▪ Low importance What is deviant? • Deviance is: ◦ Any behaviour which violates any rules of social order ◦ Can include written/unwritten, folkways, mores, etc. • There are many type of deviant behaviours ◦ ex. sexual deviance, mental disorders, substance abuse, crime, suicide Varieties of deviance • Hagan ◦ Came up with a way to differentiate and define different types of deviance ◦ Organized them in a hierarchy (3 different dimensions) ▪ Evaluation of social harm ▪ agreement about the norm ▪ Severity of societal response ◦ Consensus crimes (top of Hagan's pyramid) ▪ Worst types of deviance ▪ High consensus ▪ Highest level of harm ▪ Most extreme punishments ▪ ex. rape, murder, ect. ▪ There are laws in the criminal code ◦ Conflict crimes (second tier in pyramid) ▪ Considerable social disagreement/debate about criminalization regarding: • Harmlessness • Criminal status • Appropriate social response ▪ ex. drug laws, abortion, alcohol, seat belts, helmets, euthanasia ▪ There are laws in criminal code ◦ Social deviations (third tier in pyramid) ▪ Ambiguous types of deviant behaviours ▪ Lots of debate about appropriate social response ▪ ex. gambling, discrimination ▪ Punishment by groups other than the criminal justice system ▪ Generally no serious laws against in criminal code ◦ Social diversions (bottom tier in pyramid) ▪ Deviant behaviour associated with “lifestyle” ▪ Not criminal, calls for mild social response, causes little harmlessness ▪ ex. body piercing, tattoos, music taste, fads, ect. ▪ Mild social response in terms of the behaviour being engaged Institutions, rule-violating behaviour, and sanctions • Different deviant behaviour occurring in differing contexts will have varying forces dealing punishments ◦ ex. child disobedience—may lead to spanking by parents ◦ ex. absence/laziness/violations in works—leads top fine/suspension/dismissal by employer Defining deviance • Dictionary definitions: “deviating or straying from an accepted norm” ◦ synonyms: abnormal ◦ LOOKAT SLIDE TO FILL IN Social construction • Deviance is: ◦ Universal—“deviance deviates universally” ◦ Relative—to cultural standards, not inherent in an act ◦ Situational—always relative to context, biographies, motives • Definitions of deviance if different to different people ◦ ex. smoking weed is perfectly okay to some and not to others • In terms of motives—depends on the intentions of the person engaging in the act ◦ ex. murder – accidentally running someone over ▪ this is different than intentional/premeditated murder Objective Definition Objective/Subjective Dichotomy • Objective definitions of deviance ◦ Presence of a certain characteristic = deviance ◦ Is seems natural that a certain person is deviant (ex. Committed a crime or slept with a lot of people) • Subjective definitions of deviance ◦ There is no defining characteristic ◦ Someone must tell us ◦ There is a wide variation (not a yes or no) ◦ We're socialized to understand that this is deviant Objectivism • 4 factors that objectivists use to determine whether a person/behaviour is deviant: ◦ Statistical rarity ◦ Social harmlessness ◦ Negative societal reaction ◦ Normative violation • Statistical rarity ◦ Something is “deviant” if it is rare ◦ not everyone in society does ◦ limitations ▪ criteria for “rare” are ambiguous ▪ people do not always know what is rare ▪ common things may be unacceptable ▪ some rare things are acceptable ▪ something that is rare may not be deviant (ex. Being very good at a sport) • social harm ◦ a person or behaviour is deviant is it: ▪ causes harm to anyone ▪ harms the effective functioning of society ▪ threatens understandings of the world (ex. Feminism and gay marriage) ◦ limitations: ▪ the concept of “harm” is variable (changes over time) and is SUBJECTIVE • negative social reaction ◦ negative reaction by society's “masses” ◦ limitations: ▪ how many people = society's “masses” ▪ whose reactions
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